The news regularly seems to be filled with reports of major retail chains struggling. Despite this, retail stores still have plenty of opportunity to maximise their sales revenue. Visual merchandising is one opportunity businesses in the retail sector should take note of, with a successful strategy allowing a retailer to both survive in a fierce market and then thrive.
Not sure where to begin when it comes to visual merchandising? This step-by-step guide from foam board printing suppliers Where The Trade Buys will advise on how to design and launch a successful visual merchandising strategy that will work to boost your brand’s profit margin and help you sail through the tough times ahead for the industry…
Why retailers should take notice of visual merchandising
Visual merchandising is where you’ll design the layout of an entire shop floor in a strategic manner. This includes the shelves and product displays, so to provide a more engaging, exciting and ultimately profitable consumer experience.
However, don’t just think that visual merchandising involves simply placing products in a certain place because they catch the eye. 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,” points out chief executive officer, Bob Phibbs, who runs The Retail Doctor retail consultancy firm in New York. “It is the unspoken language retailers use to communicate with their customers.”
How can you use visual merchandising at your shop then so that you can steer clear of the difficulties witnessed by the likes of Toys R Us and Maplin?
Showcase what people want instead of what they need
Retail sales across the globe are expected to hit USD 27.73 trillion by 2020. 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.
Decide on the products you’ll be using to attract the attention of consumers when first looking into a visual merchandising strategy. 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.
Focal visual merchandising displays should be used to house 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 banners alongside these displays to present promotional offers for luxury items that you want the consumer to take notice of — and buy!
What to do with group displays
Whether your visual merchandising strategy is a success or failure may well hinge on your group products. 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.
Take note of the ‘Pyramid Principle’ or ‘Rule of Three’ method when placing multiple products into a display too. 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.
The power of colour
“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 Clarke, a retail merchandiser and stylist. And 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.
The need to establish a ‘decompression zone’
Customers who visit your store should be greeted with the perfect decompression zone if you want to grant them with an idyllic shopping experience. 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.
The experience is very important here. 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.
Did you know too that 98% of people will turn right as soon as they enter a store? 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.
Trigger all the human senses
We may have talked a lot about visualising in this article — it is a guide about visual merchandising, after all — but 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?
A specific memory or emotion can be remembered or identified with the assistance of different types of smell. 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.
Change things up regularly
It’s always great when you finish designing a shop floor just the way you like it. 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).
Of course, seasonal goods and promotions will only be of use for a limited period of time. 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 be transformed in the future, if predictions are anything to go by, with ‘the experience’ becoming 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?