Even though my first job at age 16 was at Wendy's and my second job was at a clothing store in a mall, I spent 30 years in advertising and marketing, pretty far removed from anything to do with retail.
Now, I find myself deeply immersed in retail as we are setting up a conscious beauty pop-up store -- the Conscious Beauty Collective. The store was born from the frustration of being a small beauty brand that has a hard time getting attention from conventional retailers. It also hasn't helped that retail has been upended by Covid over the past two years and many retailers are still trying to figure out their "new normal."
The idea for the pop-up came from one of the bright spots of launching a brand during Covid. We have found that partnering with like-minded brands over the past two years has been a fantastic way to grow each other's businesses. We wanted to leverage this into a bigger experience and create a collective that would be brand led, not retail led, so that all of the brands would benefit. This idea came to life as a collaboration between 32 brands, all sharing common values. The process of peeling back the onion on the retail experience has led me to think about how retail could be if we could do anything we wanted. For us, it's also about how to create engaging experiences without any money (most of the brands are bootstrapped like mine). I'm sharing my learning as it feels like the time is ripe for retail reinvention.
1) Think of the space as a catalyst for creating experiences -- it's not just about sales. While the ultimate goal is sales for all of us, content is still queen these days. We have taken the approach of thinking like a digital brand, not a brick & mortar brand, and will be hosting daily events in the retail space, many of them livestreaming and online events. This is a great way to blend the online and offline worlds and create a ton of content that all the brands can leverage to promote their own brands while driving more traffic into the store.
2) Bring in partners who can amplify your awareness. We are leveraging several partnerships with livestreaming platforms like TalkShopLive, e-commerce sites and content creators, including partnering with a female-owned brand site, The W Marketplace to further promote all of the female founded brands (30 of the 32) by setting up a collection on their website and also promoting them in our store. These types of partnerships can really help extend your messaging and help you reach a new audience. The key of course, is to ensure that the partners are a solid strategic fit so that both parties benefit.
3) Encourage brand collaboration outside of the retail space. We've found that the more engaged the brands are -- not just with the store but with each other -- the more successful it is for all. We are approaching this retail experience more like we are building a community vs a store, so that everyone feels like they are part of it. Northing would make us happier than to see the brands creating partnerships that flourish outside of the pop-up experience. You can enhance your community interaction by doing things like setting up an Instagram group, having local "meet ups" and giving each other shout outs on social media.
4) Find not just sales people, but marketing brains to staff your store. We are lucky to be working with interns who understand marketing, are social media savvy and are getting hands on experience helping us make an impact with zero budget. Part of their responsibility includes creating content for the brands, such as Texture Tuesday videos.
5) Bring everyone together. While we've all become super accustomed to interacting via Zoom, nothing beats being able to meet in person and truly connect with each other. We are so blessed that 15 of our founders came to San Francisco for our launch event. With events planned over 3 days, there was ample time for everyone to hang out and get to know each other, and ideally, come up with even more opportunities for collaboration.
6) Location is key. We all know the famous saying about real estate, "location, location, location". Creating a pop-up store is no different. Find a location that aligns with your customer base (in our case, premium clean beauty buyers) and ensure there is ample foot traffic so that you don't have to do all of the heavy lifting in terms of getting people to your location.
7) Find collaborators who are like-minded, but won't cannibalize each other's business. We took quite a bit of effort to bring in brands from different categories (hair, skin, home fragrance, supplements, bath, body, sexual wellness) so that while we all may share similar values, we aren't stepping on each other's toes in terms of our brand positioning.
So while the retail landscape is changing, it's an exciting time. People are ready to get out and explore new things and want to have face to face interactions again. Take advantage of these opportunities by thinking about retail as a chance to bring community, content and technology together and you'll surely have a winning formula.