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5 Visual Merchandising Tips to Implement In-store

Darren Gilbert
by Darren Gilbert on Nov 26, 2018 5:14:37 PM

Visual Merchandising

The legend goes that when Marshall Field’s shifted from wholesale to retail, they needed to figure out a way to attract shoppers. Their answer was to create a visual display. And, in so doing, visual merchandising was born. As much as it began as an art, it has since evolved to the point where it is a science and a critical tool for business promotion.

That’s not to say that the principles have changed. While it has grown and become more sophisticated, the fundamentals remain the same.

For the sake of context, visual merchandising is the practice of using aesthetically pleasing displays and other in-store elements to engage and entice shoppers to stay in-store for longer and buy more product, thereby helping you to boost your sales.

There is also the point that it can go a long way to allowing you to build your reputation as a retailer. Given its importance to your brand and store, you need to know how to make the most of it.

Visual Merchandising Window Display

Create window displays that pull customers in

As much as you might not like to admit it, your store will be judged based on its window display. Get it right, and you’ll have customers streaming in, intrigued by what they see. Get it wrong, however, and you can expect the opposite. Customers will take one look and then walk past.

So how do you go about building window displays that pull customers into your store? Simple: you ask yourself a series of questions. To be more specific, you ask questions such as what, when, where, and why and answer them in as much detail as possible.

Let us explain:

The ‘what’ refers to the product that you’ll place in your store. Looking at the current trends within your market, what product would be best suited to be in a display right now? That’s regardless of whether you sell clothing, sports equipment, appliances and so on. What product would entice your customer to walk into the store to find out more?

The ‘when’ requires you to look at the seasonality of your items. After all, there is no point in placing a winter product on display in the middle of summer. Of course, it will differ if you sell non-seasonal products. In that case, it’s best to consider your market trends and design the appropriate display.

The ‘where’ refers to the position of your product within the display. Where you position a product will have an impact on how your customers view the product. For example, you could inadvertently put the focus on a product when in fact, you’re attempting to highlight an item that is beside it. That said, be careful not to overcrowd your window with items. That last thing you’d want is a cluttered display that lacks clarity or focus.

Meanwhile, the ‘why’ is straightforward. Why are you placing a product in the window? Is it because it’s part of a new line? Is it because you’re running a promotion? Alternatively, are you placing it in the window to increase its exposure?

Visual Merchandising Retail Display

Choose retail displays that attract the right attention

As far as visual merchandising tips go, the most obvious one is this: you need to choose the retail displays that show off your products the best.

That sounds simple enough, and it is. After all, this is about presenting your products in a way that not only attracts attention but encourages shoppers to buy.

However, the reality is that there are plenty of retailers who don’t consider this. Instead of choosing displays or fixtures that will help them to sell their product, they select anything, which ends up working against them.

To prevent that from happening in your store, here’s how you can pick the right displays for your products:

For one, it depends on the product that you have on display. You need to understand the product as well as why your shoppers buy it.

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Let’s say, for example, that you’re an FMCG retailer and have a special on milk this month that you want to highlight it. Since this is a product that shoppers buy habitually, you wouldn’t need to do too much to draw attention to it. Simply add clear signage directing your customers to the display and ensure that it’s in an easy to access area.

It’s completely different if you’re selling camera equipment or similar tech products. In that case, you’d be better off creating a display that sells the lifestyle of anyone who uses it. A television on a custom-made stand showing shoppers the adventures people have had with the camera can have them dreaming of what they can do too.

Another critical aspect to note is to ensure the displays you choose matches your retail brand. If, for example, you’re a high-end retailer selling jewellery and clothing, you’d do well to create a display that matches the expectations of any shoppers who enter your store. While it ultimately doesn’t matter what materials you use, the last thing you’d want to do is have a display that cheapens your brand.

Visual Merchandising Group Products

Group similar products in-store

When it comes to featuring your products in-store, it’s not only about the type of displays that you use. While they most definitely play a role in drawing in shoppers, it’s also about how you present your products to your customers.

