There’s a caveat worth considering for retail brands going all in on digital, and it’s this: customers haven’t stopped liking things that happen offline. In fact, 70% of the oh-so-valuable millennial generation say that they prefer buying experiences over products. And over recent years, there’s a growing feeling that the online offering is just one side of that experience. Brands have now begun to recognise that – far from forgetting their physical retail presence – it’s time to reconceptualise the instore experience for a new generation.
That’s where Appear Here comes in. Launched around four years ago, the Air BnB-style retail marketplace offers temporary “spaces for ideas”. They bring brands places for pop-up stores across London, New York and Paris and their success stories include Nike, Apple and Finery. The arrival of Appear Here was timely and the concept is innovative. It taps into a cultural zeitgeist and it offers something that now feels essential to engaging customers. For this reason, Appear Here founder, Ross Bailey, has struggled to stay out of the press since launch – it was Glossy’s “Day in the Life of” feature that caught our attention most recently. Looking for more insight into how the brands that we work with can integrate real-life customer experiences with their digital offering, we recently caught up with Alice from Appear Here.
Thanks for chatting with us, Alice! So, to start with, we wanted to talk to you about what you see as the main value of the pop-up store. What does this type of experience bring to the customer and what can it do for the brand?
“I guess it’s completely dependent on what the brand’s doing and what the aim is. But one of the values that the pop-up experience brings is the “Did You See That, Were You There” moment. It could be designed for key customers or for a new audience, but it’s the “one-off moment” – the exclusive activation, that brands are really looking to create.”
Sure, so a lot of it’s about the exclusivity. What is it that’s prompted the shift towards the use of temporary spaces to create these experiences?
“The role of physical retail has changed a lot. Over the past couple of decades, lease lengths have fallen from around 20 years to around 5 years. And, actually, it works for brands operating in this kind of cultural climate. What might work this year might not next year. The successful brands are nimble and have the ability to adapt constantly to engage their audiences. To say ‘OK, our customers used to look like this and hang out in these places, but now that’s shifted. We’ll shift too’.”
That’s really interesting. Appear Here work with brands of all sizes. Do you think the pop-up store plays a different role depending on where the brand is at that point?
“There are probably four different categories that brands using Appear Here fit into. The first is ‘Testing the Market’ – so trying out a new product or location and getting the real-time feedback that can mean being able to move forward quickly. You’ve also got ‘Connecting to a Moment’. Brands launching a temporary store to celebrate a season or a national holiday. Maybe a key moment in their brand calendar – their 50th anniversary, their first birthday. We’ve talked already about ‘Creating an Experience’, so brands using spaces to do something PR-able that’s going to create hype. And actually, the fastest growing user category for us is online brands.”
This last category is one that’s really interesting to us. Where does the pop-up store fit into the online retail experience?
“There’s a huge amount of competition for eCommerce brands. And digital marketing can be expensive so sometimes a temporary store is a really cost-effective marketing channel. You meet customers face to face and there’s an opportunity to get feedback from them that you might not get from tracking behaviour online. It’s really interesting to see brands approaching physical stores another advertising medium. Measuring success through the arc of online sales that they then see during and after the store launch.”
We work on a lot of projects for brands in the luxury sector. Is the relationship with the temporary retail experience different for luxury brands?
“When we first launched around four years ago, luxury brands were very apprehensive about pop-ups. Over the last few years, we’ve seen everyone from Chanel to Givenchy doing temporary stores. These kinds of brands have the kind of aesthetic vision that allows them to create beautiful and innovative spaces. And these haven’t just been carbon copies of their flagship store, it’s much more experimental. The Louis Vuitton and Supreme collaboration, for instance. Other luxury brands are doing roaming stores that travel across London, Paris, New York – trialing the concept in different cities.”
So, we’ve talked a lot about Creating a Moment. What’s the right way for brands to promote and market their pop-ups?
“With a temporary store, unless you’re Kanye West, you need to work a lot harder to tell people what you’re doing, build the hype and get the right people along ahead of launch. Of course, we all share our lives a lot more now and it’s really key when you’re creating a space to think about what people will take pictures of. What will they tell people about? If you’re going to invest in a store then you also need to see that store as brand content: pictures, blog posts, videos. Where can I put this and how does it tie in with what we want to say about our brand.”
Thanks, Alice! And, lastly, we have to ask about the incredibly impressive Appear Here site. We know that design and content are a huge priority for your team. What do you see as most important for your own users?
“Ross has a great story about when we first launched. Some of his first hires were a fashion photographer and a copywriter. Initially, everyone was a little confused by that. But he knew that, for the hugely visual brands that we work with, it’s not just about a space or a white box.
We really wanted to curate the spaces and make sure that they were beautifully photographed. Our copywriters go to the spaces and get to know them and we also create destination guides which profile the surrounding areas. For brands, it’s about a postcode, it’s about the kind of shops you’re going to share a road with, it’s about the people walking up and down the streets. We want our site to communicate the feeling and identity of a space.”
Looking for a way to shake up your brand and create experiences for your customers? Appear Here can help you find the space you need, and you can find them here. For eCommerce experiences and all things digital, we’ve got you covered. Get in touch here to tell us about your project.