Visual merchandising is an intrinsic component of store design that can really maximise sales. Here at Green Room we collaborate on many projects. We’re experts in everything from store design to eye-catching window and product displays, including projects for Sun & Sand Sports, ASICS, and PUMA

Our clients often ask us about the rules and fundamentals of visual merchandising, as they look to maximise the quality and wow factor of the store environments that we create. Here are the principles of visual merchandising that we implement every time we take on a retail design project.

Store layout

Store layout is the most important factor in retail design. It dictates how customers move throughout the store and influences their behaviour, so it’s essential to take into consideration. Layouts also help retailers understand how much revenue per square foot they are making and using this, they can make a good assessment on the strengths and weaknesses in their merchandising mix.

Think about it; quite often food retailers will put necessities such as eggs and milk at the back of the store. There’s a strategy behind this, as the customer then has to navigate through the other goods to reach it, potentially becoming influenced to pick up other products. Department stores also use this strategy, placing the kids department on the top floor so that parents have to make their way through other sections, increasing the likelihood of additional purchases.

Begin by planning the key categories that you want to promote i.e. the most valuable, and then think about the journey the customer will take through your store. Ideally, you’d like a customer to spend as long as possible in your store, so think about the arrangement of fixtures and products could influence this. Also consider displaying related items together to create opportunities for impulse purchases.

Merchandising

Once the store design and layout are agreed, focus moves to the merchandising. This is how the store looks and how the products are styled. Effective merchandising will take your customer one step closer to that all-important purchase decision. With that in mind, it’s important at this stage to understand exactly who your customers are, what makes them tick and how they shop.

As humans, we read from left to right, but this doesn’t mean that horizontal displays will work. Although they have the potential to present items at or near the customer’s line of sight, it also forces the customer to move from side to side to follow the display. Vertical displays have more impact on the eye, and you can see more of the products on display. They allow customers to stay in one position but use their eyes to follow the display of items from top to bottom.

When deciding which products to put where, think about where they will sit in the customer’s eye line. Products placed between waist and eye-height should be the fast sellers and high margin products, as this is the most effective part of the visual display. Products of lower popularity can be displayed in less-prominent locations in the display area, to make sure those prime spots are saved for the more popular ones.

Spark flagship store, Newmarket, New Zealand
Spark flagship store, Newmarket, New Zealand

When planning your merchandising, concentrate on the most visible areas of the store. Create eye-catching window displays to encourage customers to enter the store, and end of aisle displays should also form a key point, along with the checkout area.

Check out our blog about visual merchandising in a digital age, where we look at how customers, armed with their ecommerce experience, are now expecting more from visual merchandising.

Display

In the retail sector, consumers buy with their eyes so presentation is everything. Investing in eye catching displays is an important part of the visual merchandising process. Window displays in particular are vital to get right as it’s usually the first point of visual contact a customer has with a store. Eye-catching and appealing window displays can easily be the difference between a customer coming into the store to see more, or just walking on by.

ASICS Hypergel-Kenzen flagship store, New York
ASICS Hypergel-Kenzen flagship store, New York

There are plenty of different techniques that can be used to create high converting product displays:

  • Colour blocking – captures attention and creates impact
  • Symmetry and balance – keep displays simple and uncluttered
  • Repetition – helps products to stand out
  • Odd numbers – work well as the brain takes slightly longer to process, and they look more attractive
  • Mirroring and triangulation – creating a high focal point and creating a triangle effect draws the eye and can be very impactful

Graphics

Utilising the right graphics and point of sale (POS) material can help a customer make decisions. It catches attention, identifies products, draws focus to sale or promotional items and highlights prices or product benefits. Retail graphics can play a huge role in communicating to your customers. You’re building an experience that represents your brand and graphics are part of the puzzle when your customers perceive this brand.

Graphics can be used for the following:

  • Enhancing the storefront
  • Creating custom printed wall coverings
  • Custom storefront signage
  • Window graphics and custom printed window film
  • Banners

One way that in-store content can be curated and easily kept up-to-date is through the use of digital screens which can be quickly and easily updated. Digital signage can be used when product displays are likely to move around the store for merchandising. Our Pro:Direct store design in London is packed with technology and digital signage, allowing for the store’s ambience to be changed instantly to reflect new product launches or campaigns.

Integrating digital at retail

Digital is making retail more seamless for shoppers and integrating digital in-store is crucial. Mobile-enabled and one touch payments and digital kiosks are one thing, but digital has also found its place in visual merchandising. 

Digital visual merchandising brings a new way of interacting with your customers. It can also increase football and encourage ‘shareable moments’ on social media, ultimately increasing your reach. As we’ve touched on, another huge benefit of digital visual merchandising is versatility. There’s no need to stick to the same display throughout a campaign or season. The elements of a digital merchandising campaign can be revised seasonally in line with your latest marketing campaign.

ASICS - Digital Retail Experience, Brussels
ASICS – Digital Retail Experience, Brussels

Check out our Retail Trends 2020 Report, which identifies the emerging technologies guiding the future of retail.

Get the basics right

Don’t lose sight of the basics when thinking about visual merchandising. No store will be successful unless it is clean and tidy for customers to feel welcome. Ensure that store maintenance and cleanliness routine is in place. You could have the most exciting merchandising, store layout and digital design but if the basics in the store are lacking, it can have detrimental effects. 

All of these visual merchandising principles, along with the right store design and layout can help create interest, prolong dwell time and improve customer experience. All these things combined lead to an increased purchase rate and very happy buyers – what more could you want from your visual merchandising?

Read more about our store design and visual merchandising work, and don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for further information and discuss your projects.

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Green Room Design Retail Design Expo 2016 campaign