Pop-Ups: Are they for you?

The last two weeks have been super busy! Packing and unpacking, pricing, quality checking has been my activity from early morning into the late nights. I was prepping for a pop-up event in Harrow where I had 1 display table with jewellery and the week after the focus was on the MiNi Bazaar and BOOM! I had 10 display tables full of jewellery!

Looking back sitting here on an early October afternoon, I am trying to count the number of pop-up events I have taken part in and also, hosted myself. Starting from the sitting room of a colleague to national level events like the The Asian Wedding Show by AWD and now to a co-host of the regular pop up events in Slough known as the MiNi Bazaar!

If my counting is correct, I have taken part in 24 events in the past 4.5 years!

So you can easily say I have some experience in doing pop-up events! It makes me want to share some of my experiences I have collected, as well as ways of thinking that I have adapted to when doing these events.

I have put down my thoughts below based on my experiences and observations, they might help you if you are someone considering joining pop-up events or have already done some but could do with some tips.

Selection – will my products sell at this event?
This is what the question that you SHOULD be asking but the question that you end up asking is probably: What is the foot flow at the event?

Easy to ask but difficult to answer. If the event is a ticketed event, then you can ask the organisers how many tickets they have sold at the upcoming or previous event. That will give you an indication of visitors.
If it is a free entry event then the answer will need a crystal ball. Predicting the outcome of a free entry event isn’t easy and sometimes it isn’t relevant either. Keep an eye on the advertising the event hosts are doing. That could be flyers, posters, banners, social media advertising, radio, tv etc. but even that will only give you an vague idea and if you are someone selling e.g. cupcakes, assumptions are no good for you.

One of the most important things I want to share is that the number of visitors doesn’t mean guaranteed buyers.

Let me put a thought into your mind: It is possible that there will be 100 people visiting but imagine that out of those 100 only 2 buy from your stall. It is also possible that only 10 people visit, but out of those 10 visitors 2 people buy something from you!
My point is that the foot flow of an event shouldn’t be the only criteria for your selection.

So we go back to the question above, will my products sell at this event?
For this you really need to know your ideal client and how to connect to them. Once you know your target audience you will know their shopping habits too. This applies to pop-up events too!  

A good idea could be to visit the event yourself as a customer, see how you feel when you go there, would you and your products fit in this environment? Is it suitable for your clientele? Is the event for luxury vendors or for a clientele looking for affordable pieces? Do your research the right way. Just by you being there and setting up a stall does not guarantee sales and exposure.

We always tell MiNi Bazaar stall holders that if you are not sure, come to our event and then you will know if it is for you or not.
This year I visited the Hey Gorgeous event by RA in Harrow for the same reason. It was necessary for me to experience it before committing and it helped me in my decision to showcase there or not. You could even ask someone planning on exhibiting there if you can help them at their stand, this will give you a good idea of the type of clientele visiting and their questions will indicate what they are looking for.

Some event organisers are very selective who they have on board and the type of products being showcased at their event and you might get a “no thank you” when you enquire about showcasing.
Don’t be disheartened, there might be a good reason for that. I will use the MiNi Bazaar as an example here. We cater for a very Punjabi clientele and if we have someone on board who sells e.g. traditional Rajasthani handbags with mirror work and pom-pomps it might not sell well at the MiNi Bazaar, so to avoid disappointment we discourage them to showcasing. We carefully consider how the stallholder would match the rest of the selection available at the event and also to avoid clashes of similar products, plus to avoid disappointment from a stallholder’s point of view.   

If you do decide to exhibit at your chosen event and you are selected, you will most likely get a form emailed to you which needs to be completed. It will be in the form of a contract where all the terms and conditions will be listed to avoid any issues and misunderstandings later. If the event hosts don’t have a contract in place then I would be extra careful because things like liability insurance is important to be clear on and generally, it is considered unprofessional to just give money to someone without some sort of paperwork in place for both parties. It doesn’t mean that paperwork is always the norm, it does happen that once the payment is made you are part of the team and whatever goes along with it, as long as you are aware of the risks.

Most often your logo or company name will be featured on the marketing material so make sure you have a high-resolution image of your company logo. What’s App’ed logos don’t print well so always get your graphic designer to send you your branding package to you so you have the high-resolution images to forward.

On the day

Always consider your display and measure your own enthusiasm for your products/services!

Your own attitude to your products matter when selling, you might be an introvert person by nature, but when you are exhibiting at an event you are a salesperson, and salespeople are expected to talk!

I have seen people sitting at their stall with a sad expression and letting potential customers just walk past them, I feel sorry for them because nobody is visiting their stall, but I also feel that to attract a crowd you need to step out of your comfort zone, and your welcoming energy is alfa-omega! That bit is up to you!

To help with this you could practice your sales pitch at home in front of the mirror or with a friend. You also need to prepare your mind, for example, imagine a potential customer visits your stall, picks up a product, frowns and expresses his/her opinion: “Hmfh, you can buy this stuff everyone in Southall, and it’s so much cheaper there”. How would you feel and most importantly how will you respond to this? Can you convert this into a positive outcome or at least not feel hurt and let it affect your confidence?

There is so much more to this, but your mindset on the day should always be on the top of your to-do-list!

The standard things like, a banner, business cards, flyers etc. are also crucial, people need to be educated in what you offer and to send something with them to read at home over a cup of tea is always handy. Special event only offers are a good promotion. But event only offers doesn’t just have to be a money-off or a buy1get1free style offer, price reductions aren’t any good if people aren’t convinced of your products/services. Additionally, it could be more fun with attractions like a prize draw, a competition, a coupon to your website for free delivery, referral rewards, tasters or trials of your products or services, it could be collaborations with other brands showcasing on the day, loyalty cards and what not!   

Unfortunately, some stallholders believe that just showing up should be good enough for them to get a queue of clients, but your own attitude matters so much! When you have high expectations but want to put in minimum effort, then naturally you feel disappointed.

But pop-ups aren’t all about selling. For online-only businesses, these events are a great way of exhibiting your products to people who would never have heard of you otherwise. It is also a great way of meeting other entrepreneurs and we all know that being a business-owner can be a lonely affair. You can learn a lot from other stallholders, and you find inspiration by networking and learn from people who like you, are doing something they are passionate about. So it isn’t just about how much cash you bring home after a pop-up, it is how much experience are you bringing home and using that as fuel to run your business.

By doing pop-up events I have met lots of fellow entrepreneurs, done lots of amazing collaborations and some have become close friends too. My new clients see the quality of my products in real life at pop-ups and meet the person behind the brand and therefore, feel more confident in buying on though my website.

I have now been co-hosting the MiNi Bazaar in Slough for 3 years and the amount of work that goes into hosting these events comparing to just showcasing at someone else’s pop up is significant! Moreover, the responsibility that goes with hosting including the planning, marketing strategy and basic things like designing and putting up posters is super time consuming and if you are not dedicated to it and seek fun while doing it, it will certainly shine through and affect the outcome.

It might be exhausting but the amount of experience I have collected by joining and hosting pop ups, I know I could never have been achieved by just sitting in my office and running a jewellery website and that is what takes my business forward.

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