Although online stores and marketplaces have been growing exponentially, brick-and-mortar stores continue to play a crucial role in the retail landscape. ‘Back to school’ meant back to stores for many shoppers, and with the holiday shopping season looming, retailers can take what they’ve just learned and plan ahead to optimize their space to turn browsers into buyers in the months ahead.
To capture shoppers’ attention and entice them to make more purchases, stores must offer the best visual representation of their products. For the most successful stores, this doesn’t happen by accident. It requires a merchandising strategy that not only provides a visually pleasing experience but also establishes a strong connection with customers as they browse.
What is visual merchandising?
Visual merchandising is a retail industry strategy that combines creative, psychological, and strategic elements of product display to enhance the customer experience, create a memorable shopping journey, and boost sales. It relies on different elements such as colors, product positioning, and store layout to visually entice customers and influence their purchasing decisions.
Some common visual merchandising techniques are window displays and feature walls that showcase your latest collection. Leading up to the holidays, many stores lean into themes that get people excited to shop. Product displays are usually dominated by decorations for Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa, with snow and winter imagery to tie it all together.
Other techniques include placing smaller or low-priced items by cash registers to encourage impulse purchases while customers wait in line. In-store promotions and product bundling are also common merchandising strategies to cross-sell and upsell products.
The 5 Ps of merchandising
Many retailers rely on the 5 Ps framework to optimize key merchandising elements that help attract customers and generate sales.
- Product – A physical product including features, design, packaging, and branding
- Price – Monetary value aligned with customer expectations, production costs, profit margins, market demand, and competition
- Place – The location used to sell the product
- Promotion – Marketing and advertising activities used to promote the product
- People – Everybody involved in the merchandising process
Benefits of effective visual merchandising
It’s near-impossible for retail stores to survive without a thoughtful merchandising strategy that attracts customers’ attention and compels them to make a purchase—especially with so much competition during peak seasons like October through December. By arranging and presenting products in a visually appealing manner, merchandising creates the following benefits:
- Improve customer experience – Visual merchandising creates an inviting and immersive customer environment by captivating senses, triggering emotions, and making them feel welcome.
- Boost overall sales – A well-organized and visually appealing layout helps guide customers through the store, showcasing a wider product range while emphasizing your products’ best features, which could lead to more sales.
- Shape brand perception – With consistent color schemes, signage, and display styles, merchandising helps create a memorable brand presence and build building loyalty.
- Encourage discovery/move specific inventory – Highlighting specific items can encourage customers to explore and purchase products they might have overlooked otherwise. Increasing product visibility can also help stores strategically manage inventory by promoting the right product at the right time.
Tips for improving your visual merchandising
There are many different strategies to up your visual merchandising game. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Think like your customer
Collect data about your audience’s preferences and shopping behavior to understand how they make their decisions. This will help you decide how to design your store layout and where to position products with specific and individual displays.
2. Find the ideal store layout
Your store layout should have plenty of space for shoppers to move around freely. It must be intuitive and effortless with strategic and attention-grabbing focal points. Think about the best store layout for your products.
For example, a grid layout with long aisles is commonly used by grocery stores and pharmacies. Loop layouts can be found in furniture stores that want to create a predefined walking path. Smaller stores and boutiques with fewer products tend to group products by brands or categories and use a free-flow layout.
3. Vary your display types
Use different display types to highlight and make your products stand out. It’s a great way to appeal to all five senses and create an immersive experience. With different display heights and types, you can create more dimension. Leveraging lighting along with eye-catching props and signets can help draw shoppers’ attention to new products.
4. Hire a professional visual merchandiser
If your budget allows for it, consider hiring a professional that specializes in creating impactful displays. Not only can they offer insights into the latest trends and techniques, but they can also educate your team about merchandising while freeing you up to focus on other aspects of your business.
Creative visual merchandising ideas for retail
Creative visual merchandising is an integral element of a retail strategy that helps leave a lasting impression. Here are some ideas to convert more browsers into buyers.
1. Immerse the customer
Appeal to all five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) by creating a multisensory experience. Think about music—from Black Friday through the new year, many shoppers expect Christmas music to be the soundtrack to their shopping experience. You can give customers the ability to interact with your products, especially by keeping an unboxed item available for display. Many stores also use scents, offer food samples, and incorporate colors and light as psychological triggers.
2. Leverage technology
Tech is a fun tool that can provide further product information or showcase additional items. It’s also a great way to display more without taking up additional store space. Get creative and use screens or tablets where you can.
3. Use mannequins (or real people)
Well-outfitted mannequins are great for displaying clothing and accessories, especially when working with different themes and brands. Store employees can also be an effective way to showcase products, which is why so many brands encourage staff to wear the clothes, makeup, accessories, and scents being sold. This also increases the likelihood of an employee giving a firsthand testimonial about how comfortable or can’t-miss a product is.
4. Provide guidance
Guide your customer through your store with a thoughtful layout. Using signage and/or arrows on the floor helps to create an intuitive flow for people to follow as they browse. With the right strategy and execution, shoppers often follow your intended flow naturally.
5. Make it interactive
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to create an interactive store atmosphere by letting shoppers smell, sample, and touch products like candles, soaps, creams, and clothing. Many music stores, for example, have areas with headphones where customers can listen to an album. Similarly, technology and electronics stores allow shoppers to play with tech gadgets before making a purchase.
6. Appeal to the ‘someone else’
Oftentimes customers don’t shop alone. Whether it’s with a partner, their child, or a friend, make sure your store has something to occupy them. Having a comfortable sitting area with magazines and kids’ toys can give shoppers more stress-free time to browse.
7. Cross-promote your products
Bundling and cross-promoting products is a great way to make customers aware of items they didn’t know existed. It’s an effective merchandising strategy to sell more products or get rid of accumulating inventory. People plan ahead to make sure they’re able to spend more money during the holiday season, so you can offer strategic product bundles that they wouldn’t typically buy at a different time of year.
8. Use accent lighting
Light is a great tool to highlight sections where you want your customers’ eyes to go. Use it to showcase specific items, along with product details that are not as obvious.
9. Grab attention with color
Colors can be used to focus shoppers’ attention on a particular area of your store. Use colors to emphasize displays, color-code different sections, or create an attention-grabbing art display. For example, Christmas shoppers would naturally gravitate toward a section of your store that’s red and green.
10. Keep it moving
Product demonstrations or functional displays show shoppers how your products actually work. Plus, items are usually more interesting outside the box than inside. Think about incorporating product display screens with moving animation to draw and keep attention. For clothing, you can easily show skirt or dress movement with a fan to bring life to your displays.
Visual merchandising has a significant impact on the success of a retail store, especially leading up to and through the holidays. By developing creative and strategic approaches to product presentation, you can attract attention, create memorable experiences, enhance your brand image, showcase product benefits, encourage impulse purchases, and ultimately drive sales. Done right, you can turn the holiday shopping season into the most wonderful time of the year for revenue—and that’s worth celebrating for any retailer.
Planning a renovation or new store layout? Apply for a Bluevine Line of Credit to help cover your overhead.