Research shows that our sight is responsible for 83% of what consumers absorb, highlighting the importance of creating visual displays that are both captivating and memorable. We all know Visual merchandising is a tried and true marketing strategy that has a profound impact on a customer's purchasing behaviour. Lets delve into the important role that visual merchandising plays for retailers and 10 Tips to Become a Master of Visual Merchandising!
Table of Contents
- Why is visual merchandising so important?
- How can you master the art of visual merchandising?
- What is the surest path to mastering Visual Merchandising?
Why is visual merchandising so important?
Visual merchandising has become the cornerstone of success for today's most successful retail establishments. Cate Trotter, Head of Trends with Insider Trends, calls visual merchandising "the key to engaging the customer with great product," and describes it as, "an art and science that combines ergonomics, lighting, spatial awareness and styling to inspire product handling and upselling." Some of the specific reasons why visual merchandising is so important are as follows:
1) Visual merchandising draws customers into stores
The journey to increased sales through visual merchandising begins before the customer ever enters your store. A high-quality, aesthetically pleasing display serves as a catalyst for passer's by to enter a store and consider a purchase. The Kangan Institute in Victoria notes that "the most important function (of visual merchandising) is to draw customers into the shop and close the sale..."
2) Store ambiance has a deep impact on influencing buying decisions
" Exposure to visual displays is linked to increased buying behaviour. Colour, music, store location, product display play a vital role in invoking customers to make a purchase...When consumers are exposed to these visual stimuli, it is observed that they are more likely to make a purchase."
- Syed Md. Faisal Ali Khan and Dr. Devesh Kumar, Intl. Journal of Application or Innovation in Engineering & Management
Eye-catching visual merchandising displays are one of the most valuable tools in a retail store's marketing arsenal. Researchers highlight the importance of visual displays, note that visual marketing is the most effective way to appeal to the senses and influence purchasing decisions of a shopper.
3) Digital signage and other forms of visual merchandising slow down the customer shopping experience
Virtually every retailer recognises that the slower customers shop, the more they spend. A growing number of retailers are turning to digital signage to keep them in their stores longer. Captivating displays are also instrumental in bolstering cross-selling and up-selling to customers who choose to linger in a store.
4) Impulse buying is positively influenced by visual merchandising
"The key discovery of this learning was that visual merchandising positively manipulates or influences consumer impulse buying behaviour. Results proved that consumer impulse buying behavior is significantly influenced by the window display, forum display, floor merchandising, or even with shop brand name."
- Khurram L. Bhatti and Seemab Latif, Eurasian Journal of Business and Management
Research shows that consumers are more apt to engage in impulse buying after exposure to window displays and floor merchandising. This is significant, given that the average person will spend roughly $110,000 on impulse purchases over the course of a lifetime.
How can you master the art of visual merchandising?
Clearly, there are many reasons to invest in visual merchandising. But visual merchandising is a multi-faceted process that requires an organised approach and attention to many different elements. An effective campaign begins before customers set foot in your store and does not end until the customer has lingered, purchased your products, and made one or more impulse buys. Some strategies to help you master the art of visual merchandising are as follows:
1) Each window should tell a captivating story
"Just like your eyes are the windows of your soul, store windows are the eyes of the store. Each window should tell a story."
- Linda Cahan, Cahan & Co.
The world's top visual marketers recognise that a captivating window display can set the stage for a productive customer shopping experience. Window displays first emerged in the 1800s when large plate glass became available to design windows that extended the entire length of a storefront. Over the past hundred years, window displays have become increasingly sophisticated as visual merchandisers create displays that tell a story. Here are some tips to help create an alluring window display:
- Instagram-ready retail spaces remain front of mind for many brands
- Colour applications can influence a customer's mood and feelings
- Determine your display's focal point and position it at eye level for easy viewing
2) Consistent brand experience that builds trust and loyalty
Personal Branding Guru William Arruda stresses this point by stating, "It is the consistent, desired experience that builds trust and trust is the foundation for loyalty and promotion." He also acknowledges that people frequently lose sight of brand values while focusing on day-to-day activities. Below are some ways to maintain brand consistency while developing visual merchandising displays:
- Develop merchandising standards to use across stores, ensuring that they are compatible with the retailer's mission and branding
- Visual Merchandising should reflect the times, our brand values and aspirations.
3) Stimulate all five senses
"Visual merchandising is a very challenging undertaking and you rarely see stores that leverage more than one sense effectively. While many stores might have an interesting visual design, choice of displays and overall aesthetic feel to them, they fail to leverage more senses."
