Modern Retail

Visual Merchandising: The Ultimate Guide

Visual merchandising

This guide to visual merchandising will outline everything you need to know about creating a visually striking and memorable instore experience. It will help you to plan your displays successfully, taking you through every step of designing an immersive shopping experience that builds loyalty and grows sales. By the time you have finished reading, you will know how to successfully create your own visual merchandising strategy – or, know how to find and brief the right visual merchandiser.

What is visual merchandising?

A common question asked by retailers is ‘What is virtual merchandising and what does it mean for my business?’

Visual merchandising (VM) is the method of showcasing products to customers in an engaging and visually appealing way. It is the process of displaying merchandise in a way that highlights features and benefits, tempting customers instore while growing engagement and sales.

It’s not just about making things look good. As you’ll see in this guide, it’s about designing a unique, on-brand experience that boosts revenue and makes you stand out from the crowd.

These techniques are used by all of the most successful retail businesses as they play such a pivotal role in store design. This guide will take you through the key elements to VM, allowing you to create your own unique spin on tried and tested techniques.

Why is it important?

Another common question is ‘What is the purpose of VM and why is it important?’

To answer this, we will give a practical example. Think of your favourite retail stores and the reasons that you love them. How many of these points apply to your impression of that shop?

  • Items are presented well
  • There’s a great range of products
  • You enjoy browsing for new ideas
  • The layout makes sense
  • It doesn’t feel too cramped or overwhelming instore
  • You’re invited in from the outside of the shop
  • The overall experience is both memorable and exciting

If these points apply to the shop you were thinking of, the reason that you enjoy that instore experience is largely down to its layout and merchandising. In fact, 93% of purchasing decisions are based on visual appearance.

The instore experience has revolutionised the way that people shop. Instore retail is no longer a simple transaction, but an opportunity to discover items and grow brand loyalty. Retailers that are adapting their instore approach through VM are able to grow brand value, attract new and existing customers and boost sales, as well as creating a memorable experience.

Visual merchandising influences the first impression and creates a lasting memory, representing your brand and inspiring everybody that enters. The shop window initially captures shoppers’ attention, but this is only a small aspect of store design. Once a person goes instore, the layout, displays and atmosphere must impress them, encouraging them to purchase and return in the future. In fact, 52% won’t return to a store if they don’t like the aesthetic. Customers make a subconscious assessment of your brand within 90 seconds of entering a store, giving retailers a short timeframe to make the right impression.

The impact of strategic VM can be significant, maximising sales while growing football significantly.

Interior visual merchandising

Store layout

It’s essential to design a store layout that works for you. The goal is to take customers on a journey, using specific techniques to encourage purchasing behaviour.

A well-known retail statistic tells us that the majority of people turn right when they enter a shop, which should influence your layout if it’s practical. It’s also important to have a ‘decompression zone’; a spacious area of between five and 15 feet when you enter the shop that allows shoppers to look around and take note of what they can see. It’s best to avoid placing key products in the decompression zone, as they may be overlooked. This kind of information should be taken into consideration, as well as the space that you have available, to choose the perfect layout for your business.

Types of store layout

  1. Grid

This layout is typically utilised in grocery, convenience and pharmaceutical retail, seeing long aisles that allow customers to travel up and down as they browse, as well as displays on the walls.

Grid store layout

Benefits

  • Maximises product display space, making it ideal for retailers looking to promote as many items as possible in an organised way
  • Prevents empty space looking bare
  • Easy to find furniture and fittings to fit this layout
  • Predictable for shoppers to find their way around
  • Easy to know where to position promotions for maximum visibility (e.g. end of aisles)

Disadvantages

  • Can be frustrating if customers do not understand product groupings
  • Aisles can feel cramped
  • A lack of visual breaks can cause a feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Less experiential retail journey
  1. Herringbone

The herringbone store layout is ideal for narrow retail spaces, seeing units showcase products on the left and right.

Herringbone store layout

Benefits

  • Predictable and creates a simple shopping experience
  • Helps to present plenty of products in limited space

Disadvantages

  • Can feel crowded instore
  • Not always possible to see many products without venturing down individual aisles
  • Lack of sight lines and visibility can make it challenging to spot shoplifters, however CCTV can reduce this risk
  1. Loop

The loop or racetrack store layout is predictable, taking customers on a journey from the moment they enter, past all products and through to the tills at the end. One of the most recognisable uses of this layout is IKEA. Their stores guide you through various settings, in an experience designed to spark creativity and prompt impulse buys.