Thus, in most if not all cases, your success lies in the various visual merchandising principles that you use, of which the most well-known is the ‘Rule of Three’.

While used across multiple industries, in the content of retail, this principle declares that shoppers are more visually engaged when they notice grouped items. These items usually complement each other.

For example, if you sell appliances, you could create a display that includes a Kettle, Toaster and a gas stove. To add an extra motivation to buy, you could ensure that they’re all of the same brand and colour. That way, they might be tempted to buy more than just one of the displayed items.

What’s more, in grouping these products, you have every chance of creating a visual display that shows these items in use. Similar to our above point around retail displays, that means you can establish a connection with your shoppers, showing them what they could expect if they buy the product.

It’s also worth noting that if you’ve approached this principle correctly, you can use them to upsell customers. You could even cross-sell products.

Of course, that’s not the only principle you could use. Along with the Rule of Three is the pyramid principle. It also uses the Rule of Three, but it applies to a triangular merchandise display. The most significant item - the focal point - sits in the centre while you'd position smaller complementary items below and to each side.

Visual Merchandising Signage

Use signage that makes it easier to shop your store

Regardless of the size of your store or the amount of product you sell, it’s always a good idea to use some form of signage. That’s because when used correctly, you can direct your customers around your store.

What’s more, it makes for a far easier shopping experience and can even act as a silent salesperson.

Imagine this: a shopper walks into your store having never visited before and unfortunately there is no one around to help them. However, thanks to your signage, they know where they need to go to find the product they want. Now compare that to another shopper who walks into your store, there is no-one available to help them, and you don’t have adequate signage.

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The first shopper will likely go directly to the shelf that has the product, pick it up and proceed to the checkout counter. They might even pick up a few additional items on their way to the till point. Meanwhile, the other shopper might search for a few minutes before giving up and walking out the door. Therein lies the power of proper signage. That said, not all signage used can have positive results.

A few best practices include:

  • Your signage must be simple and easy to understand. That means not using technical jargon. Let’s say you stock ‘nutraceutical products’. Not many shoppers will know what that means. You’d be better off saying adult multivitamins instead.
  • Your signage must be specific. While simple is always best, it mustn't be so simple that it’s vague. It’s not helpful to have an ‘Accessories’ sign. If you sell kitchenware, instead indicate baking accessories, for example.
  • Consider a hierarchy in your signage. If your store is large enough and you have multiple departments, use signage to indicate where each section begins. Then, in each department, you can have signage indicating categories, sub-categories and so on.

Visual Merchandising Atmospherics

Don’t forget about your atmospherics

The last, but certainly not least visual merchandising tip is to make the most of your atmospherics. For the sake of context, atmospherics refers to the mood or atmosphere that you purposefully create in-store. It is in an attempt to persuade shoppers not only to spend more time in your store but to add products to their basket while they walk your store.

While we dig into atmospherics in more detail in an upcoming piece, it is still worth briefly mentioning what it all entails.

There are a few elements to atmospherics, and they all revolve around your senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.

For sight, it includes the colours you use in your displays and decor. For sound, it is the music you play in the background. For smell, it includes those scents that entice shoppers into your store. For touch and taste, it could consist of an interactive product demonstration.

Of course, not all the above will apply to your store. For example, if you sell electronics, it’ll be tougher to come up with a scent that will entice your shoppers to buy more. Meanwhile, if you’re a bakery or sell flowers, it’s easy.

Thus, when it comes to choosing what mood you want to set in your store, set it so that it’s suited to your target market and the products you offer. Judge your environment and decide what is acceptable to your target market and what is a distraction or irritation. If whatever you do is considered a distraction by your staff or customers, then you need to reconsider its value.


DotActiv Lite, Pro, and Enterprise are all different versions of our category management software that allows you to drive category performance. You can visit our online store here or click below to find out more.

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