THE ICONIC Talks Growth and the Experiential Pop Up

Natasha Sholl By Natasha Sholl | 03 Apr 2019

We hear from THE ICONIC on the growth of pop-ups, what it takes to create ‘brand magic’ and how to connect to customers as a pure-player.

THE ICONIC was launched in 2011, and since then has been on a mission to redefine the future retail at the  intersection of fashion and tech. While its model is based on fashion and sportswear, it truly leverages innovation in the retail, fashion, logistics and tech space. Today, THE ICONIC boasts over 1,000 local and international brands, 60,000 products, with over 200 new products added each day.

“Over the years, we have adopted a ‘test and learn’ culture that has allowed us to bring scale to major parts of our business through small wins that we were able to identify early,” explains Alexander Meyer, CMO, THE ICONIC. This culture is what helps the brand test the waters and grow. One example  includes evolving Australia Post’s nationwide logistics to introduce a new midnight pick-up to enable a timely next-day delivery service for its customers. Another example is its strong stance on body positivity and inclusion, which was reflected in its swimwear runway show in 2018.

For a company that isn’t bound by expectations or the ‘norm’, there is much to learn from how it approaches the pop-up space. Pop-ups are clearly a popular sales and marketing channel for online retailers now, but aren’t always executed well. “Offline experiences, such as pop-up stores, provide online retailers a meaningful way to connect to target audiences,” says Meyet. “It is a wonderful territory for online players, since it is not part of their original business model. It allows them to experiment and build truly engaging experiences in the real world. Additionally, these experiences not only assist in driving sales, but are a valuable investment into generating positive PR and engaging content, which can live online well after an activation has ended.”

So how can retailers stand out and engage consumers, when pop-ups are becoming standard business practice for many digital retailers? “It all depends on your strategy as a company, which target audience you want to reach, the budget you have, and the resourcing and creativity you have available to bring it to life. As with any customer focused initiative, it’s crucial to consider the interaction and engagement you’re trying to create by adopting this tactic. Equally, it’s vital to consider how you measure success,” Meyer explains. “You need to ask yourself how these strategies meet the audiences needs, why they’d want to hear about you in this environment and most importantly, that the concept feeds into your overall brand perception and aligns to your brand values. It’s not simply a case of running a pop-up store or brand installation for the sake of doing something different.”

THE ICONIC has engaged in a select series of pop-up activations, over the past few years. Most recently, it brought to life interactive pop-ups at last year’s Falls Festival, taking a two-pronged approach. The first took place at different stops of the festival, offering festival goers an opportunity to shop key fashion essentials on-site from a pop-up THE ICONIC shop, which was built into a portable shipping container.

The second part, activated only at Falls Byron Bay, had the purpose of being purely experiential. “An immersive physical experience, THE ICONIC Laundromat was brought to life to create a strong emotional connection with the festival’s audience via an interactive set-up, disguising a secret rave party. The concept saw festival-goers climb through a ‘fake’ washing machine into a secret rave world with DJ sets by their favourite artists, bringing to life a complete ‘surprise-and-delight’ beyond the external facade,” says Meyer.

“We sought to connect with festival-goers in a way that truly considered who they are, where they are, and what interests them. We didn’t want to be a retailer that partners with a festival to try and ‘be cool’, but rather to create an experience that would stick in the minds of attendees for the right reasons,” Meyer tells us. “In this case, this involved a non-stop program of in-demand music acts in a unique, intimate and comfortable environment that offered attendees a meaningful experience not available elsewhere at the festival. This meant we had festival goers visit THE ICONIC Laundromat not only once, but across multiple occasions.”

“Being an online pure-player, for us, pop-ups are an incredible opportunity to really connect with our customers in an environment we don’t normally have access to,” Meyer adds.

The Laundromat saw over 12,000 people (out of 20,000 festival attendees) climb through THE ICONIC’s washing machine and into THE ICONIC’s secret club. So how should retailers look measure success when it comes to pop-ups? “Our objective from the get-go was not to drive immediate sales, but rather for this touchpoint to work it as a testing ground. This was both to help us understand how to best interact with our customers in an offline environment, along with being able to evaluate the online interaction thereafter from a data capture perspective (including what it would mean for the lifetime value of both new and existing customers that interacted with this offline experience).”

“Cross-functional collaboration is key to any good activity and it’s the true spirit of how we at THE ICONIC operate. Partnerships are often key for us and they should be celebrated because we cannot be experts in everything in-house,” Meyer tells us. “We partnered with Secret Sounds on the Laundromat brand experience, given their expertise in music and bringing brand experiences to life in this environment, to truly unlock the Falls Festival customer.”

It’s also vital for activations to keep in mind the personality of the brand. “THE ICONIC is curious and progressive – so we actively seek opportunities that fit to who we are, but at the same we’re also pragmatic about these opportunities that arise and are committed to the north star of our purpose and strategy, which all centre on inspiring and empowering people,” Meyer explains.

How should retailers approach pop-ups? Is it a marketing activity? A way to offload excess stock? A way to engage consumers? A way to increase brand awareness? “For us, pop-ups and brand installations are about providing a specific brand moment at a specific time or place. As a retailer that is focused on liberating its customers and providing seamless and inspiring experiences, we are always looking for ways to engage and excite our customers,” Meyer says. “Taking online insights and a customer focus to translate into offline experiences can truly create brand magic.”

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