Loop store layout

Benefits

  • Shows shoppers as much merchandise as possible
  • Easier to ensure promotions are likely to be seen
  • Works to create a memorable experience
  • Encourages browsing and impulse purchases

Disadvantages

  • Less suitable for those that are short of time or looking for specific items
  • Can be daunting or overwhelming, preventing people from entering
  1. Free-flow

In this store layout, exploring, wandering and browsing is encouraged. It can be the most creative layout, enabling retailers to adapt it as they see fit. Typically, it is used to showcase high-end products or lower quantities of merchandise.

Free-flow store layout

Benefits

  • Ideal for smaller retail spaces
  • Works with a wide range of furniture and fittings
  • Enables you to create space between products
  • Encourages impulse buying
  • Creates an experiential style of retail and spacious feel

Disadvantages

  • Having no clear direction of travel can cause confusion
  • Not suitable for those looking to showcase large quantities of products
  • Merchandising best practice can easily be forgotten and negatively impact experience

Remember, when choosing the right store layout, you should consider your customers’ preferences, take inspiration from spaces that you love and think about ways to utilise available space.

Colour

Colour is an important aspect to consider as it can create an atmosphere, draw attention to displays, attract customers and even convey messaging. It plays an essential role in impressing shoppers, with 62% to 90% of first impressions being based on colour alone.

Many retailers choose specific brand colours to keep their marketing consistent, as colour increases brand recognition by up to 80%. It’s recommended that you stick to a few colours, making sure these do not clash with your logo or packaging to make the store as visually pleasing as possible.

Colour must be considered in all aspects of retail. To put this into context, 85% of people list colour as a primary reason that they make a purchase.

How to use each colour:

Red
Red should be used sparingly. It makes branding and messaging stand out, creating a sense of urgency, which is why it is often used to advertise sales.

Blue
Blue creates a feeling of trust and security. It’s regularly used to portray trustworthiness, which is why large department stores and banks often use it in branding.

Yellow
Yellow works to capture people’s attention, often being representative for happiness, warmth and optimism.

Green
Green is easy for the eye to process and can help to create a calming environment. It is often used to highlight a good deal and attract customers’ attention.

Orange
Orange creates a sense of vibrancy, helping to showcase calls to action in an energetic way.

Black
Black is typically associated with luxury. Its bold appearance can help to highlight and sell expensive or high-end items.

Purple
Purple can create a calming atmosphere, as well as evoking creativity. It’s a common choice for retailers that stock beauty products.

Pink
Pink can portray a romantic, calming or feminine image, which is why this colour is a great fit for shops that sell things like lingerie or perfume.

White
White can make shops appear more spacious, creating a clean, open and fresh look. This is why infant clothing and bridal shops regularly use white in their shopfitting.

Top colour tips:

  • Limit bright colours such as reds, oranges and yellows to avoid overwhelming shoppers
  • Pastel colours work well within children’s stores
  • Large stores can paint the ceiling a darker colour to create a more intimate and cosy atmosphere
  • Avoid mixing different colour families in displays, such as pastel colours and earth tones as they convey mixed messages

Focal points

A focal point is a specific area of a store or display that works as a centrepiece. Typically, they are located in key sightlines.

Many retailers worry that a focal point will detract attention from elsewhere, but instead, it will capture shoppers’ attention, leading their focus to other items in the display or store. Tactically-positioned focal points can direct shopping traffic and influence buying behaviours.

The ‘power wall’ is a significant focal point to utilise. This is the wall to the right when you walk into the store. With most shoppers heading to the right side of the store when they enter, this location is the perfect opportunity to captivate customers with impressive displays and merchandise. As this is the first place that most customers look, you should use this area to convey your brand’s key products, purpose, or promotions. Uses of this area can vary, with retailers using the power wall to showcase their most on-trend items, highlighting seasonal displays, or conveying their brand’s story and kickstarting a more meaningful instore experience. Whatever the objective of your power wall, it must be visually appealing.

Visual focal points

Image credit: David Anthony Creative

Promotions can also become focal points. Many retailers benefit from locating these at the back of the shop, as this will encourage shoppers to venture further instore.

Traditional focal points have a large impact and make shoppers’ eyes gravitate towards them. Often, they include furniture, props or fittings that allow the display to stand out. Often, these may reach above the level of merchandise, to capture customers’ attention from afar. 

