Visual Merchandising

5 Tips to Pull Customers in with Visual Merchandising

The common perception is that visual merchandising (VM) is about making your products and your store look nice, but I assure you that there is a lot more to it than this. It is healthy to view your VM as a hub that links directly to all of your other main business departments. These usually include Stock Control, Marketing, Customer Service, Human Resources & Professional Development, Housekeeping, and of course Sales. Understanding that VM directly links with other functions within your business starts to open up new levels of creativity for you while making it easier to justify further resources on your VM and in-store animation.

VM is also a key way to pull customers over the threshold into your store and assist you to deliver a high customer service level with resulting sales increases. Here are my top five tips to bring this to fruition:

1. Promotional Displays

Visualise your store as you walk in the main entrance, and ask yourself what the first thing is that your eyes are drawn to? In retail, we want the first attention grabber in our store to be the promotional product or range of the week/month/season. It is critical that we have an engaging promotional display front-and-centre as a shopper enter our space. This not only creates interest for a shopper to stop walking and turn into your store, but it also excites the shopper – no matter if they are new to the store or a returning customer. The golden rules are to use a New Product, a Seasonal Product, a Topical Product, or a Hero Product from your range. To ensure freshness change this display regularly. This promotional display should also link to the display in your window.

2. Prime Shelf Real Estate

There are Hot and Cold Zones in our stores, with a Hot Zone representing an area of high foot traffic. You may know why people gravitate to this area, or it may be a mystery. Either way, be sure to recognise your Hot Zone, and the shelving units within this zone. This zone is generally the first-place shoppers will look and want to browse after they have enjoyed your promotional display at the entrance of your store. You may designate a shelf at eye level, or an entire bay as your Prime Shelf Real Estate. Whatever amount of space that you choose, be sure to fill it with product that matches your promotional display mentioned above. The key to this is to make it is clear that people can shop from this area. I say this as a promotional display can often be left by shoppers as they do not feel that they are allowed to shop from this area. By using the sequence of your window display, that matches your promotional display, that matches your Shelf Prime Real Estate, we have now built a slick easy to use path-to-purchase.

3. Pricing

The way that we communicate individualised pricing is a critical part of VM. Pricing needs to visually be aligned with our branding, be sized appropriately to the products, and be easy and clear to understand. Depending on your type of retail you may use hanging tags, pricing stickers, branded labels, or shelf talkers. Whatever the pricing display is that you use be sure to take a good deal of care with careful attention to detail. Make sure pricing labels are consistent throughout the store, and to make pricing easy to read and easy to find. Let’s face it, the first question most consumers have is “how much is it?”

Premium Retail will usually not display prices, and certain retail will have pricing on lists or in menus, but no matter what pricing is relevant for your business be sure that it is brand aligned and that it is correct! There is nothing worse than getting pricing wrong and costing your business money, credibility, and resulting in a negative customer experience.

4. Negative Space

In large discount retailers and super markets, you will see products jammed in and stacked as high as possible. This signals to the consumer that the products are of a low value. In a majority of retail environments, we want to increase the value proposition of our products using VM. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use Negative Space. Negative Space is the use of gaps, or space between products. This is a clever technique that draws a shopper’s eyes to the individual products allowing the shopper to browse without working so hard while creating more interest in the shopper’s mind. Negative Space also signals to the consumer that the products are important enough to command such a generous use of space. This is where the perceived value of a product is enhanced. This technique in your layout will enhance your overall branding, and will be noticeable from the exterior of the store as consumers look in through the entrance. It can also be used in window displays.

