An ideal retail merchandising strategy works on the principle to make visually available merchandise a customer would most likely be looking for. Once we have worked out what categories, sub-categories, and SKUs you would be stocking in your store, the next step is to visually optimize the display.
What is Visual Merchandising and Why is it Important?
The process of setting up the display of your store merchandise is known as visual merchandising. The main objective behind doing visual merchandising is that it increases off-take eventually leading to increased sales.
Visual merchandising works on the premise that the product should sell itself. Well-displayed merchandise with relevant information can nudge a customer towards consideration for purchase. Good visual merchandising creates a pleasant and positive shopping experience for a visiting customer and encourages them to visit frequently at a subconscious level.
Visual merchandising is a constant process of optimizing your retail merchandise at the display. One needs to constantly work on their visual display, based on the seasonality, offers and deals, festivals, etc., to keep your customers engaged.
The Complete Guide to Visual Merchandising
In this article, I would try to list down my learnings and insights based on which you can use to visually enhance your merchandise.
1. You Should Always Be Stocked Up.
It’s said that your shelves should never give a feeling they are empty, and customers should not be able to see any gaps or back walls of your shelves. It’s better to have your stock on shelves, rather than in the warehouse or store at the back.
2. Your Merchandise Should Sell Itself.
One of the most important causes for increasing offtakes is by putting the pricing, offer, and product information using placards or labels very clearly along with your merchandise at eye-level display. It should be big and clear enough for your customer to be able to read from a distance. You should ideally not need a salesman to sell your product, a product should be visually equipped with all the necessary sales information, so that the product should sell itself.
The objective should always be how you can make the customer’s decision process easier for picking and selecting products. Once a customer gets the confidence that they would never get a bad deal at your store, trust gets established and then these repeat customers act as brand ambassadors or evangelists for your store and help you get more new customers.
3. End of the Aisles Should be Used for Offers and Displays.
As you would have seen very often at the end of the aisle, it is kind of prime real estate, as it’s one of the most visible areas in a retail layout. It thus must be utilized to the fullest with offers and deals on merchandise.
4. Our eyes get attracted to Vertical Color Patterns more than Horizontal Color
Our eyes love vertical color patterns (also known as vertical color blocking). It’s thus important to stock your merchandise accordingly. While walking through an aisle in a supermarket vertical color block effect gives a subconscious soothing experience in the minds of customers, making them want to visit your store more frequently.
5. Catch their Attention with a Focal Point.
Every display should have a clear focal point that catches the customers’ attention. For example, when I was consulting as a visual merchandiser at a clothing store brand, we had a mannequin dressed in a bright red blazer positioned at the front of the store. This pop of color and interesting outfit immediately caught customers’ attention and drew them into the store.
6. Keep it Balanced.
Visual merchandising should achieve a balance between products, displays, and negative space. I learned this lesson the hard way when I tried to create an elaborate display featuring multiple products in a small space. Instead of feeling impressed, customers felt overwhelmed and didn’t know where to look. I quickly realized the importance of balancing products with negative space to avoid clutter and confusion.
7. Use Lighting to Your Advantage.
Lighting is crucial in visual merchandising as it can highlight specific products or displays and even influence customers’ behavior. For example, in jewelry and premium clothing stores I have often seen warm lighting to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere, while bright lighting was used to highlight specific pieces of jewelry and draw customers’ attention.
Also, when people see themselves in the mirror, they look better in warm lighting as you would have often noticed in luxury hotel lobbies and lifts. So, use warm lighting where customers will be looking in the mirror like changing rooms or fashion stores.
8. Create a Cohesive Theme.
Visual merchandising should tell a story or convey a theme that resonates with customers. For example, during the holiday season, we decorated our store with festive colors and props to create a cozy and cheerful atmosphere. This not only made the store more visually appealing but also made customers feel more excited about the holiday season, drawing them to our new merchandise and offers.
9. Be Creative with Displays.
Visual merchandising provides an opportunity to be creative and innovative with displays. When I was working in bicycle retail, I once created a display featuring a vintage bicycle with baskets full of vintage-looking accessories and products. This unique and eye-catching display immediately caught the attention of customers and helped increase sales of the featured products.
10. Cross Merchandising.
Cross-merchandising involves placing complementary products near each other to encourage customers to purchase more than one item. For example, if you sell coffee mugs, you could place them near the coffee beans to encourage customers to purchase both items. At a gourmet grocery store chain where I consulted the client during project implementation, we placed chips and salsa together to encourage customers to purchase both items for an upcoming party.
11. Product Grouping.
Grouping products together can help customers easily find what they’re looking for and can also encourage them to purchase additional items. For example, grouping skincare products by skin type or concern can help customers easily find products that meet their needs. At a clothing store, outfits are often grouped together to help customers visualize how the pieces could be worn together and encourage them to purchase multiple items.
12. Plan the Billing Desk Merchandise.
The billing desk is a key part of the customer’s shopping experience and should be considered when designing visual merchandising displays. For example, placing small, impulse-buy items near the billing desk can encourage customers to make one last purchase before they leave the store. At a grocery chain where I consulted, we placed small trinkets and candies near the billing desk to encourage customers to make a last-minute purchase.
13. Communicate Store Return Policy.
It’s important to communicate the store’s return policy to customers through signage or messaging in visual displays. This can help customers feel more confident in their purchases and encourage them to make a purchase in the first place. At a sports goods store, we placed signage near the dressing rooms explaining the store’s return policy to customers.
Wrap it Up
Whether you’re working with a small budget or have a large team, online or offline, these principles can help you create visually appealing displays that tell a story, catch customers’ attention, and ultimately drive sales. Visual merchandising is not a one-time job, it’s a continuous process, and one needs to work towards it constantly.
Incorporating these principles into your visual merchandising displays can help create a more cohesive and customer-friendly shopping experience. These visual merchandising principles can help you create displays that are not only visually appealing but also effective at driving sales.
Abhishek Sareen is a sales & marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant at Kurt Salmon Associates and has worked in marketing & brand management, international business in sectors like precision steel tubes for automotive industry, consumer goods and retail.
He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.