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How to use pop-ups to build a remarkable reputation for your hotel

Posted By HEDNA Brand Journalist Nick Vivion, Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2018

Retail as entertainment

Retail is becoming a form of entertainment, shifting the relationship of hotels with retail. As hospitality expands from traditional revenue streams to encompass experience-driven events and activities, retail has become a business driver.

Massive global brand MGM Resorts knows this first hand, as CIO Sy Esfahani shared during the recent Oracle Industry Connect:

“We are rebranding ourselves because our gaming business is not growing; it’s actually shrinking. We’re becoming more of an entertainment company. The people who come to Las Vegas are not elderly, sitting for hours in front of slot machines. They’re coming here wanting to be entertained; they go to events, they go to clubs, and they go shopping.”

Within the rubric of “wanting to be entertained,” hospitality brands must now craft a multi-faceted experience beyond a hotel’s core identity as a place to sleep.

One of the most compelling tools to address this trend is a temporary branded pop-up. The pop-up is an effective tool because it doesn’t have a high upfront cost, leverages existing space, and encourages engagement due to the urgency of its temporary nature. The fear-of-missing-out is a powerful call to action!


 The benefits of pop-ups

When compared to other forms of marketing, the experiential nature of pop-ups makes them attractive to hospitality brands seeking differentiation.

In today’s fast-paced environment, where attention is at a premium and customer acquisition costs are rising, pop-ups are a low-cost, high-impact investment in a hotel’s reputation.

Here’s why pop-ups make sense for hotels:

  1. Cost. Pop-ups often use existing space at a hotel, so there’s little upfront cost. The brand partners will handle installation and labor, so there’s a huge upside for hotels who are using existing space.

  2. Buzz. When a temporary retail experience captures the imagination of consumers, there’s unlimited potential for free buzz. Buzz builds interest thanks to the power of exclusivity and urgency -- especially if the space is seasonally relevant.

  3. Revenue. And yes, this buzz translates into revenue! Pop-up retail experts The Lionesque Group have logged great results: “We have seen a 20% lift in ancillary revenue, like guest room and event space bookings, from the hotels that have partnered with our pop-up clients.”

Shannon Shepard, the director of sales and marketing at the 11 Howard in New York City, distills the power of pop-ups as such:

“Pop-ups enable us build partnerships within our local community, create an immersive interactive experience for guests and connect with new audiences. It also allows us to create engaging social media content and foster a sense of newness in a hotel market that is increasingly competitive.”

Loyalty can also be a side benefit. Consumer behavior data from EventTrack reveals that 98% of consumers are more inclined to purchase, while 70% turn into regular customers, after experiencing a pop-up-style event.


The flexibility of pop-ups


There are many ways to approach pop-up retail in hospitality -- it’s a type of marketing where creativity reigns. Two of the most common approaches are to develop a full pop-up experience that reflects the hotel experience, and to partner with a brand on an immersive retail experience within an area of the hotel.

For a standalone pop-up, the Ruinart Hotel 1729 is the one to beat. While technically not within a hotel, the champagne brand Ruinart has crafted a unique experience within the welcoming frame of hospitality.


This event stands out with its exclusivity and elegance: “Enter Hotel 1729 and experience a night of indulgence that surpasses expectations and will stimulate the eyes, ears, and taste buds; and enjoy a menu of experimental food paired with Ruinart Champagne.”

Most hotel event spaces can be easily converted to pop-ups. Spaces can be as small as a lobby corner, such as this Kit and Ace pop-up series, or as large as a dedicated space, such as The Market at the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City which welcomes a rotating cast of characters to its dedicated pop-up space.

Food pop-ups are also as popular way to bring food to non-restaurant spaces around the hotel -- such as this poolside event with local chefs at the Ace New Orleans, which also doubles as a fundraiser for the Red Cross. Bonus millennial points!

Selecting the right brand partner

When considering a pop-up, don't rush too fast into selecting a brand partner. Success hinges on a perfect match.

Things to consider: Does this brand partner give you access to new customers within your target demographic? Will there be investment on the other side as far as soliciting public relations wins and social media marketing? What operational considerations need to be addressed? What are the metrics that you will track?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can proceed more confidently with selecting a brand partner for your pop-up. As you pursue your experiential marketing strategy, remember that the correct brand partner unleashes the power of the pop-up. So invest the time upfront to reap the rewards down the line.

Have there been any recent pop-ups that you've enjoyed? Or do you have some learnings to share from a pop-up partnership from your professional past? Spread the knowledge in the comments below.

Tags:  hotel marketing 

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