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How Marie Claire’s Three-Week SoHo Pop-Up Could Reshape the Retail Experience

Why exactly would a consumer magazine like Marie Claire decide to launch a pop-up experience?

Speaking at the Fashion Group International’s panel discussion on pop-up strategies, publisher Nancy Berger said the 81-year-old women’s fashion, beauty and health magazine wanted to bring to life its editorial point of view and “create a space where you could come and discover new things.”

“We wanted all the [participating] companies to be introducing something that consumers hadn’t touched or tried or experienced before,” she added.

Dubbed The Next Big Thing, Marie Claire’s 21-day temporary experience in New York City featured a new event each day and brought a variety of established and emerging brands under one roof in a 2,500-square-foot space on SoHo’s Wooster Street, nestled between Prince Street and Spring Street and adjacent to an M.Gemi store.

“We’d never been in retail before as a brand,” Berger said, noting that the pop-up drew to a close with 130 million media impressions and celebrity sightings including model Coco Rocha’s first-day drop-in. “We’re always showing great things for audience to buy but we never saw our consumers actually shopping for it with our recommendations. It opened up our brand to a lot of new people.”

The pop-up mirrored the way the magazine itself is divvied up, Berger noted, and focused on what the modern woman needs for career (Marie Claire at Work), for leisure (Marie Claire at Play) and for fitness (Marie Claire at Peak). Currently without a New York City footprint, partner Neiman Marcus found the pop-up to be a “great introduction to Manhattan,” according to Berger, and showcased of-the-moment apparel suitable for each focus area that visitors could try on in smart fitting rooms with technology supplied by Oak Labs.

If a shopper brought just one item to try on, the fitting room’s smart mirror would suggest complementary garments. “Even the mirror was trying to sell you something all the time,” Berger said. Customers in need of a different size simply pressed a button on their dressing-room mirror and could check out on the spot if desired. Pop-up visitors also were exposed to “fashion brands you might not see in other spaces,” and a “living botanical wall” in the middle of the space that conceptualized a beauty company’s botanical-packed new product.

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Sponsor Mastercard saw the pop-up as a B2B and B2C opportunity to get its cashless payment technology in front of consumers, Berger said.

Berger said Marie Claire saw The Next Big Thing as a “destination” made special by one-of-a-kind happenings and high-profile appearances, such as Spanx founder Sara Blakeley’s turn in the spotlight for a new product launch.

Among the most interesting parts of the pop-up experience, Berger explained, was the brand’s partnership with beta, a retail technology firm that takes a data-driven approach to helping new and emerging brands tailor their temporary shop. A beta-powered iPad sat next to each product, displaying pertinent details and pricing info—which could be tweaked as needed to yield useful insights about the threshold that triggered conversions.

Marie Claire even made the storefront shoppable when the experience shut down for the night. Passersby interested in the wares within could enter their mobile phone number on a screen and be texted a link through which they could submit their credit card details, complete the transaction and have the goods drop-shipped to their doorstep—adding yet another dimension to the experience of engagement and discovery.

In the wake of the pop-up’s success, Marie Claire has fielded inquiries from shopping center owners and other real estate firms interested in hosting the publishing brand’s future temporary IRL efforts. “There is a need to fill space and got us thinking in a completely different way,” Berger said. Timed around New York Fashion Week, the second pop-up installation will arrive in September under the headline The Next Big Thing: Work, and will then be hosted for another three weeks at The Assemblage, an innovative co-working and co-living space.

Megan Berry, founder and CEO of pop-up provider byReveal, said a client that launched a 30-day pop-up saw customers return seven times on average. “That’s insane,” she said, but noted that it was the direct result of the experience’s changing events and limited-time merchandise that made every visit different and discoverable.

“I think you’ll start to see a lot of pop-up strategies be deployed into in-line permanent stores, very similar to stylists replacing traditional staffers,” Berry said.

“When a shopper comes into a pop-up and doesn’t purchase, [our clients] are still extraordinarily optimistic about the introduction, about the engagement that customer had,” Berry said.