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Why a strong visual merchandising strategy can be the key to boosting sales

Recent headlines have revealed that some of our favourite major retail chains are showing signs of floundering in the current economic climate. However, there is hope for retail chains and they can weather the storm if they take action to review their plans. They need to carve some time out to get their strategic thinking caps on. A boost in sales and customers can be achieved by focusing on visual merchandising. Visuals are a great way to catch the eye of potential customers and coax them to enter the store for a look around. Create a fresh visual merchandising strategy and get ready for the sales to follow…

Visual merchandising: it really is a science

Firstly, let’s get a clear understanding of what visual merchandising is. The process of visual merchandising involves strategically designing the layout of an entire shop floor — including shelves and product displays — to provide a more engaging, exciting and ultimately profitable consumer experience. 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.

As Bob Phibbs, chief executive officer at The Retail Doctor retail consultancy firm in New York, cleverly puts it: “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.”

Now that we’ve gained a better understanding of visual merchandising, how do you use it to avoid the same woe as those suffered by Maplin and Toys R Us?

Focus on the wants, rather than the needs of your customers

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. Global retail sales are expected to hit USD 27.73 trillion by 2020. So, there’s clearly scope for your brand to maximise its profits and get a share of this growth in the next few years.

Keep your high end, luxury items as your focal visual merchandising displays as these will help to entice customers looking to treat themselves. 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!

Grouping your products requires a strategy

The effectiveness of your visual merchandising depends on a number of factors, including how you group your 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.  

Give some consider to the ‘Pyramid Principle’ and the ‘Rule of Three’ 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.

Draw people in with 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. Stylist and retail merchandiser Jessica Clarke, says: “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.

Achieving the ultimate ’decompression’ zone

What is a decompression zone and how do you create one? 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 decompression zone is all about experience. 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.

Research shows that 98% of people turn right after entering 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.

Target all five senses to entice your customers fully

Whilst we’re mostly focusing on visuals, why not entice consumers using their other senses too? 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?

You can trigger a certain memory or feeling by using different scents and smells. 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.  

Keeping your visual merchandising display fresh is key

Visual merchandising displays need to keep evolving, no matter how good they are. 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). Similarly, promotions and seasonal goods only last so long — don’t give people the impression that your brand is behind the times or lazy. Change your visual merchandising displays every month and retain the perception of innovation.

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?

Author bio:

Gary Peeling is the managing director at leading UK print company, Where The Trade Buys, offering offset book printing for businesses of all sizes.



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