The What & How of Swag Pop-up Shops & Why You Need One

If you’ve been reading our blog, you know that we’ve talked about quite a lot of different topics from branded […]

Mark Jackson

President at PRG


If you’ve been reading our blog, you know that we’ve talked about quite a lot of different topics from branded merchandise to human resources and marketing. 

However, we’ve never discussed a topic that combines all these different categories before. 

Today’s post is about swag pop-up shops. 

We’re going to discuss:

  • What a swag pop-up shop is
  • Some use cases for a swag pop-up shop
  • The product categories you should make sure to include in your pop-up shop
  • How to create a swag pop-up shop for your business

By the end of this post, you should be able to tell whether you need a swag pop-up shop and you’ll definitely know how to create one if you need to. 

We’re very excited to discuss this topic with you, so let’s get started. 

Table of Contents

What is a Pop-up Shop?

Why Does Your Business Need a Swag Pop-up Store?

5 Product Categories to Include in Your Pop-up Shop

How to Make Your Own Swag Pop-up Shop

What is a Pop-up Shop?

A swag pop-up shop is a designated online swag store put together by companies that want to collect information and combine orders from different shoppers, such as their employees. 

More specifically, what’s great about swag pop-up shops is that they allow companies to offer their employees access to purchasing internal swag, thus covering their company merchandise and promotional needs in an easy and straightforward way.

Plus, all products found in a swag pop-up shop are branded and specifically customized to feature the company’s branding

Let’s have a look at an example of a swag pop-up to make sure you know what it is exactly. 

Multinational company FedEx focuses on transportation and eCommerce and has a merchandise store specifically designed for their employees who want to get their internal swag. 

For the sake of example, let’s have a look at FedEx’s company merchandise store.

As you can see, the homepage gives us several options depending on whether we’re guests using a Public Login, employees or contractors, and service providers. 

The Public Login button takes us to the main page of the company’s public merchandise store, where we can have a look at the company swag and shop:

Their merch store is different from their swag pop-up store that can be accessed exclusively by employees.  

In fact, employees who wish to enter the internal merchandise store need to select a FedEx Operating Company and also add personal details to verify their identity. 

For a huge company like FedEx, having a designated swag pop-up store where it can sell internal merchandise is essential in order to keep track of orders and collect information from its employees. 

As opposed to swag pop-ups, a pop-up retail shop is a short-term physical store or other space in a retail store that lasts from days to months and aims to raise awareness of the brand and products.

These are great for digital-native businesses that want to have short-term leases in order to enhance their physical presence in vacant storefronts in shopping malls, etc., and create a sense of urgency that’ll make people want to make the most out of the brand’s presence in a physical store.

For example, a small business that mostly works with online sales and wants to spread the word about the brand might create a temporary pop-up space in a farmers’ market, a retail space in a big city like New York City or Los Angeles, or even in a famous shopping area in a metropolis, like Soho in London. 

Similarly, a Hong Kong-based brand might want to open a temporary storefront in the United Kingdom to capture foot traffic and reach new markets that might not be their current target demographic, thus exploring whether it’d be worth opening a permanent retail space. 

Even though pop-up shop ideas for retailers are very interesting too, in this post we’re focusing on swag pop-up shops as opposed to temporary retail spaces and event spaces.

Let’s dive deeper into how swag pop-ups work. 

How does a pop-up shop work?

The way a swag pop-up shop works is quite straightforward: 

  1. You create a digital store that looks pretty much like any other simple eCommerce store that includes a range of branded items that you pre-approve.
  2. You give access to your employees who want to choose branded items from your business. 

Even though the retail pricing allows you to sell your branded items for an additional margin, which means that you can actually make some profit from your shop, swag pop-up shops are generally $0 offers. 

This means that your employees will most likely have credit to buy from your company swag pop-up and they won’t actually spend money on purchasing internal swag. 

Plus, swag pop-ups accept credit card payments and they even offer coupons.

Last but not least, these shops can be password protected to ensure that you won’t get orders from people who don’t belong to your organization if you prefer. 

You now have a general idea of how a pop-up works; however, the details of how it’ll work depend on the reasons why you’re setting up a store. 

That’s what we’re discussing next.

Why Does Your Business Need  a Swag Pop-up Store?

A few weeks ago, we did an interview with Bobby Lehew, Chief Content Officer at commonsku, a business management software for promotional products distributors, to get his view on pop-up shops.

According to Bobby, there are 3 Es when it comes to swag pop-up shops: 

  1. Emotion
  2. Experience
  3. Engagement

It all starts with people wanting a special, emotional shopping experience, something bigger than simply getting an article of clothing or a household item with a logo on it. 

This special experience is powerful enough to drive engagement and not only raise brand awareness but most importantly, create a connection between a brand and people. 

In other words, a great thing about pop-ups is that they allow people to engage with a brand’s merchandise and engage with it in important moments like the use cases we’re going to discuss in a bit. 

