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  • Writer's pictureKathy Wilson

Top Five Ways to Maximize Visual Merchandising

Every retailer uses visual merchandising in one way or another. Whether it’s a virtual store or brick-

and-mortar, visual merchandising plays a crucial role in retail success. But what if you’re not a graphic designer or professional marketing guru? You can maximize the impact of your visual marketing efforts without bankrupting the company or spending all your time on visual merchandising strategies. Take advantage of these five elements to ensure you get the greatest return on your visual merchandising investments.

Creating Visual Merchandising Displays That Work

Follow these five strategies to ensure your efforts turn into dollars!

Create your visual merchandising displays with your specific customers in mind.
Make the best possible use of all elements of your display. Color, content, and use of space are key factors you should use strategically to ensure you reach customers with the precise message you wish to convey.
Ensure your display has a strong, well-placed focal point.
Engage as many senses as possible for a stronger customer connection.
Make displays interactive whenever you can.

You have undoubtedly identified the customers you most want to reach. Remember your customers’ distinctives when developing your visual merchandising strategies. Beyond simple age, income, and education variables, it’s important to know your ideal customer’s values, priorities, and concerns. What will catch her eye quickly and positively? What motivates her impulse buying? What does she need? What does she want? Aligning your efforts with your customers and brand identity not only reinforces your brand and its relationship with those customers, but also improves conversion rates and brand messaging.

Speaking Visually is Easier than You Think

Design your visual merchandising in such a way that it delivers your specific product message clearly and engages the customer as fully as possible.

The use of color is one of the most important factors in visual marketing. Remember that certain colors activate specific areas of the brain and motivate customers to respond predictably. Whether you choose a monochromatic display or use contrasting colors, it’s important to draw the customer’s eyes not just to the display itself, but to the item(s) you most want to sell.

Don’t crowd your displays as the perception of disorganization or clutter is always negative.

Decide in advance which specific merchandise is the “star of the show.” Every aspect of well-executed visual marketing displays moves customer attention to the item(s) you’ve chosen to feature. This creates your opportunity to inform the customer concerning the product and help move customers toward purchase.

The Sweet Smell of Success

It’s important to engage as many of the senses as possible to emphasize your message and increase customer retention of the information you wish to share. This is easier in brick-and-mortar environments, but it is still possible in the virtual world. In a traditional storefront, for example, you might choose to diffuse a cinnamon scent in your display for bakeware. In a virtual store, you might include a photograph of someone enjoying a slice of apple pie to evoke a similar response.

Make your displays tactile by using a variety of textures. Online, you may choose to show someone wearing corduroy or velvet to target the same sensory response. Choose music that specifically correlates to your visual merchandising message. Vision, of course, is our most powerful sense and should sit atop your design goals.

Probably the most overlooked avenue for visual merchandising is space. Take advantage of available space — including overhead real estate — for signage that informs customers of the advantages of making the purchase you promote. Keep these signs straightforward and easy to read. Use bullet points rather than narratives because your customers are more likely to engage with these easily digestible bits of information. Again, clutter buries your message and leaves a negative impression.

Flipping the “Buy Me” Switch

Consumer decision-making takes two forms: rational and automatic. Your merchandising efforts should address both modes of decision-making. The benefits and value of your product must make sense to the customer. Ensure you communicate clearly and rationally. We gain insight into customer purchasing behavior through neuroscience. For example, when we display three items in a row, customers prefer the middle option because of its alignment with the pupils of our eyes. Using this knowledge in creating visual merchandising displays helps us speak to customers through both rational and automatic brain responses.

Customers love interactive communication from retailers, so include that element often. Growth in retail technology provides ever-increasing opportunities to engage customers interactively. Both traditional and online retailers now have access to technology that allows patrons to picture the impact of the purchase you want them to make. For example, CoverGirl® has a store in which the customer scans her face (think selfie), then scans the barcode of the product she’s considering and voila! Her “selfie” now shows how she would look wearing that cosmetic! We see this online as well, particularly with hair color marketing. With just a few clicks, the consumer can see just how she will look when she uses that particular product! Remember, too, that interaction expands the time customers spend with your brand and, the more they focus on your brand, the more likely they are to associate your brand with positive emotions, recall the brand experience, and return to your store in the future.

Effective Execution and Afterglow

Any strategy is only as good as its execution. The same is true in visual merchandising. Some retailers focus too much on mechanics or using the latest technology. Advancing your brand and communicating successfully with your target audience are always the most essential elements of all your marketing efforts, including visual merchandising. Keep your message clear and engaging. Strong visual merchandising has a powerful impact on customer experience. Remember to check your displays from the customer’s point of view (top, bottom, and sides) and make sure the focal point of your display is not too high, too low, or too crowded for the customer to recognize.

The Power of Concise Messaging

Above all, your displays must reinforce your brand identity. Every effort should communicate that identity clearly and concisely. You want your customers to have a well-defined understanding of who you are as a brand; don’t let ambiguity in a visual merchandising display confuse or muddle your core identity. You want the customer to make a purchase, of course, and to enjoy the product after purchase. If you have a strong brand identity that evokes positive responses in customers, you want to reinforce that message whenever possible to develop customer loyalty and ensure they feel positively about buying from you. The next time a customer needs a widget, his first thought should be of your brand. This is dynamic and active customer retention — the warm afterglow of a positive customer experience.

Rouse Your Inner Merchandiser!

Visual merchandising may seem like a no-brainer for any retailer, but business owners who use well-developed strategies and execute those strategies well reap the benefits of increased customer engagement and an improved emotional experience for that customer, giving the retailer both increased revenues and better brand identity. Implementing these five strategies in your visual merchandising efforts will increase both customer engagement and business success. Re-imagine your visual merchandising with these five tips and watch your customer base grow while your sales accelerate!

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