In considering the importance of visual merchandising on retail businesses the single and most important reason is to engage and inspire shoppers, to encourage them to buy more of the products you want them to, increasing your sales, margin and return on space – after all, you are running a business! That engagement process of course starts even before they have set foot in your store…
If the outside your shop isn’t inviting, potential customers will pass you by…
The exterior of your premises should be instantly appealing with clear, consistent branding applied to your signage. The entrance reflects the personality of your store and must entice the passer by to enter.
When I first came to live in Sawbridgeworth, one of the first shops to really appeal to me was La Provence at 23 Bell Street. www.laprovenceshop.com
The exterior of the shop is really quaint and a little bit intriguing. When you enter, the store is a treasure trove of beautiful gifts and home accessories, from linens to soaps to frangrances, there’s even a lovely tearoom and courtyard garden to relax in while you decide what to buy! Thing is, if the outside of the shop hadn’t been so inviting I might have missed out on all the secrets inside.
Creative and inventive window displays are a great way to bring in more customers
An excellent opportunity to bring more custom to your store. Customers have only a few seconds to view and be attracted by your displays so keep them simple, bold and uncluttered. Cluttered, stale, or badly organised displays, are liable to do the exact opposite and turn those potential customers away.
Ensure any special offers are clearly readable and not too big / small, bearing in mind the demographic of your target audience. If your window space is limited try using bright colours and lighting to draw the eye, maybe even motion. Change the displays frequently based on how often your customers visit the store. A fantastic but dated display could do more harm than good.
Seasonal displays are a perfect opportunity…
Turn every browser into a customer. Use every opportunity that you can buy a card for – think Mothers day, Fathers day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas etc… I can remember my Mum taking me to Selfridges every Christmas just to see their displays! Could you make your store the one to visit on your high street?
Key areas to be aware of in your visual merchandising approach.
Avoid overwhelming / confusing the customer:
It’s important your store is inviting and uncluttered. There’s nothing worse than walking into a messy store and feeling totally lost and overwhelmed with the amount of stuff in your line of sight! It will make potential customers walk out, trust me, I’ve done this myself.
Try to reference the layout by colour within a product category to ease the shopper’s identification of products they need or matching products. Take a leaf out of the online/e-commerce store design and display products with other products that they work well/look good with.
Make sure your ideal customers can feel at ease, to linger longer
If you make your customers feel at ease, they will linger longer. Music, lighting, colours etc can all have a huge effect on the stress levels of the shopper. How many times have you left a store because it was too bright or the music too loud?
Try appealing to all 5 senses sympathetically and be aware that the demographic of your target market will feel different in different atmospheres.
- Sight: Use lighting to change the mood of the store and to highlight products on offer.
- Hearing: Music in stores has a huge effect on our stress levels. You may assume a toy store would play children’s songs or nursery rhymes? In fact the parents will feel a lot less stressed if the music is something softer, possibly classical.
- Touch: Allow clients to handle or test the products. This encourages conversation and rapport with your clients.
- Smell: Certain fragrances are calming such as Vanilla or Lavender or Citrus to uplift. Try using seasonal fragrances to evoke a sense of magic, cinnamon around Christmas time.
- Taste: Not always possible but if you can offer free tasters they are a sure fire way of selling more product. Last Christmas Eve I queued up for our turkey in the local farm shop. They had a plateful of sausages for us to try while we waited. Guess what else I bought before I left?
Make sure customers can find products in store, and that they have the information they need to buy with confidence
Your in store signage must be clear and concise. Too many signs will act like a hundred shouting voices, not enough and your customer won’t know where to go.
A lovely example of this is Mariposa at 1 The Square, Sawbridgeworth. www.mariposa.uk.com The signage is simple and elegant, just the right balance for a bridal shop. Their brand is consistent across all touch-points, be that the shop exterior, interior and online on their website.
Keep it simple and in line with your existing store branding. Use fonts and colours that are easily readable from a distance, avoid script or fussy, ornate styles.
Point of Sale and free-standing merchandise displays engage the browsing customer and enable them to understand the product
Products need to be presented in a way that the customer can understand exactly what they do and how they help them. This is where good Point of Sale and freestanding merchandise displays really come in to play.
Point of sale (POS) or checkout is the location where a transaction occurs. Use this area to display new products, special offers or “no brainer” purchases, for example lip balms, pens, small handbag sized items.
A good example of this is Interior Harmony at 22 Bell Street. www.interiorharmony.org The shop is stylish and uncluttered with clearly displayed goods and a fantastic use of the POS area around the till. Beautifully simple shop styling shows off a great selection of items.
You can be really creative with these displays. Keep them simple and bold. There are hundreds of off the shelf display products you can purchase usually in plastic or cardboard.
Be creative with the products themselves. For example, if you were selling say paper napkins, create origami animals from them – instantly more appealing.
If you have own brand products invest in working with a design agency that specialises in packaging design so that your product appeals exactly to your target customer. The right packaging design can make or break a product, especially if it’s new to the market or has huge competition. A good brand and packaging designer will draw out the brand story and encapsulate that into the design, giving your product maximum shelf appeal.
Make the interior (and exterior) of your store as inviting as you can…
- A tidy store is a must. De-clutter! Remove anything that isn’t adding to your brand.
- Keep the decor, floors and windows clean. Ensure the flooring is suitable for you target customers. Try out different fragrances to keep the store smelling fresh.
- Make the most of the space you have but allow plenty of room for movement, remember your customers may have large trolleys or buggies with them. Don’t make them feel claustrophobic – sometimes there is commercial benefit to having empty space!
- Ensure you have good lighting that helps the customers navigate the store and highlights key promotions. Use lighting to draw them into the store, don’t have any dark corners!
- Use music to enhance the atmosphere – unless you are running a library a little background noise makes customers more comfortable to have conversations as they feel they are less easily overheard. Ensure your choice of music is relevant to your target customer AND make sure you’re not in breach of any public performance rights!
In Summary – Why you need to really focus on your visual merchandising…
Visual merchandising can make a good retail outlet great. Investing a little time and effort in giving your store a facelift can make a world of difference. Engaging some professional services to help with your branding, your window displays or your in store signage can make you really stand out from the crowd. Ruthlessly looking at your products profitability in the context of what presence on the display space you give them could give you competitive advantage… in a crowded market you need to pull out all the stops to give your customer the shopping experience they really want – but you can expect to reap the rewards when you get it right.
This blog was written by Kelly Molson, Managing Director. Rubber Cheese Ltd. Rubber Cheese is a full service creative agency who specialise in design and development for the retail sector – on-line, in store and on shelf (eCommerce, POS, branding) – to ensure there is a seamlessly integrated brand experience across all channels and touch points.
t: 0845 867 6750
Rubber Cheese Limited, Unit N, The Maltings Station Road, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire CM21 9JX