PopSugar is betting that bigger is better when it comes to content and commerce.
On Saturday, Nov. 23, the media brand is opening a one-day experiential retail pop-up featuring three beauty brands, E.l.f. Cosmetics, and CBD brand Seventh Sense and wellness brand Nature’s Way. E.l.f will offer makeovers to shoppers and Seventh Sense will conduct hand massages and palm readings alongside separate activities like meditation and yoga classes. The pop-up is located at Bryant Park in New York City and is free to attend. The buildout of the pop-up was nearly $1 million, according to PopSugar and follows a bigger push into experiential with PopSugar Play/Ground, which began in 2018 and saw over 15,000 attendees for its New York City event in June.
PopSugar earns at least $10 million from events, according to the company. However, the beauty festival is an area that has seen significant interest from practically every player including Sephora, QVC, Ipsy and Beautycon. In October, PopSugar was acquired by Group Nine Media for $300 million in an effort to strengthen online ad sales, particularly against PopSugar’s 300 million monthly readers (across all its platforms) and its ability to reach 50% of all millennial women in the U.S.
Lisa Sugar, PopSugar president and co-founder, spoke with Glossy about how the company is playing PopSugar Play/Ground event forward, why experiential retail is important for both brands and publishers, and how its event strategy relies on cross-category activations across beauty, health and wellness.
What did you learn from PopSugar Play/Ground that you are incorporating into Sugar Chalet?
At Sugar Chalet, you can sample in beauty, wellness and shop, and that’s what did so well at Play/Ground. Each brand has approximately 1,000 samples, and that continues to teach us about what people are interested in. But also something like having a yoga class that already has a waitlist is something we can learn from. We also added a calligraphy [station] to have items personalized because we don’t want people waiting in line all day or not able to get into the classes. We try to add those types of [supplemental] activities in between larger activations.
How important is the subliminal shopping via sampling important to your events?
We are all already shopping all the time. It’s in our Instagram feed and we are being fed ads everywhere online. Shopping is happening everywhere all day, but this offers a different level of touch and feel. Sugar Chalet allows a brand like E.l.f, to come to life and make it memorable because a customer is testing new products. When you think about the experiences we create combined with the discovery of new brands, you could spend all day at our events.
There are so many big beauty events now, how are you differentiating?
People realize now that younger generations want experiences; we’ve seen this trend over the last five years. When we started to think about what our festival was going to be and what PopSugar Play/Ground was going to be, it needed to be something very different. We knew we weren’t going to be a music festival or a Comic-Con. It was a matter of looking at our audience and figuring out how to give them things that we know they want, and things that they didn’t even know they wanted yet because they haven’t been exposed to it.
Those are the two biggest things. It needs to be something that’s really playful, impactful and entertaining. For us, it’s about putting a variety of brands together in this space, so if you’re not into beauty, there are other things like fitness and food that you could get excited about and vice versa. First-quarter of 2020 already has more events than [that period] last year. But we’ve seen great success with these larger-level ones where we have thousands of people coming in through the weekend.