What Kanye West, Warby Parker & You Have in Common

Be'Anka Ashaolu
Be'Anka Ashaolu
Sr. Manager, Digital Marketing

Picking up the cue from perhaps an unlikely source, retail readily adopts the pop up shop as a novel way to reach and engage new audiences while extending the brand.

It’s no secret the music industry is changing. Streaming services like Apple Music, Tidal, and Spotify vie for subscriptions, and use exclusive content to get listens and views. It used to be an artist could drop an album and count on record sales alone to make a living. Gone are the days.

You know what else is changing? Retail. Just as digital innovation has transformed music, so too has it transformed the way shoppers shop.

Eyewear retailer and disruptor Warby Parker knows this well. The company rose to prominence using technology to cut out the middlemen in the prescription glasses biz. They design and manufacture their own frames and sell directly to consumers online even as they grow their physical presence.

So what do musicians and retailers have in common? They each search for novel ways to engage their audiences beyond their traditional mediums. Pop-up shops just happen to be one of those ways.

Take Kanye West, for example. While ‘Ye is certainly no stranger to fashion – he took an internship at Fendi in Rome in 2009 and has had his own line of Yeezy shoes and clothing for several years now – last summer he opened his very first Pablo pop-up shops, named for his coinciding album and then upcoming tour, The Life of Pablo, in 21 cities across the world. The shops sold high-priced, exclusive apparel over a single weekend – an experience, it’s been argued, that was worth the hefty price points.


Yeezy's Pablo Pop Up; Photo Credit:  Getty images

Yeezy’s Pablo Pop Up; Photo Credit: Getty Images

But it’s not just musicians who benefit from these unique flash retailing experiences for their fans. Both physical and online retailers use pop-up shops to be more innovative than what might be possible in their permanent locations, including the aforementioned Warby Parker.

This makes sense. Pop ups have, for some time now, been on the fringes of retail, usually showing up around Halloween or Christmas for those seasonal-only items that shoppers go crazy over. But pop up shops could extend far beyond the holidays since they create short-term experiences that bring hyper-awareness and hyper-excitement to a specific moment or thing. Why wouldn’t a retailer, or musician for that matter, be interested?

I’m going to bet that artist pop up shops are going to lead to permanent locations – Hello, adidas + KANYE WEST. And that retailers will continue experimenting with flash retail to engage shoppers in fun, non-traditional ways.

Here are three considerations when growing a brand using pop-up shops:

  • Traffic – If you’re testing the interest for a bigger physical location, it’s important to understand the people who are coming into your store. A single sensor can provide you deeper analytics on shopper engagement and displays while excluding any staff you might have inside your smaller space.
  • Sales KPIs – Naturally, you want to sell things. But even Kanye doesn’t convert every shopper. How much are your customers purchasing on average? Also interesting, how does this compare to your permanent locations?
  • MDD – Mobile Device Detection helps you measure passby traffic, length of time in the shop, dwells, as well as new versus repeat customers. Considering how long your shop is open, tracking these data points will help optimize for more engagement.

Musicians often have long lines stretching around the block for their short-running shops, but does that mean if an artist builds it, the shoppers will always come? The same applies to retailers.

Check out companies like by REVEAL that have pop-ups with built-in analytics that help retailers experiment with different campaigns, locations, and more. Additionally, our Aurora sensor simplifies shopper behavior measurement with an all-in-one device built for the future of retail. Finally, this ebook by Sophelle Focus Reports dives deeper into retail pop-up shop critical success factors.

Let us know where you’ll be popping up this year in the comments below.

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #smartstore conversations on Twitter @beankaash & @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.