It’s because of the creation of an emotional experience that people come closer to your brand and familiarize themselves with your branding and messaging

Let’s have a look at some different use cases for a swag pop-up store.

Use case #1: Celebrate a company anniversary

Offering your employees a gift to celebrate a company anniversary through a pop-up store is a great idea. 

For example, the Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo celebrates 20 years in the UK this year. 

Image Source: Uniqlo

Wouldn’t it be great to create a swag pop-up and allow their employees to get their special swag for this important anniversary?

All you need to do is set-up a pop-up store to allow employees to pick the item they want; you can then produce the goods they order accordingly. 

Use case #2: Employee apparel programs

In case you want to supply your new hires or current employees with some basic company apparel, you can easily do it through a pop-up store. 

By creating an easy-to-use pop-up and giving them access to it, you allow them to choose their favorite apparel items – and their sizes too – which you can then combine into one order with your swag company

Use case #3: Rebranding

The third use case we’re going to talk about is rebranding

For example, Canadian-based financial consulting firm WealthCo engaged their rebrand with brand new swag. 

Have a look:

Image Source: Facebook

Let’s say that you’re a big company that wants to rebrand, like the one we just saw. 

When you rebrand, you’ll naturally want everyone involved in the excitement of this new identity; because it’s not just a new logo, it’s a new move forward, a new transition for the company.

When turning to a new chapter in the life of the business and you want to engage all of your employees, there’s no better way to do it than with a swag pop-up. 

Employees will have the opportunity to take a look at the “new” company and celebrate the rebanding with a well-thought-through experience. 

What’s better than celebrating a rebrand than with killer branded hoodies or a cool cup sitting on your employees’ desk that includes information on how they can go to the pop-up and get the apparel with the new logo? 

Do I need to say more?

Use case #4: New product or service launch

Product launches are yet another reason for startups and bigger companies to start exploring the power of a successful pop-up full of branded items. 

If you’re releasing a new product, it makes sense to create branded accessories that could go well with this product, thus giving your employees the opportunity to use the internal swag first. 

No matter what your goal is – whether to increase engagement with your employees or rebrand your logo – the solution is pretty simple!

You just need to set up a pop-up, which is actually super easy to do and we’ll be taking you through a process a little further down the road. 

As you can probably tell from the use cases we’ve discussed, swag pop-up shops are a great way to celebrate, rebrand, or generally take any step forward that requires your employees and community to get engaged and interact with your brand. 

How about talking a bit more about the product categories you might want to include in your swag pop-up store?

5 Product Categories to Include in Your Pop-up Shop

The way your pop-up works heavily depends on the reason why you’ve set it up as well as the variety of products you’ll be offering. 

Because there are endless product options available, we thought we’d give you a list of the most popular promotional product categories to make it easier for you to choose from. 

Let’s get to the first product category. 

1. Apparel

An interesting statement from our interview with Bobby Lehew was that “apparel is usually the biggest part of every swag pop-up store experience”

The reason for this is quite simple; these products are bound to generate more impressions than others because they are worn on the body, thus turning people who wear them into walking billboards. 

This particular category includes anything from promotional hoodies and tees to beanies, jackets, branded socks, and branded light down vests. 

If you look at any brand or individual selling merch online, you’ll see that branded apparel is a common product category.

It’s not just fashion brands that can make cool garments. 

From music star Dua Lipa…

…to tech giant Google…

…all swag stores include some branded articles of clothing and your swag pop-up for your employees, investors, or clients should include it too. 

In fact, according to the 2020 ads impressions study by ASI, a promotional t-shirt generates around 3,400 impressions throughout its lifetime, with 80% of consumers owning a promotional tee: 

Image Source: ASI Central

2. Drinkware

The second product category we have for you is drinkware

Similar to apparel that includes a number of different products, drinkware is a term that includes everything from drinking glasses to tumblers, shot glasses, reusable water bottles, and so on and so forth. 

Drinkware of course has a practical value that lasts over time, with promotional drinkware items being used for an average of 12 months:

Image Source: ASI Central

On top of that, promotional drinkware is becoming more and more popular because of its connection to sustainability

As Bobby Lehew puts it, “the pandemic actually forced us all as consumers to come face to face with our waste and has challenged our own industry about this.”

Consumers are becoming more and more environmentally conscious and conscientious, and, to use Bobby’s words, sellers are becoming more sensitive to the matter. 

Therefore, we understand that with sustainability and eco-friendly promotional items becoming a lifestyle as opposed to just an option, new products like reusable and durable drinkware items are a must when it comes to creating and selling branded products. 

The promotional Ocean Bottle created by Google is a good example of big companies shifting their focus towards a more sustainable approach:

Overall, if you’re looking for new products for your swag pop-up, drinkware should definitely be the way to go. 

3. Tech

Tech branded items are yet another product category you should consider including in your swag pop-up store. 

They make the best promotional gifts and they can work just great for any type of company, from medium-sized eCommerce businesses to enterprises. 

Let’s say you’re doing a rebrand; wouldn’t it be great to give your employees coupons to buy promotional gear such as branded headphones, laptop stands, and bluetooth speakers?

