In case you’re not au fait with the latest running phenomenon,TRIBE is a natural sports nutrition brand and running community that has won over the super keen runners of London – and beyond. Founded by friends and ultra-runners Tom, Guy and Rob, TRIBE has filled the gap for nutritional performance products made from all-natural whole foods, not sugar-filled substances.

Beyond subscriptions to the TRIBE nutritional packs they’ve created, they’ve also found the perfect synergy between offline events and online engagement – consistently growing their ecommerce business by leveraging one with the other. The TRIBE community runs together at events, share advice onTRIBE’s digital platform, and gather at sell-outpop-ups. Using Appear Here they’ve already launched two pop-ups in Old Street station this year.

We sat down with co-founder Rob to talk business growth, hashtags and Forrest Gump…and find out how they’ve turned a nutritional food brand into a cult movement.

Hi Rob. Asan e-commerce brand, what made you decide to test physical retail?

It’s really important for people to see and try our products. We’re solely online, but make food – so having a space was a great way toget people testing and tasting our energy and recovery bars. Also, TRIBE is a community brand. We do tonnes of events for our runners, and the space provided a great focal point for these.

You’ve launched two pop-upsin Old Street station – what was the thinking behind each one?

For online brands, pop-ups are great for building brand awareness and for allowing people to see you exist off their screen. The first pop-up we launched was in January, which is a key moment for our audience. We found the store in Old Street station through Appear Here – the fact that it had such a high footfall was really appealing as we wanted to boost our brand awareness.

We then hosted a series of events in the pop-up to drive customer acquisition. We decided to return to Old Street station for our second pop-up, which was in the lead up to London Marathon and designed specifically as a Marathon training hub. We knew this was a key moment for our audience, and we wanted to create a space.

How did you bring your brand to life in a physical space?

Loads of ways! We used a lot of our learnings from our first pop-up to improve the second one we did. A core part of each pop-up was the Design Your Own Tribe Pack feature, where passers by could build their own TRIBE Nutrition Packs from our range of 20 energy and recover products. We hosted more events in our second pop-up.

Each morning, we turned the space into a yoga studio, a HIIT studio each lunch time and a pilates studio each evening. These were all designed to help people taper and strengthen in the build up to London Marathon. It was a great way to grab attention. We also did a 1km challenge – where we had a treadmill in the window, with runners doing timed 1km runs.

The fastest 1km each week won a TRIBE prize –one of my favourite moments was see-ing Ayo, a regular runner with us, go hell for leather to get a 2 40 km time, then fell off the treadmill in front of dozens of bemused commuters… And – of course – we had to have a screening of Forrest Gump along with plush carbo-loading the night before the marathon…

Did you notice an increase in online visits? What did you do to encourage this?

Yes! We had on average a 30% increase in visits to our website during our pop-up. They were also great from a PR perspective and there was lots of social activity. We encouraged everyone to share pictures from events with our hashtag #FuelledbyTribe.

What were the main ways that the pop-up helped grow your ecommerce business?

The main benefit was awareness. Direct acquisitions are difficult to track, but we certainly saw a large uptick in sign-ups during the periods we were there. All our events sold out and social media engagement rose dramatically – there was a 50% daily increase in the use of #FuelledbyTribe.

What was interesting was that the people we met during the pop-up have gone onto become much engaged with our brand – one of the people we met even went onto invest in Tribe. That’s the great thing about testing something different, you never know what doors it will open.

Would you test a pop-up again, and if so, where?

For sure! Probably around back to school time in September – and ideally somewhere out of Lon-don, as our runners are all over the country. We can see pop-ups are a great way to launch in new cities, and websites like Appear Here are making it easy for us to discover and book spaces in them.