How to Use the Right Technology for Your Pop-Up Retail Strategy

Essential advice for taking your wireless retail operations to where the customers are — at events, in stadiums, in office lobbies, or anywhere else


  1. A Re-Emerging Trend
  2. Variables of Location
  3. Pop-Up Marketing Strategies
  4. Tackling Technological Challenges
  5. A Buy Anywhere Strategy

A Re-Emerging Trend

As the world looks to the new normal of increased social activity following COVID-19 vaccinations, savvy retailers are thinking ahead. They know that adopting strategies that bring the retail experience to wherever the customer is located became increasingly important through the pandemic, and this trend is only going to continue. And they know that if people are going to be flooding back to events, stadiums, concerts, or simply going back to the office, those are the places that retailers need to be.

This has led to the re-emergence of a pre-pandemic trend: pop-up retail. Whether that’s a kiosk that you might find in a mall or an office building lobby, a branded tent set up at a state fair, or a mobile truck in a plaza or sports event parking lot, telecom retailers are increasingly looking at strategies to put them in the right place at the right time.

Stacy Hamer, Vice President of Client Experiences at iQmetrix, said, There was a lot of talk about pop-up retail before 2020, but as we’re emerging from the pandemic, this idea is taking on even more significance as customers increasingly expect retailers to meet the customer where they are. It’s also likely that, after 18 months of restrictions, there’s a pent-up need for social interaction. People will be out and about much more, public events will be huge, so there’s a massive market to tap into.”

However, one way telecom retailers may differ from other retail verticals is that they are not opening pop-up stores by leasing an empty retail space on a short-term basis. Although this can be a successful strategy for other retailers such as apparel, for the wireless sector the build-out is too expensive,” said Hamer. Our clients are looking at mobile trucks, tents at events, and temporary kiosks.”

However, these ultra-mobile kiosks and trucks come with a different set of challenges — not least, selecting the right technology to use in what can be a challenging outdoor environment. Here, we will examine the variables of location, key marketing strategies, and how to use the best technology for a seamless pop-up experience for both retailer and customer.

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Variables of Location

A retailer’s pop-up strategy will vary widely, depending on the location. For example, for the smaller rural operators, such as independent wireless dealers and regional carriers, state fairs and local sports events are an ideal way to get in front of your customer. For bigger operators or those in urban areas, big stadium events, pop concerts, and festivals are prime spots to access the crowds that are expected to emerge. If you’re an operator in a major city, your pop-up strategy doesn’t necessarily need to be tied to an event.

In an urban area, you’re going to be targeting where people are having their lunch breaks when they’re all back in the office. Or you can have your pop-up kiosk in an office building lobby when employees go back, or in a high-rise condo building. Retailers are getting really clever at targeting who their customer is and where they are going to be.

—Stacy Hamer, Vice President of Client Experiences, iQmetrix

T-Mobile is just one well-known example of a telecom carrier that has adopted a highly successful mobile store strategy. Its vans and trucks, with their highly recognizable bright pink branding, are constantly on the move finding high-traffic areas in major cities. The trucks come in a wide range of sizes, and the side opens to create a booth-style store when it’s parked. The fleet even includes an expansive mobile Tech Experience Store converted from a tricked-out semi-truck.

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Pop-Up Marketing Strategies

For smart telecom retailers, it’s not enough to put a pop-up in the right place at the right time — they also have to do it in the right way, depending on the event or location. Fans at a sports event, for example, may be enticed by sports-team-related marketing, while those at a major music festival might want to upgrade their phone so they have a great device to take photos.

Hamer said, One thing everyone is pent up to do right now is watch sports. So retailers are figuring out how they can time their strategy around big sporting events — not just a kiosk inside a stadium, but also when people are tailgating for hours. Retailers want to get their pop-up tent or truck right in the middle of the tailgate. Everyone runs out of phone battery at these long events, so the retailer can set up a charging station, then get the chance to upsell.”

It’s fascinating to see how creative our clients are getting in targeting customers at these events.

—Stacy Hamer, Vice President of Client Experiences, iQmetrix

Retailers can take their strategy even further by tapping into the fan mentality. Hamer added, You can use messaging such as: buy a new phone cover in your sports team’s colors or even team-logo-branded — you like the Panthers, here are all our light blue cases. Buy a team case and you can get a free screensaver that we’ll install for you right now to protect your phone during the game. If it’s a baseball game, bring baseball-themed cases, and so on. People always run out of phone battery, so bring lots of portable batteries. Strategies that create that personalization are extremely effective, and are an easy way of attracting fans of a sports team or a rock band.”

