If the pop-up phenomenon taught us anything it’s that a great experience is just as critical as a great product. Right now we’re seeing experience exceed — and even replace — product. This holiday season, retailers must take cues from pop-up experiences and brand installations to create beautiful “Instagrammable moments” that connect consumers’ digital and physical worlds, according to Melissa Gonzalez, Founder and CEO of The Lion’esque Group.

Melissa and her team have helped numerous brands plan and implement pop-ups around the country. While the pop-up trend shows no sign of slowing, she said, “brands and retailers are realizing the surprise and delight consumers get with pop-ups can also be applied in stores.”

Brands are also seeing the success of limited-time installations and experiences, such as
The Museum of Ice Cream and 29Rooms from Refinery29, which have garnered multiple stops, extensions, and significant media and consumer buzz. Sure, your stores may not have the space for a ball pit but, according to Melissa, there are plenty of ways you can get your creative juices flowing and spread a little joy as your shoppers deck the halls.


Melissa shared her thoughts on this new experiential retail trend during our first episode of the Holiday Insights Series podcast. If you need more proof that your stores need to create Instagrammable moments this holiday season, here are five:


1. Your consumers want it

The reality is consumers are gravitating more towards experiences than shopping sprees. A specific study from the Harris Group found this trend was especially prevalent among millennials — 72% of whom said they prefer to spend more money on doing things rather than buying things. Your consumers need to cross off their shopping lists, so designing a fun and memorable experience in your stores is creating the best of both worlds. It also gives you a lot of insight into what they want out of a brand experience.


2. It helps convey your unique brand story

While Melissa explained that there’s no one-size-fits-all model for retailers, there are two common, and critical, ingredients: a strategy and a story. She stated that with the right experience, relevant merchandising, and beautiful visual elements, retailers can boost holiday sales by tapping into consumers' innate desire to share on social. The key is finding what makes your brand unique, determining what story you’re trying to tell in your experience, and finding the right design and technology to support it.


3. It creates a social media ripple effect

Of all social networks, Instagram has arguably had the most profound impact on consumer behaviors, allowing them to piece together memories. Thanks to its new Stories feature, the app has become the go-to platform for sharing brag-worthy moments and events. By creating a beautiful, inspiring environment in your stores, or creating events that engage your local community, you’re encouraging people to snap and share. The more people visit, snap, and share, the more likely others will follow suit. The end result is a social media ripple effect that drives store traffic and sales. After all, 25% of Gen Z and millennials actively seek stories of products and services they may buy. That’s a data point that’s too good to ignore.


4. It can evolve to your budget and priorities

In a creative realm like store and experience design, it’s always a smart exercise to think big. Melissa noted that her firm gets calls from executives claiming they want to create the next Museum of Ice Cream.

“People underestimate the budgets that go into this [kind of experience],” she said. “There are so many elements that go into making that work that may not be in line with what you as a brand want to do.” But retailers can still be inspired by these headline-grabbing installations. Use them as a jumping-off point for ideas, and find ways to pull in elements and adapt them to your goals and, most of all, your budget.


5. You can get it up and running quickly

It’s already November, which means we’re gearing up for the peak holiday shopping period. You may not have the time or bandwidth to implement a pop-up experience, but it’s completely realistic for retailers to implement enjoyable and shareable experiences in their stores. Melissa pointed to pop-ins and shop-in-shops hosted by brand partners as quick methods for shaking up the in-store experience. Fun, out-of-the-box events, such as holiday card decorating classes, also get everyone in the festive spirit without requiring a lot of preliminary planning.

Brands of all sizes and across categories are using longstanding stores, as well as pop-ups, to create immersive, Instagrammable moments. To hear Melissa’s other tips and insights on this exciting time in store design, listen to her
Holiday Insights Series interview.


This article was originally published on Retail TouchPoints.


For more recommendations, including flash reports during Cyber Week, visit our Holiday Insights Hub or access our complete Holiday Readiness Guide.