PopUp People - Meet Melissa Gonzalez from The Lionesque Group - The Pop-Up Architects™ - New York

In a world where the relationship between brands and consumers is becoming more and more transactional, how can businesses build real, human connections with their customers? Melissa Gonzalez, retail strategist responsible for dozens of successful pop-ups from companies like Marc Jacobs, Ariana Rockefeller and J.Hilburn, has the answer.

In her new book, she explains how companies can use temporary retail to generate customer loyalty, understand new markets, test innovative concepts, and much more. We talked with Melissa about what to consider when setting up a pop-up store, the constant merging of online and offline retail and why pop-ups are the beginning of an revolution for brands, ideas and customers.

Tell us something about you and your company.

The Lionesque Group, also known as the pop-up architects™, has produced over 80 pop-up retail experiences. Beginning with the vision of the branded experience, Lionesque Group guides clients throughout the entire lifecycle of the pop-up experience. The advisory continues with project management from pre-planning to store opening, and concludes with the merging of Lionesque Group's knowledge of social media strategy with the company's deep Rolodex of partners and sponsors. Past projects have been honored with the CLIO Image award for experiential engagement and the New York Design Award for marketing and branded experiences.

When did you hear about pop-ups the first time?

I was always aware of the Halloween store business model, but have really seen an evolution of brands using the pop-up model in 2009 when I left Wall Street.

When did you open your first pop-up and with whom?

Our first pop-up was with designer Gail Travis of NFP Studio at RSPOP, our first partnership space at the Roger Smith hotel in midtown Manhattan. She was our first client in Fall of 2009 and we still work with her today. The NFP Studio pop-up strategy is mentioned in Chapter 5 of the book:

Through pop-ups “her customers understand her passion and her design process; they feel a kinship with her and want to support that.“

What was the biggest challenge so far in your career?

I think it’s juggling running a company and being able to focus on being a pop-up architect. Running a company and a team is a job in itself, but I am fueled by my passion for the creative aspects of ideation and working with our clients on developing innovative retail strategies to enhance their brand’s awareness.



 J.Hilburn pop-up store / boohoo.com pop-up store opening 


Your first book „The Pop Up Paradigma“ just came out. What is it about?

In the Pop-Up Paradigm book, we tackle how your brand can create a lasting impression by delivering experiences, and not just by opening a transactional sales hub. It explores how brick-and-mortar stores, approached correctly, are a brand’s true way to connect with a customer and forge lasting relationships.

What is the most important part to consider when doing a pop-up?

The number question to ask is “what are your goals.” If you don’t know that, then you should take time to figure it out before planning a pop-up shop. Ask yourself: why do you want to do a pop-up? What do you want to get out of it? Sales is always a portion of the picture, but it is rarely the number-one motivator. Is it brand awareness? Other key considerations are: customer targets, which will help determine location, and your budget.

Do you think that the pop up concept is the future of retail?

I think retail will continue to evolve overall. As technology continues to progress, so does the way consumers interact with brands. Today, things we once never imagined would be part of the marketplace are now so common that no one thinks anything of them. Click a few buttons on your phone to find and purchase new merchandise; have it shipped for free to your door the next day, or even go to the local store and pick up the item yourself, avoiding long lines on the checkout counter and getting it the same day. This evolution will continue, as so will retail.

Where will the pop up economy go to in the next years and what will be the biggest challenge?

Novelty was an asset in year’s prior, where shoppers were still intrigued by the mystery of a “pop-up shop.” Today it’s becoming the new norm, which brings largest stakes to brands if they want to stand out and make an impression with customers. As a brand, it’s becoming more and more critical to understand, although the activation may be short lived, the planning should not be.

We welcome Melissa to our growing community and if you like to dive in deeper, get the book "The Pop Up Paradigm" on Amazon, visit the The Lionesque Group website and follow Melissa on Twitter. Find the right space today for your pop-up idea with Germanys first marketplace for pop-up space.

Photo Credits: © 2014 The Lionesque Group / Champion Eye Media

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