Another strategy is to partner with other companies or brands for your pop-up operation, doubling your marketing power. For example, at the Indy 500 in May this year, Aifi — a specialist in autonomous purchasing such as AI-powered vending machines—set up a kiosk selling Indy 500 merchandise using 5G connectivity, powered by Verizon. This also enabled Verizon to get its brand and 5G technology in front of eventgoers in a different and innovative way.

Image courtesy of AiFi, MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation, and

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Tackling Technological Challenges

It’s one thing to have a sophisticated and creative pop-up retail strategy in place that accounts for the location, the event, and the customer base. But it’s another to operate that kiosk or tent in challenging conditions where you may be outside and maybe have access to a single electrical outlet.

This is where we’re having conversations with our retailer clients, because a pop-up strategy is great in theory, with all these creative ideas, but hard in execution.

—Stacy Hamer, Vice President of Client Experiences, iQmetrix

Here, we outline the key technological elements to a successful pop-up operation.

  1. Mobile-first strategy
  2. Connectivity is key
  3. Pop-up payment processing
  4. Event inventory management
  5. Pop-up labor management

Mobile-first strategy

The first, fundamental aspect of operating a pop-up kiosk, tent, or truck is to already have a robust mobile retail strategy in place. Using wireless devices such as iPads is essential — your sales associates cannot be tethered to a laptop or desktop while at a kiosk or tent on site.

Ken Konkel, Vice President of Technology at iQmetrix, said, Yes, laptops are mobile, but if you’re in a tent in a parking lot or a kiosk in an office lobby, and you have been given maybe one electrical outlet, you need more flexibility. That’s where the iPad or other tablet can really help. The battery life on an iPad is something like 10 or 12 hours, which you’re not typically going to get out of a laptop, so you don’t have the fear of the battery running out, plus it’s also quicker to charge. Crucially, it also allows you to be more mobile.”

With an iPad, you can be outside and walking around talking to customers. You can use LTE connectivity and be free to show products and run the transaction, wherever the customer is.

—Ken Konkel, Vice President of Technology, iQmetrix

Savvy retailers already have their mobile strategy implemented in stores, using such mobile point-of-sale systems as iQmetrix’s RQmobile, so it’s easy to extend this to pop-up outlets. Others, however, are still behind this curve for their in-store strategy, which is leaving them at a disadvantage when it comes to pop-up retail.

Hamer explained, Pop-up stores are actually the reason many of our clients are realizing they need to get their mobile strategy in place sooner than they otherwise would have done. For the in-store experience, some retailers don’t yet have it in place because it’s expensive up front to invest in the hardware required. But when it comes to implementing a pop-up strategy, they realize that you can’t just have one iPad for your pop-up booth. It’s forcing retailers to relook at their hardware investment, and how they are going to really push their mobile strategy forward, because it is so essential for the pop-ups that they want to create. If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you cannot have a pop-up strategy.”

Connectivity is key

Further to the mobile device strategy is the issue of connectivity. It is important to be able to use data rather than relying on a Wifi network that may or may not be available at an event, that may be competing with many people who are locally on that network, and is highly unlikely to be secure enough to run transactions.

Konkel said, You need to be able to validate inventory, you want to validate credit cards, you don’t want to be worrying about security and losing connection, or competing with someone streaming Netflix. This can be a major blocker in your pop-up kiosk strategy. The ideal scenario is to have a network that is dedicated to your devices, so you’re not blocked or competing with all the other people on the public Wifi. It’s best to set up your own private network that’s connected to your hotspot, so even if you’re at a stadium with 30,000 people all trying to connect and use their phones, you have a private connection that is secure and functional.”

Of course, for many of the most sophisticated events such as stadium sports events and music festivals, the event operators have strategies in place for their vendor partners, so it’s always worthwhile reaching out to the organizers. Experienced event managers have come across this challenge so many times, it won’t always fall on the retailer to figure out their connectivity challenge. For other smaller events, however, the retailer is likely on their own.

In these scenarios, it’s a good idea to have data pucks to create a hotspot that you can take to your booth. You don’t share it with customers, the staff aren’t streaming their Spotify on it, it’s just for your mobile devices. It’s fast, reliable, fully mobile, and secure.

—Ken Konkel, Vice President of Technology, iQmetrix

Pop-up payment processing

Within your mobile strategy, it’s important to have mobile payment options on site, so transactions can be completed effortlessly. In an environment where associates are roaming freely with customers, especially when outdoors and possibly with numerous customers at once, it’s less than optimal to rely on a physical payment terminal. That’s where contactless payment technologies such as iQmetrix’s Remote Pay functionality comes in.

