7 things to consider for winning real-world shops.

Updated: Jan 21

Visual merchandising is all about creating a shop floor that delivers an engaging and exciting customer experience that will help boost sales. This is NOT just about making the shop floor ‘look pretty’. There’s a science behind why particular presentations offer better experiences — plus a strong visual display can boost turnover, fortify your brand, and even inspire customer loyalty. 

“Visual merchandising is everything a shopper sees at your store that hopefully leads to a remarkable shopping experience. It is the unspoken language retailers use to communicate with their customers,” according to chief executive officer, Bob Phibbs, who runs The Retail Doctor retail consultancy firm in New York. So, what are the best things you can do to enhance your visual merchandising strategy?

Get good groupings

Your visual marketing strategy relies heavily on how you choose to group products. Offering a wide variety of products to a shopper is good to boost sales, but when organising your visual merchandising campaigns, avoid making your displays look crowded. Make the most of mannequins, shelves, bookcases and other items to help show off your merchandise. 

Did you know that focal points boost sales by 229%?  Capitalise on this by grouping displays to create a point of concentration for your customers. Consider the ‘Rule of Three’ or ‘Pyramid Principle’ methods when grouping products for a display. 

The Rule of Three method offers attractive asymmetry that shoppers like. Apparently, humans see asymmetry as ‘standard’ — which means they don’t pay attention. By placing product in groups of three, you create a clear inequity that compels the eye to take in each product individually, as opposed to the display in its entirety — excellent for effectively advertising the merits of each item. On the other hand, the Pyramid Principle gets you to create a triangular exhibition. This includes having the biggest item in the middle and the smallest ones on the outside — which helps make your display seem more ‘interesting’ to the eye of a shopper. 

Using post cards, posters and printed ribbons can also help draw the eye towards your displays

Creative Colours 

“Things that are easy to look at will be passed over, and things that are too outlandish will be offensive to the eye,” said retail merchandiser and stylist, Jessica Clarke. In your display, utilise opposing colours — like royal blue and lemon or tangerine and lime — to instantly force attention towards your display. However, try not to go overboard, as a technicolour presentation of uncoordinated shades may turn people away.  A colour wheel can be really helpful when deciding on a scheme.

Emphasise what your customers want 

By 2020, global retail sales are anticipated to hit USD 27.73 trillion, good news for retail!

Concentrate on what your customer desires, not things that they simply need or worse what you want to sell them. This will add to their experience of your store and will encourage them to buy from you not your competitors. According to a study by Raj Raghunathan and Szu-Chi Huang, we use emotions when deciding what to buy — hence the advantage of focusing on want over need! 

Higher ticket luxury or personalised items that people may want to treat themselves to evoke a feeling of excitement and make them feel special. 

The ‘decompression zone’

The decompression zone is essential to a good shopping trip for customers — and brands! Found a few feet inside the entrance, this part of a store is thought to lift a shopper’s mood, adjust them to the shop’s surroundings, and ready them for a ‘shopping experience’. Consider your decompression zone’s vibe and look.  

  • Use furnishings and colours that contrast with outside to gesture new atmosphere.

  • Make it a minimum of 10-15 feet.

  • Create it in the shop’s entrance with a full view of the store.

  • Bring in mannequins, stands, and specialised lighting.

Apparently, 98% of people turn right when stepping into a shop. Use your decompression zone to create a ‘circulation route’ from the right and guide your customers around your store. Or, simply start your first visual merchandising display at the right of your decompression zone. 

Mixing It UP.

Never stand still when it comes to visual merchandising. Loyal customers will soon tire of any display, even if it's really great. Rotate your presentations around the floor to keep it looking new and interesting and ensure that your windows and decompression zones , aren’t filled with the same items that they were last month — otherwise, your business may come across as lazy or lacking in new, innovative products. Less can be more, don't be afraid to take things out, just make sure all your staff can locate them quickly if asked!

Playing to the senses

Sight, Hearing, Smell, Touch or Taste?

Every sense is important in merchandising. According to a study, 75% of emotions are evoked due to smell and our mood supposedly lifts 40% when we smell something pleasant. For food and fragrance shops this should be easier to create the emotional response you are looking for. You can help your customers recall a specific emotion or memory by showing off your products’ attractive scents. Run a bakery? Evoke warmth, cosiness, and home-cooking by ensuring the delicious smells from the kitchen reach where your customers are on the main shop floor. If your brand specialises in soaps, use stands at opposite areas of the floor to avoid clashing aromas — place citrus products together for energy and rejuvenation and lavender items for a more relaxing smelling experience.  

Music can be great for creating atmosphere too if you're not sure what fits best with your business ask your best customers what sort of music they think will fit best in your store and try it out. I personally like a traditional bell and a warm hello or smile to make me feel welcome. If a store isn't buzzing with people the right sort of music can set customers at ease. Don't forget to check out if you need a license to play it though and NEVER rely on radio or other peoples play list, you can't control it and you may not get the atmosphere you want.

Create a great Experience

According to predictions, consumers are going to value the experience over the purchase in retail very soon. AR experiences too are already starting to take place in stores like IKEA. These not only help customers with their purchasing decisions but encourage them to share on their own social media channels which boosts your presence too. Selfie frames, Character Cutouts, Backdrops etc all help to create the right experience. Don't be afraid to be bold. I will never forget how my local Nisan dealer made me feel like a VIP - I won't tell you what they did (spoilers) but it didn't cost a lot and they instantly captured my lasting good will.