5. Clean All Day, Every Day

This is my favourite as it is so so important. No matter how much a consumer is paying for an individual product, if it is not clean then it is not attractive to buy. The retail environment out there is ultra-competitive, so if a store is not clean and tidy, then the consumer will simply go somewhere else. Cleanliness underpins all of your VM. You may have the latest technology, the biggest screens, the flashiest lights, or the most on trend animation, but if your window and shelves are dusty, sticky, grimy, or dirty in anyway then your whole VM is undermined. My golden rules are that we clean at the beginning and end of every day, and then throughout the day constantly. Other than education and product knowledge, re-stocking the shelves and cleaning is the number one task that we all need to commit to when we have down time in-store. It is critical that everyone in the store team is contributing to this too, and that there are no exemptions. It is a team game with sales to be lost if someone is excusing themselves from cleaning. Keeping your store and products clean can be made harder if your store has an Open-Door Policy (ie. Your front doors are left wide open during trading hours). This is always a great best practice as it invites customers into your space (take that as an extra free tip!) but it will encourage dust to accumulate quicker so be aware of this in regard to directing your team to clean.

The importance of pretty little things

Booking a hotel room throws up many different variables. I find it very difficult. Especially when you have never visited a holiday destination before. Recommendations from friends and using online social proof sites (Trip Advisor and the like) are the usual starting points. However, to make a final decision means making many calculations and assumptions with the perilous question of “what are we willing to compromise?” Then after some in-house power struggles, you throw-the-dice hoping for everything to work out well.

The dream is that you arrive with a pleasant surprise where the booked hotel destination over delivers, or at the very least, that you have booked something that you can categorise as good value, i.e. it is worth what you paid. On our last holiday where we had a mix of bad experiences balanced by delightful ones. I was left asking myself the question: what actually makes the difference as a consumer?

Good service makes the biggest impact. Right? But what about the food? The spaciousness? The cleanliness? The ease of making plans? The location? The noise (or lack of it)? They are all a part of the overall picture. For me, I came to the realisation that there is a very small detail that drives value in a customer experience. In fact, the smallest of details is crucial. I am referring to the small details. All of them!

Keeping with the theme of travel, my wife and I recently went to Indonesia. Like many Southern Asian cultures, I feel that they absolutely nail the small details with aplomb. The authenticity and beauty of their daily spiritual rituals where tiny palm-sized leaf trays are filled with flowers and complemented with burning incense is a wonderful example. These arrangements are placed in their mini shrines around their premises and are blessed as they go. This is also performed on the front step of retail outlets and cafes as everyday people walk past. I found it beautiful and engaging. When I looked at these arrangements closer they were so intricate and stunningly beautiful. The scent also became a memorable, which I still associate with that trip.

Another example of small details making a big impact is when we ate at a traditional Indonesian Café on the same trip. Here we witnessed the making and use of these beautiful miniature banana leaf cups which are secured in shape with a small toothpick. These cups are used to hold a small portion of rice, or condiments that come with your dish. In one small warung (a small family run café that houses the family room, kitchen, and guest dining room all in the one space with a BBQ on the front foot path) we had a magnificent dining experience. The family had three generations working the business, with a toddler causing her mother all sorts of headaches as she tried to feed her while the grandparents played with the baby. It was an intimate, traditional Indonesian food experience. The thing that stood out for me (other than the amazing food) was the preparation. These small handmade cups were meticulously formed with ingredients carefully put together, expertly cooked, and then portioned with a loving feel and touch being put into each of the small vessels. It was such a pleasure to watch. Almost therapeutic. It is this magical customer experience that we strive to create in our retail experiences – theatre, ascetic beauty, and a stimulating one-off customer experience. It is obvious to me that this family would not have known what you were talking about if you had mentioned any of these key retail customer experience terms to them.

These were only a few of the constant examples I saw on my trip that highlighted the source of where value is perceived by the consumer. The little touches, the smallest of small details. The details displaying our culture. Our values. Our mission. It is not a new idea for a business to get their small details right (even though many fail on this front).

To go a step further, make the small features a key element of the customer benefit. An opportunity many retailers can gain sales tractions with. Embrace your small opportunities – they make the difference in that infinite calculation that our consumer brains are constantly balancing up to answer the question – was this purchase of good value and am I going to rave about it to my friends?

I observe shoppers on a daily basis, and seeing people engage with the intricate details that display your brand’s DNA is a powerful way to impact your business and be memorable for all the right reasons.