Pop up stores are lit. We need more of them. It is an awesome way to get feedback from users, connect with potential partners and showcase projects you’re working on.
Last week, we opened up the doors to our second annual VR pop up store in Berlin. A whole week of VR showcases, storytelling and tech workshops, stand-up panels and social hours (full program here). Here, we want to share our findings in this five-things-to-remember-post, in case you are thinking about opening up your own VR pop up store.
We are Vragments, a Berlin-based virtual reality studio. We produce VR projects in collaboration with newsrooms and we are building a tool called Fader which allows users to create their own 360 stories easily and fast.
The original idea behind the pop up store was to open up a space where people can meet and experience various VR projects. Our goal was to offer a platform to network with like-minded VR enthusiasts but also to introduce this new medium to people who have never even heard of VR. Last year, we opened up our first VR pop up store and combined that with a Hackathon and our 2016 VR Conference for Journalism and Documentary (next one coming up September 22nd).
These are five things to remember while planning your own VR pop up store.
1. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The venue for your gig plays an important role for the success of a pop up store. Especially, if you want to attract different kinds of people with various backgrounds. Thanks to Joaquin Alvarado and late 90s Kreuzberg resident Trey Bundy, we found the perfect spot in the heart of beautiful Berlin, Kreuzberg. It gave us the opportunity to welcome the coincidental walk-ins with no previous experience in VR technology. It also enabled us to invite potential partners and fellow VR enthusiasts because the store was easy to find and well connected to public transportation.
This also requires soft skills: Make sure that the vibe of the location matches your pop up store vibes. Do you need to invite potential investors? Make sure that you have a place ready for meetings. Your store needs to look like it’s ready to scale. Are you planning a launch party for your product? Don’t under- or overestimate the size of the location. Depending on what you are planning and the vibe you are trying to send, the venue has to match that exact message.
2. CREATE HIGHLIGHTS FOR YOUR DAYS AHEAD
It is not enough to open up a pop-up store, tell all your friends on Facebook and then expect it to be a success (unless you are super popular, then it might work). Your days at the venue can be brutally long and if you just wait/hope/pray for people to show up, chances are, you’ll be disappointed by the end. Instead, think about activities around your VR pop-up. Last year, we organized a VR hackathon in collaboration with a nearby media design college. The students gathered around the store afterwards and celebrated their VR projects. Also, we synchronized the pop-up with a VR journalism conference on the last day as a highlight. It worked, people showed up to specific events, sometimes more than once.
This year, we decided to offer mini-workshops throughout the week for people who were interested in different topics evolving around VR. For instance, we offered an A-frame and Unity workshop for storytellers and a rapid prototyping workshop for journalists to experiment with new VR concepts/ideas.
Also, we organized a stand-up panel on VR and ethics in journalism. We asked experts to speak about the subject while everyone else was able to chime in and discuss with them.
More importantly, think of different stations at your pop-up store representing different VR experiences. We had a three-steps approach:
1) explain who we are, give an overviews of our work and what we are doing here.
2) show people our different VR gear and let them experience at least one 360 and one CGI-based experience.
3) if they are still interested, invite them to one of our events, socialise and show them even more VR work from us.
That way, people stayed in the store for a longer period of time which gave us the chance to getting to know them and their work.
3. SPARK VR CONVERSATIONS
Since VR is still new to many, we were able to get rapid feedback from viewers. It was powerful to watch their reactions and discuss VR’s impact.
4. FIND THE RIGHT PARTNERS