Pop-up retail experiences are the beauty industry’s latest avenue to gain exposure, especially for digital-first brands. Melissa Gonzalez, founder of The Lion’esque Group, has overseen the creation of more than 150 physical experiences from coast to coast. Melissa discussed with Beauty Insider why the pop-up phenomenon shows no signs of bursting.
Beauty Insider: Tell me about your company?
Melissa Gonzalez: I was approached by a family that had owned real estate in midtown [Manhattan] in 2009 and they asked if I wanted to do something with it. We developed that property to three revolving store fronts that serve as an opportunity to have pop-ups in Manhattan without signing a long-term lease. Over time the industry evolved, technology evolved along with consumer expectations and so the kind of clients that came to us evolved and grew. Our two sweet spots are digitally native brands who are proven concepts at scale. They’ve grown a great online presence and want to get into brick and mortar. The other is traditional wholesale brands that want to have a physical store experience. A lot of times these have been beauty brands, such as Sally Hansen, Marc Jacobs fragrance and Too Faced.
BI: What expertise do beauty brands seek?
We help digital brands grow what you can’t grow online. We help them understand what the physical manifestation of their store could look like. For wholesale brands, they want to have physical, branded experience stores. You definitely see more of that in beauty—brands there traditionally have a wholesale business they want to complement.
BI: What’s successful in pop ups?
M.G.: The beauty influencer has become so important. It’s great to have a physical space where you can invite them to host events and have Instagrammable moments. Influencers like to hang out together and they create great user generated content for you in your space. It builds an urgent sense of urgency online. A lot of beauty products face that touch-and feel-gap. How does that color really look? How do I apply that makeup? Pop ups don’t need to just sell products, they have built in that service element. Too Faced had a lash bar where not only could you buy a mascara and have it engraved, you could also learn how to apply their mascara. We like to bring ideas from one industry, say sneakers, into another. We’ve done that in many industries.
BI: Do you recommend brands sell product in their pop-ups?
M.G.: Each project is customized, but I think if you can also drive sales, why not. Also, it depends on the duration of the pop-up, with the three-to-four-day projects being mostly about experience. The KPIs [key performance indicators] are driven by social media impressions. Brands will start to see the effect on sales over the next few quarters. In addition to sales, pop ups are very vocal focus groups. Brands can take away what the learn from pop ups. For example, if you put out four giveaways and two are always gone and two are not, you get an immediate understanding of what customers are looking for. A successful pop up is if you break even.
BI: What are a few key points to keep in mind?
M.G.: Location, location, location is first and foremost. You have to think of your target audience. Less expensive isn’t always the right option. And staffing is something people underestimate. There is the store manager role, but also beauty needs people who are specifically trained. There are a lot of aspects of a brand and the products that need to be conveyed and you can’t expect them to get that the day the doors open. The pop-up industry is changing. A few years ago, you could say you were doing a pop-up and that created a sense of urgency. The bar has been raised on what a consumer expects now. They can go to a permanent store and it’s a pleasant surprise if they find an Insgrammable moment. They go to a pop-up and expect that or look for what they can take a selfie of.