Technology for Pop-Up Shops: Transforming from Cumbersome to Customer-Centric

The pop-up shop is the ultimate expression of a long-developing trend, one of retailers doing more to reach beyond their stores and put themselves in front of consumers at the moment of identifying a product need instead of waiting for consumers to show up at a store. But it’s also much more than that. Online-only retailers are perfecting the art of using temporary physical stores as proving grounds for everything from location to product mix to marketing tactics in order to reach new kinds of consumers. When staid department store retailers are remodelling stores to include areas that have more of a permanent pop-up market feel, you know a trend has reached the level of being “well-established.”

The tech side of making pop-ups happen, though, leaves a lot to be desired. Retailers basically have two choices: roll out big heavy registers and all of the infrastructure that enables them or go so lightweight as to lose sight of loyal customers and sometimes even the ability to manage returns from pop-ups. Neither of these options will serve if pop-up shops become an enduring strategy for retailers – which already seems likely.

Here are four tech challenges that a tech strategy for pop-ups must overcome:

  1. Deployment. Full PCs with cash drawers and all the peripherals – plus a local LAN to connect them and enable a mini offline store – require an enormous amount of resources to deploy, from provisioning the devices to shipping them out and unpacking and setting them up to taking them down, packing them up again and sending them back. It’s no surprise that retailers have started working with providers like Square as a “hack” to avoid all that provisioning. But going with something very lightweight has its own challenges.
  2. Data. Retailers who choose to go low-tech in how they deploy point-of-sale capabilities to support pop-ups often do so at the expense of an integrated experience for consumers. Customer lookup? Nope, not available – let alone an omnichannel experience. And sometimes retailers lose sight of even basket-level data, choosing to take a report out of the whole event as one line item in order to bring the transaction back into the enterprise. Or, worse, some retailers manually rekey every transaction back at headquarters, just to get all those sales to post to sales audit and thus the general ledger.
  3. Localisation. Especially if you’re implementing a roving pop-up, it’s important to make sure your tech strategy can keep up with rolling through multiple tax codes. But that’s not the only localisation challenge. Every sale gets a receipt of some kind, whether paper or electronic. Making sure you put the right local “home” shop for each customer on the receipt helps keep customers connected to the brand long after the event itself is over.
  4. Offline Resiliency. When you’re in a store, the environment is tightly controlled. And some retailers find that their mobile connectivity even in that kind of an environment is challenging. Taking commerce technology out on the road poses even more challenges – it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about on a bus literally on the road or just in the car park. Some retailers try to address this challenge with mobile hotspots or mobile-based devices, but even then, the connection can be fuzzy. And as soon as that happens, both consumers and associates start to get stressed about whether the sale went through at all – which is not a good experience for anyone.

Retailers don’t have to stick with the all-or-nothing technology strategies that have supported pop-up shops so far. Advances in cloud-native architecture and resilient commerce are changing the game for provisioning devices and keeping them running out in the field – making it possible to put not just any experience in front of consumers, but retailers’ best experiences.

About the Author

Nikki Baird is VP of Retail Innovation at Aptos. Aptos is the largest provider of enterprise software focused exclusively on retail. Our cloud-based Singular Retail™ solutions are trusted by over 1,000 retail brands in 65 countries. With industry-leading omnichannel commerce and merchandise lifecycle management solutions, we help retailers develop dynamic and responsive assortments, streamline operations and deliver integrated, seamless experiences…wherever shoppers choose to engage.

Featured image: Monkey Business