Why retailers shouldn’t ignore visual merchandising

Flick through a newspaper or visit a news website and it will be likely you’ll quickly come across an article about a struggling major retail chain. There are still some strategies available for retailers to maximise their sales revenue though, such as visual merchandising.

If you’re a bit confused about what is meant by visual merchandising or need help setting up an effective strategy around your store, this guide is sure to assist. Join us as we advise on how to design and introduce visual merchandising in a manner that should see your company’s profit margin receive a boost…

What is a visual merchandising strategy?

Visual merchandising strategies are where an entire floor of a shop is laid out strategically. This includes the shelves and product displays, so to provide a more engaging, exciting and ultimately profitable consumer experience.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just setting up products in specific places around your shop so to draw the eye is all that is meant by visual merchandising though. There’s a science behind why certain presentations, structures and even colours deliver a better experience than alternative arrangements, and it’s been established that a strong visual display can raise turnover and strengthen your brand; even inspiring customer loyalty in the process.

“Visual merchandising is everything a shopper sees at your store that hopefully leads to a remarkable shopping experience,” explains chief executive officer Bob Phibbs, who runs the retail consultancy firm The Retail Doctor in New York. “It is the unspoken language retailers use to communicate with their customers.”

You should now have a good understanding of what visual merchandising is all about. Keep reading though to discover how to go about creating an effective strategy that should see you avoiding the difficulties that have been witnessed by brands such as Toys R Us and Maplin…

Applying colour effectively

“Things that are easy to look at will be passed over, and things that are too outlandish will be offensive to the eye,” states Jessica Clark, a retail merchandiser and stylist. This goes for colour as much as anything. Contrasting colours at the opposite side of the colour wheel can help grab attention — think black and white or scarlet and jade — but creating a multi-coloured display of uncoordinated colours may turn people away.

Take advantage of every human sense

Seeing as though this is a guide about visual merchandising, it should be no surprise that visuals are going to be a key focus. However, don’t ignore the other four human senses. Reportedly, 75% of emotions come from smell and our mood is meant to enhance 40% when we detect pleasant aromas. If you run a fragrance, soap or food retail establishment, are you harnessing the power of smell when it comes to merchandising?

Different smells can trigger or identify specific emotions and memories. If you run a bakery and want to evoke a feeling of warmth, cosiness and home-cooking; ensure that your customers can distinctly smell your products baking from the kitchen by setting up the area to waft aromas into the main shop. Similarly, if your brand specialises in soaps and toiletries, place these strategically around your shop floor to avoid clashing aromas. For example, put all the citrus products together to evoke a sense of energy and rejuvenation and keep these far away from lavender and camomile scents, which are more relaxing.

Think about what a consumer wants, not what they need

It’s expected that worldwide retail sales will have reached USD 27.73 trillion by the time 2020 rolls around. As a result, there’s clearly scope for your brand to maximise its profits and get a share of this growth in the next few years.

At the beginning of any visual merchandising strategy, you should consider the products that you have available which you want consumers to be attracted to. A tip here is to go for what you think your customer wants — not needs. According to a study by Raj Raghunathan and Szu-Chi Huang, emotional responses are influential in our purchasing choices — which is why you should focus on giving the customer something to desire.

Have focal visual merchandising displays set up around your store? Reserve these for only your newest and most high-end products. This is because they will attract the customer who is looking for a treat purchase and enhance your chances of high-cost conversions. You could also use foam board printing techniques alongside these displays to present promotional offers for luxury items that you want the consumer to take notice of — and buy!

Tips for enhancing your shop’s decompression zone

If designed effectively, the decompression zone of a store can give your customers an idyllic shopping experience from the moment they enter your store. This area of a shop is found just a few feet inside the main entrance and is believed by psychologists to elevate a shopper’s mood, acclimatise them to the store’s surroundings and get them ready for the shopping experience.

Focus on the experience where decompression zones are concerned. After all, who wants to browse and shop when they’re feeling negative or distracted? An effective decompression zone will help transport your consumer from the hustle and bustle of outside to a calmer, more focused environment that encourages browsing. Here are decompression zone tips:

  • Minimum of 10-15 feet.

  • Based at shop entry with a full view of store.

  • Created using contrasting furnishings and colours from outside area to signal new atmosphere.

  • Use mannequins, attractive stands and specialised lighting to highlight your newest ranges.

Upon entering a shop, research suggests that 98% of consumers will turn right. Why not use your decompression zone to create a ‘circulation route’ from the right side that leads around your store for a smoother customer journey? Or, try placing your best products at the right of your decompression zone, if this is the most likely route consumers take.

How to use group displays effectively

The group products which you have available at your store can determine whether a visual merchandising strategy will be a success or failure. A recent report found that exposing your shopper to the maximum number of products is a tactical method when carrying out visual merchandising. However, don’t make your displays look crowded. Utilise different display furniture, such as mannequins, racks and shelves — whichever suits the product you’re merchandising — and bear in mind that focal points boost sales by a reported 229%, so ensure that you effectively direct your consumers when they enter your store.

Whenever you start placing multiple products into a display, bear in mind the ‘Pyramid Principle’ and ‘Rule of Three’ techniques. The Pyramid Principle dictates that you create a triangular display, with the biggest item in the middle and the smallest on the outside — which ensures that your display doesn’t look flat and boring. Instead, it will catch the eye, as the products seem to ‘fall’ down towards the viewer. Equally effective is the Rule of Three. Within this, you create attractive asymmetry that shoppers will find engaging. Apparently, humans see asymmetry as normal — which means they pay less attention. By placing product in groups of three, you can create a noticeable imbalance that forces the eye to take in each product individually, as opposed to the display in its entirety — excellent for effectively advertising each item.

Don’t keep a visual merchandising display the same forever

You are bound to be satisfied when you’ve finished the full design of an entire shop floor and are happy with the arrangement. However, this doesn’t mean you should let it stay that way. A major part of tactical visual merchandising is moving your presentations as new stock comes in. Don’t let customers get bored of visiting you — keep changing things up and you can make it look like you’re constantly replenishing your stock and bringing in new and wonderful items (even if you’re not).

Seasonal goods will only appeal to your consumers for a few weeks at a time, while promotions are only going to last for limited periods. Don’t give people the impression that your brand is behind the times or lazy. Instead, change your visual merchandising displays every month and retain the perception of innovation.

It’s expected that the way we shop will change quite significantly in the months and years to come. If predictions are anything to go by, ‘the experience’ will become more favoured than just buying goods and services. With visual merchandising, you can ensure that your shop offers something engaging to keep consumers interested — so why not start planning out your shop’s next visual merchandising campaign today?