Top focal point tips:

  • Keep it neat, organised and focused
  • Communicate a theme, purpose or story within your visual display
  • Utilise multi-level displays
  • Use the focal point to draw customers over to the display
  • Feature related products nearby for easy browsing and impulse buys
  • Consider props such as mannequins

Interior displays

Interior displays should showcase merchandise in an impactful way, being careful not to make it look crowded or messy. The best-designed interior displays expose customers to a range of products without feeling packed in.

For some retailers, this may result in a minimalistic look where high-profit items are artistically presented and additional products are stored in the stock room. For others, this could see a large number of in-demand, similar products being showcased in an attractive way.

When designing instore displays, planning is key. You should know the look you want to achieve, the merchandise you wish to display and the reasons that this layout will intrigue your customers. It should also fit into your store’s theme, making sure it has a powerful overall effect and creates flow throughout the store.

Space plays an important role in the layout of interior displays. It is recommended that you make the most of available space, utilising higher spaces to showcase your brand in a visual way. Fixtures and fittings can be used to showcase products, whether this is through rails, shelving or unique pieces of furniture. Messaging is another valuable aspect of any interior display, whether it’s on signage, or is painted on the wall.

Interior displays

Image credit: Northbanks

Types of displays:

  • Standalone point-of-purchase displays, such as promotion baskets near checkouts
  • Freestanding displays, which are commonly made from cardboard to be lightweight
  • Garment racks, designed to display clothing
  • Gondola displays, which have adjustable shelves and are ideal for open areas of a store
  • Display tables, which are versatile and can host a large number of items
  • Display cases, which are usually standalone and protect high value items
  • End cap displays, which are located in high footfall areas at the end of aisles
  • Clip strips, which are long vertically hanging strips designed to hold small, relevant products

Top tips for interior displays:

  • Make sure displays remain as organised as possible
  • Stick to the colour schemes used throughout your store
  • Use props to make displays stand out
  • Mirrors can make stores appear more spacious and enhance clothing sales
  • Keep your interior displays in-fitting with the theme of your store
Store layout

Mannequins

Mannequins can bring products to life. Particularly in fashion retail, they have become the ultimate way to capture shoppers’ attention and increase sales.

However, it’s not only in fashion retail that mannequins can capture customers’ imaginations. Some of the ways mannequins can be used include:

  • Storytelling
    Mannequins can be used to set a scene. They could be sat in sun loungers in a beach scenario, or even standing in a group to advertise party dresses, mimicking a party setting.
  • Helping customers to visualise a product
    The most obvious example of this is using a mannequin to demonstrate the fit of a piece of clothing, which can convince a customer to make a purchase. It can also help them to see a product in action, creating a visual example that encourages them to buy.
  • Showcasing trends
    Mannequins draw customers’ attention, which can allow people to see the latest trends at a glance. This alone can be enough to tempt somebody instore, or encourage them to walk over to a specific display.

This cost-effective technique of VM makes mannequins the most popular instore prop. They are easy to clean and maintain, as well as being versatile and available in different sizes or postures.

Instore signage

Retail signage is a powerful tool to drive sales and improve customer experience. It can introduce new products, educate customers on the benefits of an item, share USPs, increase awareness of underperforming stock and enhance brand visibility.

Retail signage should tell customers what’s in it for them. It should also simplify their instore experience. There are many different ways that this can be done, but the main purpose of signage should be to attract attention and help customers to understand why they should make a purchase. This persuasive method of sharing information increases the likelihood of a purchase dramatically.

  • Promotional signage
    Show off discounts, promotional offers and more with stand-out signage.
  • Themed signage
    Create messaging that captures people’s attention, whether you’re highlighting your selection of Christmas gifts or introducing your winter range of coats.
  • Wayfinding signage
    Make shoppers’ instore experience as enjoyable as possible, highlighting checkout areas, changing rooms and specific categories of products from a distance.
  • Informative signage
    Whether you want to show off features in a bullet point format, or include a customer review of a product, this can be done through informative signage.
  • Lifestyle graphics and imagery
    These can tell the story or purpose of a product just as well as text, helping the shopper to visualise the way they might use it.
Interior signage

All of this can be done in line with your shop’s visual theme, with a wide range of options including:

  • Neon signage
    These bold additions can add a vibrant touch to any store, clearly communicating your chosen messaging.
  • Digital signage
    Digital signage is eye-catching and means you can regularly change messaging as required.
  • Banner stands
    These lightweight types of signage are available in a range of sizes, allowing you to convey information you want in a way that fits your needs.
  • Shelf-talker signage
    These run alongside shelving, as well as being able to stand out at a right-angle to shelves, capturing shoppers’ attention. Usually, these are used to highlight pricing and promotions.
  • Floor graphics
    Don’t forget to use floor graphics to share information, whether it’s for wayfinding or social distancing purposes.
Creative signage

Lighting

Lighting is an essential factor to consider when shopfitting, impacting an entire shopping experience. From Apple’s bright and vibrant lighting, to Hollister’s dimly lit and atmospheric displays, each makes a lasting impression.