Remote Pay, and other similar contactless payment functionalities, allow the customer to pay using their own device. The sales associate simply selects the contactless payment option in the mobile point of sale on their tablet, and the system sends a text to the customer’s device for them to complete the transaction.

Hamer said, With the pop-up kiosk mobile strategy, it’s not just about the tablet, it’s also about the payment. Our Remote Pay functionality gets some of our clients more excited for pop-up than in store. Using contactless payments in-store is still exciting but it’s become more standard over the pandemic with the need for touchless technologies. Whereas now, clients are realizing they can also use Remote Pay at pop-ups.”

Konkel agrees with this benefit. He said, At your pop-up event, the fewer devices you carry around the better, so the ability to use the customer’s own device is ideal. It’s totally secure for them — somebody doesn’t have to disappear into the truck with their credit card to use the payment terminal, which can pose a security risk. And from a sales staff perspective, you don’t have to worry about where’s the payment machine and what is it tied to — those payment terminals themselves are usually pretty expensive, too. So you’d likely only have one of them at a pop-up tent or truck.”

Using a contactless payment functionality such as Remote Pay creates that instant transaction wherever you are, and allows the customer to pay however they want.

—Ken Konkel, Vice President of Technology, iQmetrix

Event inventory management

Another factor to consider is inventory — how much of it to take to an event, and how to manage it while it is off-site. While in a physical store, back-of-house storage allows for a wide range of products to be held on hand, this is not the case for a pop-up tent at a state fair or a mobile kiosk in a building. The right inventory needs to be brought to the event and, beyond that, pop-up retailers need to rely on technological solutions that work as well out in the field as they do in-store.

Hamer explained, It depends on whether the pop-up is a kiosk or a van, because you can actually pack a lot of inventory in those mobile trucks. But for most pop-up tents or kiosks, that’s not the case. Plus, you have to be careful about bringing a lot of high-value products to an unsecured location. So you bring your obvious SKU set — accessories such as cases, and screen protectors, which don’t take up much space, and just a handful of devices.”

One solution to the inventory problem is using technology such as dropship, which allows customers to buy their product at the event from the selection shown by the associate at the mobile point of sale, and have it delivered to their home.

Some of our clients are letting customers buy something in the pop-up shop and they are actually having it same-day delivered. It becomes part of the marketing messaging: buy something right now, and by the time you get home from the game tonight, it will be at your door.

—Stacy Hamer, Vice President of Client Experiences, iQmetrix

Whatever inventory is brought to the pop-up location, or remains stored in a mobile truck, it needs to go through the same rigorous inventory management process as it would in-store. This is where a robust and adaptable inventory management system is essential.

Konkel said, When planning your pop-up location or setting up the mobile truck, you set up an inventory location and assign inventory to it, just as you would with a new physical store. That way, you know exactly what inventory is going to the event, you would see the sales made at the event, and then you can reconcile after the inventory that you expect to have on hand. Based on the sales and the inventory that came back from the event, you can carry out inventory accounts, even if it’s a temporary location’ that you’ve set up just for the event.”

Pop-up labor management

Finally, it’s important to be as rigorous with workforce management and scheduling at a pop-up kiosk or in a mobile truck as you would with your in-store sales associates. Just like with inventory management, the pop-up location is treated as if it were a physical store location, which allows your comprehensive retail management system to apply its back-office employee scheduling to staff shifts at the event.

Konkel explained, When the pop-up kiosk or tent is created as a temporary location’ in an RMS such as iQmetrix’s RQ or RQmobile, you can use all the same employee management processes, you assign people to that location, have people punching in and out for shifts via RQmobile on the iPad.”

With your pop-up kiosk, you can simply run operations as if it was a location, even though it’s a tent in the park or a truck outside a stadium.

—Ken Konkel, Vice President of Technology, iQmetrix

Konkel added that there tends to be one caveat for pop-up stores when it comes to employee expectations. Maybe break scheduling is a little bit different, in that you maybe need to set different scheduling expectations for the event, for staff to be able to take breaks and enjoy the perks of being there. But you can do that if you set it up as its own location and you can manage the scheduling separately from your regular stores.”

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A Buy Anywhere Strategy

Ultimately, pop-up retail should be part of a wider aspiration that forward-thinking telecom retailers must work towards — a buy-anywhere strategy that reaches customers wherever they are. In-store, online, via social, at pop-up kiosks, in mobile trucks, and anywhere else. And whether retailers are implementing pop-up or other omnichannel retail strategies, today’s retail management technology is constantly evolving to support all these approaches and create a seamless customer journey across all brand touchpoints. What’s essential for retailers is that they continue to adopt those technologies to stay ahead of the innovation curve and create great experiences for their customers and themselves.

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