It’s a concept many of us are no doubt very familiar with and have probably shopped from but are pop-up shops a viable option for digital commerce stores wanting to reach new audiences, build brand awareness and experiment with customer experience? We take a look and offer our opinion.


The History of Pop-Up Shops

Pop-up shops, also known as flash, ephemeral or guerrilla retailing is as a concept that might feel modern but has roots dating back decades (in the form we see them today) and even centuries from when people would travel between villages and countries trading goods. An example of this is Smithfield Market, the over 800-year-old livestock market that dates to the 10th century in the heart of Central London.

Modern pop-up shops have been around since the early 2000s when they were first introduced in the United States. There is much debate about who can be accredited with this modern iteration, but most see an event called The Ritual Expo created by Patrick Courrielche in Los Angeles as the spark that created the fire.

Once the concept took hold, pop-up shops were mostly used to help launch new products or brands and to test out a retail concept. They enabled brands to set up a shop for a short period of time, usually a few days or weeks, in a physical space.

The first wave of pop-up shops was used by big brands like Nike and Apple, to promote new products. But over the years, pop-up shops have gained popularity among smaller, independent retailers who have used them to create an immersive shopping experience and reach new customers.


Why Pop-up Shops?

The reason pop-up shops have become increasingly popular is that they are a great way for businesses to gain exposure, increase sales, and test out new products and services.

With the rise of e-commerce and the growth of the online retail sector, pop-up shops are now being used as a way for online businesses to gain a physical presence and create a stronger connection with their customers without the commitment or huge financial outlays of setting up long-term retail environments.

The benefits of being online means you can reach many people through a single-entry point. Physical retail ties you to a solo location that only caters to those in the area or those willing to travel. The way to fix it was to open more stores.

Pop-up shops bridge that gap and allow for the movement of the offering to different areas so that the in-store experience and product discovery can be created and replicated across towns and cities without long-term binding commitments, and if done right, the customer will continue to embrace the brand through the online offering.

For that reason, in the UK, pop-up shops are becoming increasingly popular, with the number of pop-up shops in the UK increasing by 18% in the last year alone.


The Benefits of Pop-Up Shops for Online Businesses

Pop-up shops offer numerous advantages for online businesses.

Firstly, pop-up shops allow businesses to gain exposure to new customers and markets. Pop-up shops are often located in busy areas, such as shopping centres and high streets, and in doing so, businesses can increase the number of potential ‘impulse’ customers they can attract when compared with online.

In addition, pop-up shops can help businesses to build relationships with their customers, as customers can interact with staff and get a better understanding of the product or service on offer. Pop-up shops are also a great way for businesses to test out new products and services.

By setting up a pop-up shop, businesses can get instant feedback from customers and see how their products and services are received in the real world. This can help businesses to identify any potential issues or changes that need to be made before launching the product or service online.

Finally, pop-up shops can help businesses to increase their sales. With a physical presence, businesses can create a buzz and drive footfall to their store, leading to an increase in sales.


Pop-Up Shops in the UK

The majority of pop-up shops in the UK are located in retail and leisure centres, with London and the Southeast being the most popular locations. However, pop-up shops can be found in all areas of the UK, with businesses setting up in high streets and shopping centres to gain exposure and increase sales.

Support businesses like appear [here] started to make the process of finding locations across the world easier and they connect retailers to locations much like Airbnb does with guests and homeowners. And venues like BOXPARK have set up dedicated locations that create travel-worthy points of interest for pop-up stores mostly across London but are moving into Liverpool.

These types of businesses show that the desire for pop-up shops from customers and retailers is incredibly strong, getting stronger and looks likely to be around for the far-reaching future.

Online businesses are helping this revolution grow, with many businesses using pop-ups to gain a physical presence and build relationships with their customers. In 2018, online retailer ASOS opened a pop-up shop in London, which allowed customers to shop the full ASOS range and try on clothing before purchasing.


How Online Businesses Can Make the Most of Pop-Up Shops in 2023

To make the most of pop-up shops, businesses should ensure that they are in prominent locations and that they are well-designed and well-stocked. You need to think of Instagram-worthy experiences so that people want to share and interact with them. The more people want to share it, the more others will not only want to find it but want to be a part of it too. The power of user-generated content can be the secret weapon for your pop-up.

In addition, businesses should focus on creating a unique customer experience, offering customers exclusive discounts and experiences that they cannot get online but should not be too far away from the digital experience so that it feels like either what they’ve seen before or are likely to see again when they re-engage after the pop-up.

Finally, businesses should use digital marketing to promote their pop-up shops and ensure that they are reaching their target audience. By utilising digital advertising, businesses can reach many potential customers and create a buzz around their pop-up shop especially if you utilise location-based advertising on social and even exclusive filters on Snapchat or Tik Tok that drive people to find you.

This should be a given if you’re an e-commerce business and should be something you’re most comfortable with but don’t ignore the importance of the more traditional mediums in the immediate area of the pop-up itself. Think posters, maildrops and even teams engaging with the public in the form of handing out flyers or cards with discounts and directions printed on them.



Pop-up shops are becoming increasingly popular amongst online businesses, with many businesses using them to gain exposure, increase sales, and build relationships with their customers.

In the UK, the number of pop-up shops has increased by 18% in the last year, and they are becoming an increasingly popular way for businesses to gain a physical presence.

To make the most of pop-up shops, businesses should ensure that they are in prominent locations, have a unique customer experience, and use digital marketing to promote their pop-up shop. By doing this, businesses can make the most of pop-up shops, introduce new people to the brand and create truly incredible customer experiences gaining a competitive edge in 2023.