Why beauty brand pop-ups are primarily event spaces, not stores

For beauty brands, pop-up stores aren’t about product. Some of them don’t even carry physical inventory.

Instead, they’ve become event spaces. Frequently seen on the schedules at these industry pop-ups are hair and makeup masterclasses, influencer appearances, fitness classes, panels and Q&A sessions.

“As brands shift their marketing budgets from media to stores, they need to create a retail experience that’s both memorable and emotional,” said Elizabeth Layne, the chief marketing officer of Appear Here, a company that facilitates pop-ups for brands like Nike and Marc Jacobs.

The latest comes from The Nue Co., a beauty supplement company that launched exclusively on Net-a-Porter last year. Its first pop-up opened in New York’s Soho neighborhood on Thursday and, alongside letting customers test and purchase 11 products, it will offer yoga and meditation classes by Sky Ting Yoga and Inscape, respectively. Panels focused on the future of beauty will also be held in the space, with speakers like W Magazine editor Jane Larkworthy. The goal is to get the most bang for the brand’s buck, before the pop-up closes on Jan. 30.

Founder Jules Miller agreed with Layne that the temporary story is “more of a marketing initiative than it is about pushing product,” going so far as to call it it a new media platform to exploit.

But it’s also a great way to rope in new customers who may shop the brand down the line. From the event sign-ups and ticket purchases, to online orders made in store, there are a number of opportunities for the company to collect valuable consumer data.

“Brands can best create a conversation with customers in real time by offering shopping experiences that drive community engagement and prioritize personalized attention, so that interactions don’t begin and end with a purchase,” said Layne. “Partnerships also help to bring in additional audiences, rather than just promoting to the current base of customers.”

In December, Clique Media’s beauty property, Byrdie, and the online retailer Revolve also put their own spins on the format.

Byrdie’s Beauty Lab, opened in partnership with Nordstrom, ran for 15 days in New York and offered a total of 10 events, including a Q&A with celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin and a fireside chat with Carisa Janes, the founder of Hourglass Cosmetics. Although Nordstrom beauty products were shoppable via iPads on site, there was no physical inventory — the industry figures were the main draw.

“They add that exciting element of real-life expertise from the creators of the products the consumers are already using or would love to experiment with,” said Courtney Wartman, Clique’s senior vice president of marketing. Wartman said that almost all the ticketed events during the pop-up sold out.

Revolve’s beauty pop-up in Los Angeles also ran for 15 days and included live demonstrations by beauty influencer Marianna Hewitt and celebrity makeup artist Patrick Ta, as well as meet-and-greets with Atkin and fashion blogger Arielle Charnas.

“They are experts in the space and really educated our customers — and their followers — on the product and application,” said Raissa Gerona, Revolve’s chief brand officer.

Customers were also able to shop specially-curated product boxes by the influencers involved.

While the trend is being spearheaded by younger brands, traditional luxury brands are taking notice: A YSL Beauty pop-up in New York last month tapped into the follower counts of top beauty influencers including Manny Gutierrez (4.2 million on Instagram) and Sarahi Gonzalez (3.7 million on Instagram) by featuring them in masterclasses.

As more and more brands launch these experiences, simply pushing another opportunity to shop, or even test, a product may no longer fly.


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