With more and more retail stores struggling in a difficult economic climate, even big-name brands like Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser haven’t escaped the rising pressure. But there are certainly still opportunities for stores to maximise their potential sales.
One technique that has been used as a major selling process for many years is visual merchandising. With the current retail struggle, visual merchandising has become ever-more vital for a brand’s survival and success.
But how do you utilise visual merchandising to its full effect? After using outdoor signs to entice a customer to come inside, how do you further encourage them to buy? In this guide, we explore all the methods and tactics available for visual merchandising to help boost profits.
Why visual merchandising is effective
Visual merchandising sees the entire shop floor strategically laid out to be more engaging and exciting for customers. This, in turn, leads to a more profitable environment. But there’s more to visual merchandising than just putting products in a certain place because they look nice. 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.
Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor retail consultancy firm’s chief executive officer, explains that: “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.”
Let’s look now at how to maximise the effects of visual merchandising in your retail store in order to void the problems stores such as Toys R Us and Maplin have had to deal with.
Consider wants rather than needs
With global retail sales expected to hit USD 27.73 trillion in 2020, the scope for your brand to take a share of this growth is certainly there! The first step to achieving effective visual merchandising is what products you will use to attract consumers. 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.
Your more high-end, newer products should be front and centre for your visual merchandising displays, in order to encourage your customers to make a treat purchase. 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!
Consider group displays
How you choose to group your products is vital to the success of your visual merchandising. 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.
The Pyramid Principle and the Rule of Three are methods to consider as well. 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.
Use of colour in your strategy
Stylist and retail merchandiser Jessica Clarke notes that: “Things that are easy to look at will be passed over, and things that are too outlandish will be offensive to the eye.” And this goes for colour. 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.
Building a ‘decompression zone’
Have you heard of a ‘decompression zone’? 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. It’s all about the experience — 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.
Studies show that 98% of people turn right upon entering a shop. 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.
Consider all five senses
Yes, it’s ‘visual’ merchandising, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make use of other 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?
Scents and smells can also inspire comforting memories. 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.
Experts reckon that shopping is becoming more about the experience than the act of buying. 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?