The official Microsoft merchandise store has a designated Tech landing page full of tech items and accessories featuring the company logo. 

Have a look:

We’ve got another three product categories to share with you. 

4. Decorative items

Another product category to consider for your swag pop-up shop is decorative items

Decorative items refers to a wide variety of different items your employees, investors, or customers can buy to decorate their office or home – or both. 

Our advice would be to – together with your swag suppliercreate seasonal items that’ll not only make your store visitors happy but will give them an extra reason for buying. 

In other words, in the case of using your swag pop-up shop to engage your employees in an important progression in the business or you simply want to gift them something, it’s a great idea to do so with thoughtful seasonal decorative items. 

For example, you might want to create  a Halloween collection of promotional items or you want to get all festive with beautiful Christmas products, like the ones we can see Disney is currently selling in its merchandise store:

What’s great about decorative items is that they can be enjoyed by the whole family which means that whoever gets your internal swag will be using it together with their flatmates, family members, and friends. 

Think of it this way: you create Christmas products and give employees the opportunity to go into your pop-up store to choose the items they want. 

Once you’ve gathered information from all your employees, you can place your order with your swag supplier and have your employees’ holiday gifts ready in time for Christmas. 

Author’s Note: What’s great about seasonal decorative items is that they’ll also make it more likely for your employees to share festive pictures of them using your branded products on social media.

5. Bags (of any kind!)

The last product category we think it’s worth exploring further, although you can add virtually any kind of promotional item in your pop-up store – so there isn’t really a last one – is bags

No matter what the reason is for setting up your swag pop-up in the first place, giving people access to custom backpacks, laptops and messenger bags, and tote bags will always be a great idea.

Most merchandise store, including Beyonce’s, sell branded bags:

Branded bags are some of the most popular promotional products, which means that by adding them into your swag pop-up, you increase the likelihood of people finding something in there for them. 

That’s what a swag pop-up is really all about, right?

We’ve talked about why it matters and what kind of products you could offer through a swag pop-up. 

If you think your company falls under any of the use cases we’ve discussed, make sure you keep reading to find out how to build a swag pop-up and start selling internal swag

Here we go. 

How to Make Your Own Swag Pop-up Shop

Before we get started with showing you how to make your own swag pop-up shop, we need to highlight that a swag pop-up is not your typical merchandise store. 

Your merchandise store or swag store, like the ones we’ve shown you from Google and Microsoft, are online stores open to the public to sell branded products. 

A swag pop-up shop is a space for companies, marketing teams, and HR groups to get and aggregate information that’ll facilitate the swag creation, order, and delivery processes. 

Without further ado, let’s get into it. 

Step #1: Check out a sample swag pop-up shop

Before you start making your own swag pop-up store, we suggest you visit our website and have a look at the sample shops we’ve got for you. 

More specifically, all you need to do is go to our homepage…

…and click on the POP UP SHOPS page from the menu on the right of your screen.

You then need to scroll down the page to find out the types of stores we offer. 

Have a look:

You can choose the pop up shop option, which will take you to a sample shop powered by commonsku.

This sample shop looks exactly like any eCommerce store and includes several branded items to give you an idea of what your swag pop-up could look like.

If you’re curious about what the store will look like for your employees and visitors, you can also check out a more client-friendly version of the sample store. 

This will allow you to see exactly what an employee going to your store to get their free Xmas gift would see. 

For the sake of an example, we’ve picked a custom t-shirt… 

…which we’ve added to the cart. 

As you can see, at this point, the employee can pick the right size, thus giving you the information you need in order to get them the right item in the right size. 

In the next step, the shopper will also add their contact and delivery information, thus making it easier for you to keep track of the orders and facilitating creation and distribution. 

Step #2: Contact your swag supplier to start building your pop-up

You’ve now seen exactly how a swag pop-up shop could look for you as well as your store visitors. 

As we’ve already discussed, there are many options in terms of the products you’ll include in your store as well as the coupons or offers you might offer your store visitors. 

We suggest that you scroll down through our Swag Pack Builder to explore your swag item options. 

Don’t worry if there’s something you want to add to your store but can’t see in our Swag Pack Builder; we’re able to source pretty much anything you want to customize and help you make your pop-up store a unique experience for shoppers. 

To cut a long story short, the second step you need to take once you’ve decided you want to open a swag pop-up store is to contact us to help you start building it. 

 Simple!

Now Over to You

You’ve made it to the end of our guide on how to build a swag pop-up shop and why you may need one.

Even if you’ve never created a swag pop-up shop before, we believe that this guide has given you a clear idea of what a pop-up shop is and what some of the most common use cases for creating one are.

As we’ve already discussed, our clients enjoy the power of swag pop-up shops for celebrating company anniversaries, rebrands, and new product launches. 

If you can’t wait to create your own pop-up and make everyone part of whatever great step forward your company is taking, make sure you contact us to discuss your options. 

Thank you so much for reading!

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