By Dave Hale
Despite the hype around e-commerce, m-commerce (mobile) and social commerce, very few Canadian retailers have implemented a digital shopping solution. To say they are lagging is unfair, as there can be many headaches associated with online purchasing, from distribution to customer service to order fulfilment.
Of course, there are some Canadian brands that have operated solely online from day one, and are now embracing a new trend that gives these companies a physical footprint in the real world, if only for a few days.
Pop-up stores have become a key component to an online retailer’s strategy. Essentially, a pop-up store is one that a brand sets up in high-traffic areas, such as malls, subway stations or popular urban areas for a few days or weeks, with the goal of driving new customer foot traffic to its temporary store and giving existing customers an outlet to connect with the brand in a more personal way.
Earlier this month, Well.ca launched a virtual pop-up store in a Toronto subway station in partnership with Procter & Gamble. The virtual store is a unique concept that allows consumers to check out various products such as Pampers and Tide, and order directly from smartphone apps that can be launched through QR (quick response) codes found on each product. In true Well.ca style, products are being shipped as fast as the next day, at no cost to the customer.
Meanwhile, the Vancouver-based custom men’s apparel company Indochino hasn’t just hopped on the band wagon – it’s quickly established itself as a visionary brand when it comes to rolling out pop-up stores across Canada.
Indochino has even branded its nationwide pop-up stores and the company’s “Traveling Tailor” will be set up in Ottawa later this month. The Traveling Tailor has already left its mark in Vancouver and Calgary and, after its stop in Ottawa, the company plans to roll out the concept in other key Canadian markets, including a multi-week setup in Toronto later this spring.
“Retail isn’t black and white,” says Indochino co-founder and CEO Kyle Vucko. “I used to only think about e-commerce, but our vision needs to be much bigger as a multi-channel retailer that makes guys look great wherever they want to shop.”
For Mr. Vucko, this means online, offline, mobile, on social media channels and anywhere else consumers could think to purchase his clothing. There are tremendous benefits to the pop-up store, as well. “Media hype, scarcity, immediacy and an amazing brand experience are all at the core of our strategy,” he says.
Well.ca and Indochino are setting the standard for online Canadian retailers when it comes to pop-up locations. This trend is sure to continue across the country as success stories like these emerge. The real question will be whether it is better to live online and pop-up every now and then, or to build a store and then worry about an e-commerce solution.
Dave Hale is the founder and CEO of the Ottawa-based social media agency Soshal Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.