Lighting creates an instore atmosphere and sets the scene, as well as attracting people in to your shop and helping to direct customers’ attention.

Types of lighting include:

Ambient lighting
Ambient lighting is the overall lighting concept, controlling the amount of light instore. This should be chosen to ensure there is a comfortable atmosphere.

Accent lighting
Accent lighting is a technique used to emphasise specific areas, displays and decor. It is often featured in luxury stores to highlight desirable items in a ‘spotlight’ effect. This can be installed behind displays, or even within cases as a backlight.

Decorative lighting
Decorative lighting is used for aesthetic purposes. It doesn’t typically have a large impact on widespread light, but it can make a big statement. An example of this would be having hanging pendant lights to add a finishing touch to any display or store.

Task lighting
As you’d expect…task lighting serves a particular purpose. Examples of this include well-lit shop entrances to attract customers inside, suitable lighting at cashier desks to allow staff to do their jobs comfortably and flattering lighting to help shoppers make the right decision in fitting rooms.

There are also many different types of lighting fixtures to choose from. Each of these can enable you to achieve a desired look in retail.

Types of fixtures include:

  • Recessed
  • Pendant
  • Adjustable
  • Suspended hanging fixtures
  • Track lighting
Lighting

A final point to consider with retail lighting is whether to choose LED or fluorescent. LED has become a popular choice due to its cost-effective and energy efficient properties. Fluorescent lighting, on the other hand, is best-suited for ambient lighting and creating a calming feel.

Sensory merchandising

Successful retailers know how to create an aesthetically pleasing display and impress visually, but often, they fail to leverage more senses. Here’s how you can tap into sensory merchandising to keep customers coming back for more:

Scent

Scent can be used to create a memorable experience, with customers associating particular smells with retailers they have visited. This can work to enhance customers’ experiences, as well as reminding them of your brand when they smell it elsewhere.

Taste

Depending on what you are selling, taster samples can be effective in allowing customers to try before they buy. For those who don’t sell edible products, samples can still prove successful, for example, offering visitors coffee or having sweets at the till.

Sound

Different stores should opt for appropriate genres of music, making sure it aligns with their brand image. Depending on the type of store, volume can be changed to create the desired vibe, or to allow conversation to be clearly audible. Music can make all the difference when shopping, keeping customers instore for longer and creating more of a positive memory of the experience. You should also reduce sound made by buzzing lighting fixtures, loud tills or humming ventilation wherever possible.

Read more about sensory merchandising here.

Point of sale displays

A point of sale display, or POS display, is located near the checkouts in a store, prompting impulse buys as people queue. These often feature items such as magazines, snacks, or small beauty products.

  • Include small, lower-priced items
  • Showcase a wide range without it being too excessive or overwhelming
  • Consider calls to action to prompt purchases

Point of purchase displays

A point of purchase display, or POP display, is a method of showcasing items to prompt purchase decisions, anywhere in a store. They are particularly successful to capture shoppers’ attention and highlight specific promotions or themes. The main difference between a POP display and POS display is that a POP display can be located anywhere in the store, ranging in size from small standalone structures to large, interactive sections.

Top POP display tips:

Product grouping

Product grouping creates the perfect opportunity to capture customers’ attention. When done correctly, it can help to upsell, encouraging customers to buy additional items that they may not have previously considered. When product grouping doesn’t make sense to shoppers, it can have the desired effect, causing frustration and losing business.

Group items together that complement each other and inspire shoppers. As a simple example, a beauty retailer may place skincare products together, alongside makeup. This pairing would make more sense than putting skincare products in the middle of a supplements and vitamins section.

Inspire your customers by grouping together complimentary products. For a clothing retailer, this could include a display that shows a suit, shoes and belt, or, for a stationery shop, a desk area that showcases a notice board, office chair, storage solutions and desk tidy.

