Visual Merchandising: Elevating Retail Experiences

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What is Visual Merchandising?

Anyone who has ever walked into a retail store has seen visual merchandising at work. Visual merchandising is a marketing practice that uses floor plans, color, lighting, displays, technology, and other elements to attract customer attention. Its ultimate purpose is to use the retail space to generate more sales.

A visual merchandiser is the person behind the magic. They combine marketing principles, retail merchandising knowledge, and creativity to use the space and layout of the store to present the store’s inventory in a positive way. They are professionally trained and may be tasked to manage the following:

  • Window installations
  • In-store displays
  • Interactive displays
  • Shelving
  • Point-of-sale displays
  • Posters
  • Price tickets
  • Promotional/seasonal displays
  • Mannequin styling

Benefits of Visual Merchandising

All types of retail stores can benefit from visual merchandising. Some of the key benefits include:

Reflects Your Brand

A good visual merchandising display stays in line with the company’s overall brand. For example, a franchise business might want all its franchisees to have the same promotional displays. It gives a business a sense of identity and brand consistency.

Engages the Shoppers

An attractive and welcoming store creates a positive first impression. It encourages people to come into the store and can help guide them in finding the right product for their needs. Visual merchandising helps create a positive shopping experience for customers so that they will be more likely to return for future visits.

Grows Sales

When done effectively, visual merchandising can increase sales by directing people to the products they want or need. It can also help them discover new products and solutions. A nicely dressed mannequin can encourage a person to seek out an outfit and accessories that they may not have originally been looking for.

Whether you are selling clothes, hardware, electronics, food, or anything else, a professional visual merchandiser can be an important asset to your team. They can help your retail business get the results you want.

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Types of Visual Merchandising

Effective visual merchandising uses various physical components to reflect the brand’s image and aesthetic, including color, light, space, sound, smell, and technology to enhance customer engagement with your brand. Below are the most common types of retail visual merchandising:

Point-of-Sale Displays

Point-of-sale (POS) displays are methods of displaying items to influence purchasing decisions. They can be located anywhere in the store to grab customers’ attention and highlight themes or promotions. For example, if you’re designing your furniture and homeware POS displays, you should arrange and allow customers to visualize how they might set up similar products in their homes. This can convert wandering shoppers into actual customers instantly.

Mannequins

Clothing retailers primarily use mannequins because they allow customers to see what their clothes look like without trying them on. This method of visual merchandising has never been outdated. For fashion boutique POS displays, mannequins can grab the attention of passive shoppers and influence a customer’s purchasing decision on the go.

Interactive Displays

Touchscreen technology is a great way to engage customers, allowing them to learn more about your products. For example, fashion retailers like Rebecca Minkoff and home goods retailers like Wayfair have AR apps, so customers can choose designs and see how they look in an actual room.

Window Displays

Window displays capture the customer’s attention and encourage them to enter the retail space to take a closer look at your products. Window screens are very versatile, and you can use them in various ways to convey messages and values about new products and promotions.

Store Layout

Store layouts take customers on a journey using specific techniques to encourage purchase behavior. For example, you must have a decompression zone—a wide area between 5 and 15 feet where customers entering the store can look around and note what they can see.

Seasonal Displays

Retailers often use seasonal displays to tell stories during seasonal events such as Christmas, summer holidays, or Valentine’s Day. For example, you can create a beach theme throughout your store as people prepare to book their summer vacation or showcase your winter product lines when the weather gets colder.

How to Implement Efficient Visual Merchandising

Here are four steps to implement efficient visual merchandising or improve it in your retail stores:

Identify Target Customers

Remember, not everyone is your target customer. The winning strategy is to carefully define the target market and provide superior retail visual merchandising to that customer group. Customers always want the product to speak for itself. Thus, the product’s visual display needs to be easy to understand and appealing to capture their interest.

You can rely on research on the preferences and lifestyles of your target customers. Then, combine elements that fit your target demographic to apply to your store’s interior space. For example, if your target customer is parents, feature a smiling family image with kids.

Use a Consistent Theme

Your brand voice (tone, style, and message) should be consistent throughout your physical and digital spaces, from your store and website to social media accounts. It helps increase brand awareness across all channels, helps customers recognize your products, and builds customer trust. Plus, if you’re launching new products, seasonal items, or special promotions, you still need to use themes throughout your point-of-sale displays. Combining themes can help customers differentiate products or highlight specific features you’re developing.

Adjust Your In-Store Displays Regularly

Before diving into making your store visually appealing, it’s a good idea to closely look at your POS sales reports and regularly monitor your inventory levels. The right POS system can give you real-time updates on your inventory count, order status, and, most importantly, insights into your best-selling inventory. From there, you can modify your in-store displays based on this information.

You can test minor changes to layout, color schemes, signage, and screens over time. Then compare sales, traffic, and other metrics to determine the most effective retail visual merchandising strategies.

Hire a Retail Visual Merchandising Consultant

Consider hiring visual merchandisers to assess your space and make recommendations to represent your brand better. They can recommend best practices to encourage sales and increase repeat sales. You can find them at fashion and design schools, interior design agencies, and industry websites and publications.

Additionally, you can hire professionals for complex visual merchandising projects for secure displays, signage, and structures. They’ll help you comply with all manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.

Good Visual Merchandising Examples

To better understand “What is visual merchandising?” let’s discuss some good examples of retail visual merchandising techniques successfully used by some big brands.

Nike

Nike constantly changes their in-store display of their footwear and sportswear products, making bold statements like their tagline “Just Do It.” In visual merchandising, they display decorative walls in different colors and complementary products. Additionally, they advertise athletes on their screens, promoting healthy lifestyles and movements in line with their brand voice.

Swarovski

Swarovski showcases and highlights its products using minimal wall décor, optimal lighting, and focal lighting for retail visual merchandising. Their sole purpose is to draw customers’ full attention to their product and nothing else.

Everlane

Everlane embraces three core values: superior quality, radical transparency, and ethical facilities. They bring that to life in their products and uniquely highlight them with plain white walls and simple yet appealing in-store décor.

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Final Thoughts

Customers often rely on their first impressions to judge a brand. That’s why retail visual merchandising plays a vital role in enhancing the store’s appeal, atmosphere, and customer experience. Effective visual merchandising turns the physical or digital environment into an extension of the brand’s image.

There are many types of visual merchandising. Therefore, retailers should research, plan, and regularly monitor customers’ initial reactions to store layouts through POS reports. It’s the deciding factor in whether your brand gets more customers. By implementing these strategies, retailers can create an engaging and profitable shopping experience that reflects their brand’s identity and values.