- Irma Wallace, Co-founder and Vice President of SearchRank
A literal interpretation of visual merchandising would encourage a novice project manager to focus exclusively on what people can see. However, award-winning visual merchandisers create displays that target all five senses instead of only concentrating on sight. For instance, merchandisers can stimulate the taste buds by offering food samples alongside a food product display or focus on sound by playing music within a store.
4) Make sure your display features items that are relevant and valuable
One of the best ways to create a display that entices customers to purchase is to promote products that offer immediate value. For instance, designing an enticing display of homemade chocolates would be a good choice in the weeks before Valentine's Day, but you would not want to feature a collection of manikins donning heavy down-filled jackets in the middle of a warm summer.
5) Create a display that is social-media worthy
"Instagram is the ultimate visual tool for brands, retailers and even new start up stores to get their brand message further, wider and more global, making their store a must-visit destination."
- Claire Dickinson, WGSN Visual Editor
Today's consumers are more active than ever on social media. With over 84% of consumers owning a smartphone and well over half the population active on Facebook, you need to make sure that your visual displays are worthy of being featured on social media. An attractive display will show well on your own website and may even prompt shoppers to take a picture and post it on their own social media pages, providing you with free advertising.
6) Use strategic lighting
Lighting is a subtle yet effective means of drawing the eye to your display's intended focal point. Lighting can also be used to help create a desired ambience or establish a particular "mood" for your display. Most importantly, some retailers have found that strategic use of lighting can bolster sales by as much as 12% or more. The style of lighting that you select should reflect the type of product and display you are designing. For instance, lower level lighting is often used to showcase shoes while display rack lighting draws the eye to hanging jackets or shirts.
7) Update your website regularly
"Visual merchandising isn't just about having a pretty site – but it does start there. Your site needs to be easy to navigate, attractive and work well both on mobile and desktop. These are entry level needs of any online business."
- Tracey Wallace, Editor in Chief, BigCommerce | Founder, Doris Sleep
The overwhelming majority of brick and mortar stores now have associated websites. Updating your website to reflect your current promotions is an effective sales tactic and a useful way to maintain brand consistency. It also helps safeguard against stale content and provides loyal customers with a way to keep track of your latest promotions.
8) Keep an eye on your competitors
Taking the time to monitor your competitors' displays is essential to differentiating your visual displays from your competitors. This measure requires a sustained, proactive approach, with keen attention to special promotions, packaging, signage, shelf locations, and featured pricing. Take note of your competitors' successes and failures, and how customers respond to their displays. You can also gain valuable information by asking your customers for their feedback regarding competitor displays and what design elements motivate them to purchase.
9) Measure the results of your visual merchandising campaigns
"Visual merchandising is a key component in a retailer's sales strategy yet it has historically been hard to measure. Technology exists today that can make merchandising accountable – demonstrating just how much the creativity of the visual merchandising team contributes to overall sales."
- iXtenso Magazine for Retailers
Measuring the results of your visual marketing campaigns is vital to identifying which of your merchandising initiatives is paying off. Unfortunately, many project managers and retailers simply avoid monitoring their campaign results because visual merchandising is not easy to measure. Fortunately, technological advances have paved the way for project managers to measure campaign effectiveness. The experts with iXtenso highlight three key ways to measure the impacts of their visual merchandising initiatives:
- Make visual merchandising more measurable: By employing retail analytics technologies and location based analytics, you can determine whether a specific initiative is affecting conversion rates. You can also track how a new window display or promotion affects store performance.
- Continually monitor campaign performance: Performance monitoring is important because it allows you to determine which displays motivate people in a specific territory or culture. Additionally, you can analyse a store's draw rate in conjunction with traffic flow to pinpoint problems and successes.
- Link everything to three key profit areas: When measuring a visual merchandising campaign, it is important to consider three profit pillars: The number of people who walk into a store after noticing a window display; the number of people who complete a purchase; and the gross amount of time a customer spends in a store.
10) Attend industry trade shows
Attending industry trade shows is a great way to learn about the latest cutting-edge visual merchandising strategies. Some of the world's best known visual merchandising trade shows include EuroShop, GlobalShop, and the International Retail Design Conference (IRDC). Trade shows offer a host of benefits to retailers and project managers seeking to improve their visual merchandising techniques. Trade shows offer attendees the following benefits:
- Network with the world's leading visual merchandisers
- Gain first-hand exposure to innovative visual solutions for retailers
- Attend educational seminars facilitated by industry pioneers
What is the surest path to mastering visual merchandising?
There are many strategies you can take to master visual merchandising. However, the single best step you can take to excelling in visual merchandising is to seek the guidance of an industry expert. Keep up to date with industry blogs, follow leading brands on Instagram and do your research!