The Importance of Visual Merchandising
Whether you own a retail space or have a product that occupies display space in a brick and mortar location, you know your brands reach extends beyond print, web or social media. Think about your last shopping experience at places like Sephora, Ulta or Whole foods. These retailers allow brands to create compelling visual merchandising and the brands know the value in eye catching displays that grab the consumers attention.
Success factors of visual merchandising include the store’s appearance, signage, lighting, uniforms, menus, point of sale material, color, shapes, textures, packaging, ticketing, presentation and the “wow” factor each of these elements bring together in a retail setting When these elements come together to showcase a brand, it enriches the customer experience, leading to a positive shopping experience and increased sales.
Here are seven important elements of visual merchandising. They are easy to implement and won't break the bank and, most importantly, they will increase your sales.
1. Create a focal point or featured product.
Where does the viewer’s eye focus on your display? Are they confused about where to look? Create a hotspot or focal point. Why? Because hotspots can increase sales by 229 percent.
Examine your display from the customer’s point of view: the top, the floor, both sides. Often the focal point is positioned too high for the customer to see. Always check your displays to ensure customers can easily view the hotspots and merchandise. Remember, the hotspot is the product, not a visual element you use to add to the story. By this I mean, if you put sand and seashells on the table as part of your sandal collection, make sure the sandals are the focal point and not the sand.
2. Color is important
Color is powerful, and it can make or break your visual displays. Consider using contrasting colors, like black and white, and monochromatic colors--both create intriguing, eye-catching displays.
Too many times we lose sight of the power of color and its ability to attract the eye. Consider your home. You probably have a solid grey or brown couch, but there is a "pop" of color from the throw pillows you place on the edges.
This is the same principle. Remember: wherever the eyes go, the feet will follow. So use color to catch the eyes of your customers and draw them to your displays.
3. Tell YOUR story and get to the point.
This is your chance to get the customer acquainted with YOUR brand. Merchandising must be consistent across all platforms including in-store displays, your website and on social media. This ensures customer brand loyalty and also ensures that brand is going to deliver. In turn, the emotional connection a customer has with your brand is strengthened. Use your brands imagery, illustration, colors and fonts to grab their attention. Use powerful, sales-enabling signage to display the advantages of buying the product. Present a couple key points that tell customers why they need the product or how their life will become easier because of the product. Remember, you’re not writing an essay but rather a headline, and subhead with key points. and possibly a price proposition. By telling a story, you help the customer better understand the product and enable the buying decision.
A display may lack a worded sign or an educational sign. That’s perfectly fine; as long as there’s still a story, the sign can speak for itself.
For example, your brand's lifestyle graphics are very popular in telling the story. No words, but the image speaks volumes.
4. Give customers to the maximum amount of merchandise.
A well-designed, impactful display exposes the customer to as much merchandise as possible while avoiding a sloppy mess. The more products customers see, the more they buy.
Consider using a circular store layout, which many retailers use. It’s powerful because it exposes customers to more merchandise than traditional aisles. Where your store does use aisles, place a display in dead center so customers are forced to stop and look at the products. Have as many displays as possible, and present as much merchandise as possible. But keep displays clean and sharp, and ensure aisles are spacious and barrier-free to prevent deterring customers from products.
5. Use empty space wisely.
There’s a space in all retail stores that is the most underutilized. It’s the section between the displayed merchandise and the ceiling. If this space in your store is empty, you need to start using it.
You can use this space for many different things, like signage providing information about products or brands. You could display customer testimonials with the customer’s name and picture. You could profile a designer or supplier.
You could also display lifestyle graphics that help customers make associations with your products. For example, a furniture store could display an image of a family cozied up on a couch, emitting those warm, fuzzy feelings that put shoppers in a good mood. A Cannabis store could display a well dressed woman enjoying an edible, creating an association between the store’s products and a luxurious lifestyle.
6. Brands should offer three categories of merchandise.
Think of your merchandise as it would exist on a bell curve. On the right side of the curve lives expensive, prestigious merchandise that makes up 10% of your store’s/brands products. Every display needs these products (even if customers don’t always buy them) because they "wow" customers. On the left side of the curve lives the promotional merchandise, which also makes up 10% of your products. Every display needs these products (even if they don’t generate a lot of profit) because they also "wow" customers. In the middle of the curve lives your bread-and-butter merchandise—the products that generate the most profit.
Now, although most of you profit comes from the middle merchandise, customers talk mostly about the left and right-side products. This is why brands who remove the high and low-end products are making a huge mistake—they’re removing the products that generate word-of-mouth advertising for their business.
In fashion, the high and low-end merchandise are referred to as the throw-away merchandise. Retailers don’t necessarily sell it, but this merchandise makes everything else look good.
7. A retailer's merchandise should last three months.
Why? Because seasons are three months long. This may change if you’re a big store like Sam’s who needs only about two weeks worth of merchandise at any given time. But if you’re a specialty retailer, you should carry three months worth. In terms of how much merchandise you need to turn a profit, you need to understand the open to thrive strategy.