SINGAPORE - You can hardly go a week these days without hearing about a new pop-up. It can be a temporary space selling snacks in your office, another selling the merchandise of a Korean girl group or a major makeup brand promoting their wares.
Some, like The Dessert Museum and The Bubble Tea Factory opening this month, are even ticketed attractions in themselves.
On Friday (Oct 4), The Dessert Museum, which first started in the Philippines two years ago, opened its first overseas pop-up at Plaza Singapura as part of the mall's 45th anniversary celebrations. It will run for three weeks till Oct 27.
This museum offers much eye candy - with rooms modelled after donuts, candy canes, ice cream and cake pops, and even a marshmallow "waterfall".
Meanwhile, at The Bubble Tea Factory, which opens later this month at *Scape, visitors can dive into a pot of taro 'pearls' and pose for photos with an IV drip filled with bubble tea.
With department stores and retailers around the world buckling under competition and rental pressure, the pop-up economy has risen in recent years, to cater to consumers' growing preference for novel experiences.
Pop-ups, in the broadest sense, are temporary spaces or events that pop up for a short period of time, often with an element of surprise. In the United States, the pop-up segment was valued at US$50 million (S$69 million) in 2016 by research firm RetailNext.
Pop-up shops, which took flight in Singapore around 2014, used to be how online retailers test the market before setting up a full-fledged brick-and-mortar store.
But in recent years, the new generation of pop-ups rarely have a product in sight, focusing solely on the experiential aspect of the space to engage visitors' senses.
In the Orchard area alone, the number of pop-ups have increased from 17 last year (2018) to more than 21 this year, according to the Orchard Road Business Association. Currently, beauty brands Shiseido and Clarins both have immersive pop-ups along Orchard Road, which ends Oct 20 and Oct 12 respectively.
Experiential pop-ups is a way for people to "escape from the mundane", says Mr Tan Weiting, 32, managing director of El Masnou, the local content company behind The Bubble Tea Factory.
"We're a generation that's spoilt for choice and with the ability to pursue what we want right here, right now. With this need to live in the moment, we see a stronger demand for transient experiences," adds Mr Tan.
Mr Adrian Chan, 40, director of pop-up rental platform PopUp Angels, says experiential pop-ups have been trending in the US for a few years and is starting to emerge here. He has seen an increase in demand for such short-term leases, particularly from digital-first brands using pop-ups to promote awareness of their brands.
Such popular "selfie" attractions in the US include the Museum of Ice Cream, which is in San Francisco and is opening in New York City, and the Color Factory, which began as a month-long pop-up in San Francisco in 2017 but ran for another sold-out eight months. It has now popped up in New York City and Houston.
Mr Kent Teo, 34, founder and chief executive of Invade, an events and space activating company, says he has seen an increase of 35 per cent in companies engaging their services to do up pop-up events in the past two years. Invade has organised large-scale pop-up events such as Artbox.
However, he warns that companies should not jump onto the pop-up bandwagon, counting on just Instagrammable structures to draw the crowd.
"It's important to understand your target audience's behaviours and preferences, study the insights and trends and then conceptualise the activation with a vision in mind. You either create a 'need' to visit or your pop-up activation highlights or attempt to solve a problem," he adds.
Likewise, Ms Lim Xiu Ru, a lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's School of Business, says whether a pop-up succeeds depends on how innovative it is and how well the brand messages resonate with its intended audience.
She adds: "Audience attention could shift to something better down the line when the pop-ups become similar in terms of execution methods, or are so commonly utilised that consumers find them staid someday."
Immerse in a bubble tea-inspired universe
Soon bubble tea fans can not only sip on the drink but also soak in a tub filled with bubble tea currency and pose for photos with an IV drip filled with bubble tea.
On Oct 19, the basement of *Scape will be transformed into The Bubble Tea Factory, with more than 10 installations to excite the five senses. It will run for two months.
The ground level of *Scape leading to the 7,000 sq ft space will be transformed into a rainbow walkway. Inside, a giant pot filled with 100,000 purple taro 'pearls', bubble tea-scented trees and an illuminated forest made out of larger-than-life straws await.
While in the space, visitors can also use the specially created Boba Bae Instagram filter for an enhanced experience.
Each ticket includes a complimentary full-sized cup of bubble tea and bubble tea-inspired treats. Jenjudan, a Taiwanese bubble tea brand famous for its brown sugar boba, will be supplying the drinks for the first two weeks of the pop-up.
Says Mr Tan Weiting, 32, managing director of El Masnou, the local content company behind the pop-up: "We chose bubble tea because we've seen how Singaporeans are really passionate about it and honestly, we can't get enough of it ourselves."
"More people are spending more on meaning experiences, rather than material goods. They are starting to realise that a new phone can only make you happier for a week or so, while truly meaningful experiences creates memories that lasts a lifetime."
Mr Tan, who worked with a team of three to conceptualise the pop-up, declined to reveal the cost of the set-up but says the team has "spared no expense to ensure an optimal customer experience."
He estimates to have 10,000 visitors in the two-month run. To ensure that each visitor gets the optimum experience, capacity will be capped at around 80 people at any one time. Each visit should take around 45 minutes to an hour.
BOOK IT/The Bubble Tea Factory
Where: Basement of *Scape, 2 Orchard Link
When: Oct 19 to Dec 18, Mon to Fri 4pm to 10pm, Sat and Sun 10am to 10pm
Admission: $24 on weekdays and $28 on weekends, public holidays and eve of public holidays
Indulge your sweet tooth
Slide into a room full of larger-than-life donuts or ride a pink and blue candy cane see-saw at The Dessert Museum in the main atrium of Plaza Singapura.
Opened on Friday (Oct 4), it is the dessert-themed attraction's first overseas pop-up, which started in the Philippines two years ago. It runs for three weeks till Oct 27.
The 2583 sq ft space features dessert-themed rooms modelled after donuts, cake pops, candy cane and ice cream, and even houses a marshmallow 'waterfall'.
It is part of the mall's 45th anniversary celebrations. At the canopy plaza of the mall's new wing, there is an accompanying carnival and marketplace, which puts a dessert spin on popular carnival game stalls such as ring toss. There are also baking and candy-making workshops for the little ones.
Shoppers who spend a minimum of $45 at Plaza Singapura in a single receipt can redeem a pair of entry tickets to The Dessert Museum, a $5 game voucher to use at the carnival and one workshop pass.
Mr Jack Ong, director of events company Ultimate Entertainments Group, says the decision to introduce The Dessert Museum as a pop-up in Singapore was based on feedback gathered from the Manila's attraction.
"The team in Manila showed us the importance of continually refreshing and renewing the content of experiential concept to prevent overexposure in an already saturated market, that's why we decided on a limited time pop-up to introduce The Dessert Museum brand to Singapore audience."
On the mall's decision to bring an experiential pop-up into their space, Ms Tan Pei Cheng, general manager of Plaza Singapura, says: "In the experience economy, consumers are more willing to spend on a desirable experience or event. We're responding to the growing demand from our shoppers to engage in a more enriching and interactive experiences beyond just consuming goods and services."
BOOK IT/The Dessert Museum
Where: Plaza Singapura atrium, 68 Orchard Rd
When: Oct 4 to 27, Sun to Thurs 10am to 10pm, Fri and Sat 10am to 2am
Admission: Spend a minimum of $45 at the mall to redeem a pair of entry tickets