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In today’s digital era small businesses with little or no funding are confronted with the decision of where to retail:
• in a physical store – Traditional brick and mortar
• an online store – E-commerce
• or both – Physical and online.

Starting an e-commerce site may be the least costly structurally, however it requires a strong digital marketing strategy. On the other hand, starting a physical store can be extremely costly for a small business as it comes with costs such as rent, furniture, utility bills, just to name a few.

Based on a survey done by Time Trade, consumers prefer physical stores over online stores. One of the major reasons for this is because physical stores offer something that an online store cannot – personal experience. Consumers want physical touch, they want to feel the item and try it on, others are looking for that instant gratification of buying an item and receiving it immediately.

As a small business with an online store, how do you create a physical presence without the high cost of a physical store? A physical presence does not necessarily mean you have to have a physical store. In today’s market there are various ways your brand can have physical presence without the high costs of operating full-time – Pop ups.

Ways small businesses can build a physical presence in the form of Pop-Ups

Pop-ups provide an affordable way to build your physical presence and provide businesses with an opportunity to provide their customers with the personal interaction they require with them and their brand. Most importantly, it gives you an opportunity to market and promote your online store, it is also great for collecting customer data. The data can assist you in understanding your customers and for re-targeting via email or through text messages.

Vuuqa, a digital specialist firm for African brands, shares four different ways small businesses can build a physical presence in the form of Pop-ups.

1. Annual Events: Target annual events such as the DStv Delicious International Food & Music Festival, Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair and MTN Bushfire Festival.

2. Social Markets: Sell your products at social markets such as Market @ The Sheds, Locrate Market, Victory Yards, Brownsense Market, Fourways Farmers Market, Soweto Art and Craft Fair Market and The Linden Market.

3. The Mall – Pop up at your favourite or neighbourhood mall for the weekend. Remember to choose the busiest entrance.

4. Special events – Events like conferences, exhibitions and party events.

The trick to choosing the right places to pop up is simple – MARKET RESEARCH.

Consider the following factors while performing your research:

  • Who are they targeting – Are they the type of people who would buy your product?
  • What is the reach – How many people are they pulling to their events or malls and are those the right people for you?
  • Brand Association – Are they a brand that you would want to associate your brand with?
  • Environment/Location – Does the environment assist with giving your customers the right experience?

There is no doubt that any small business needs both an online, including an an e-commerce platform, and a physical presence. What is important for businesses is to ensure that all the touch points in your customer’s journey whether on social media, online store, at markets and events should be seamless and consistent throughout.

Written by Tshiwela Ncube from SME South Africa


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