The retail pop-up has long been a staple of successful brand expansion. It is an easy way to connect with a new or existing audience and also provides the opportunity to showcase a new product or service in an effective and memorable way. In the post-pandemic retail environment many brands are looking for new retail pop up builds to make their marketing more distinctive and to deliver an experience for consumers that is still compliant with social distancing requirements and expectations. Both in the immediate and distant future could VR experiences be the tech that really delivers?
Retail pop-ups help to draw customers in
The pandemic has had a big impact on retail sales and there is a pressing need for stores to create new opportunities for customers to have an experience. Footfall gaps remain significant even as the recovery begins and many stores are still struggling to attract customers - and will continue to do so as long as international tourism remains off the agenda and people continue to work remotely in large numbers. The pop-up is tried and tested as a retail method and the new VR experiences that many brands are beginning to integrate provide an enticement that it is hoped will be enough to get customers back through retail store doors.
The reality of the footfall gap
In the UK, retail footfall declined by 2% between April and May this year and the gap in footfall from 2019 was at nearly 26% at the end of May 2021. Many stores are still operating under restrictions around hospitality that mean it’s just not possible to offer the same level of experience than was previously the case. The impact of large proportions of the population working from home and spending less time in city centres is apparent in the footfall numbers. Many big brands now believe that VR experiences in retail pop-ups could help to change this.
Building a retail pop up VR experience
Rethinking the pop-up experience is being led by some of the biggest names in retail. For example, Burberry launched a series of new pop-ups this year that were scheduled to coincide with the release of the new Olympia bag. The pop-ups integrate an augmented reality experience that allows consumers to interact with the infamous Greek Elpis statue in a Pokémon Go-style digital dimension. The pop-ups are not only aimed at promoting the new bag but also enticing customers back into the stores where they will appear (such as Harrods). JW Anderson is another retail brand venturing into the world of the VR pop-up. Its pop-up at Selfridges is created to be a connected experience with QR codes used to trigger augmented reality visuals including flowers opening and bees buzzing. A Louis Vuitton pop-up in Paris gives customers access to a VR experience with mascots via the Louis Vuitton app.
While consumers remain cautious, and many restrictions are still in place, it’s likely that there will be challenges ahead for retail in the months and years to come. However, the VR pop-up is already proving to be an effective way to attract customers back to the in-store experience and could be a key tool in the future of retail.