Product grouping

Image credit: David Anthony Creative

Top product grouping tips:

  • Take inspiration from other stores to understand common product combinations
  • Put related products nearby
  • Use customer wayfinding questions to adapt your store layout
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on product groupings

Furniture

Furniture can enhance the instore environment, whether it’s through tables that host merchandise, or seating areas. The longer you can keep a customer instore, the more likely they are to make a purchase…so here’s how you can keep them comfortable instore.

Seating

Seating is essential to keep shopping companions happy in fashion retail. Areas to relax while shoes are tried on, or benches outside changing rooms are a must-have to avoid a hasty exit for tired shoppers.

Consider the space you have available and tailor your choices to this, with stools, benches and couches each offering comfort.

Winner of the Good Retail Awards’ Instore Creativity Award, Wyle Blue World is a fantastic example of this. Utilising the space they had available, they created an atmospheric, Moroccan-themed alfresco bar, which resulted in a highly-memorable experience for customers. This provided an opportunity for shoppers to sit down and enjoy drinking and eating from products that were sold instore.

Wyle Blue World alfresco bar

Image Credit: Wyle Blue World

Counters

Think about the uses of counter space before making a choice. If your checkout staff need to wrap items, make sure they have plenty of counter space to do this. If fast service is essential, consider fitting in more tills so staff can serve more people at once.

Tables

Many retailers choose to use tables in their stores to showcase products. These versatile additions to any store can be adapted to different purposes, making them a worthwhile investment, particularly when they fit your store’s theme.

Top retail furniture tips:

  • Find furniture that fits your VM theme
  • Think about the uses of each space before choosing furniture
  • If you’re on a budget, consider recycling or upcycling furniture
  • Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile. Create an entire seating area to keep shopping companions entertained with comfortable chairs, tables, colouring books and magazines.

Find out more ways to keep your customers comfortable here.

Exterior visual merchandising

It starts outside the store. Think about what people can see from the outside and the impression the entrance gives, using this as a way to grow footfall.

Window displays

Window displays have the power to turn anyone who passes by into a customer. They heavily influence every shopper’s first impression and therefore are a valuable method of growing footfall and making sales.

Your shop window should provide a snapshot of your business. It should communicate the products you sell, as well as portraying the general style and instore atmosphere.

Set the scene for what customers can expect instore, showcasing products in creative ways. This can include turning window displays into entire scenes using mannequins, or designing a theme that will capture people’s attention.

Benefits of effective window displays:

  • Raised brand awareness
  • Promotional opportunities
  • Can be themed

Whether you have minimal window space of a generous glass-fronted wall, there is a type of window display best suited to everyone.

Types of window displays:

  • Open-backed
    This style enables shoppers to see into the shop behind the window display, as there is no backing board. It gives passers by a sneak peek into the store.
  • Closed
    A closed window display uses a back board, which blocks the view into the store. This can create a sense of mystery that prompts people to enter, however it can also block out natural light.
  • Semi–closed
    This window display uses a backing board that runs behind some of the display, without obscuring the entire view into the shop.
  • Island display
    An island display is located within the shop but can be seen from the window, as well as from a range of angles inside. Lighting is used to highlight products.
  • Arcade–style
    This is only possible when the architecture of the shop allows it. For this, windows must protrude beyond the door, offering limited display space that stands out in the street.
Window displays

Image credit: David Anthony Creative

Top window display tips

  • Don’t make your shop window overcrowded
  • Consider purchasing props that can be reused for multiple displays
  • Convey messaging through scenes and signage
  • Keep it on-brand

Read more about the importance of window displays here.

Exterior signage

Your shopfront’s signage must be memorable. It’s one of the first things that customers will see, so make sure it represents your brand in the best light possible.

Fascia sign

This is your chance to showcase your brand, so make it bold, clear and exciting. Include brand colours, your logo, or more information about what you stock, being careful not to overcomplicate it.

Pavement signage

These can be used to convey messaging, whether it’s a promotion, funny saying or inspirational quote. Attracting the attention of passers by, pavement signage is a fantastic way to get your personality across and do something a little different. As well as being affordable, these great types of signage can be collapsed and brought instore after closing time to keep them safe.

Door signage

Retailers often use the door for an open/closed sign, however this doesn’t need to be the case for everyone. Get creative and think about any ways you could improve or simplify customers’ experiences as they enter the store.

Window signage

Window graphics are another way to capture the attention of passers by with your shopfront. Some people choose to have transparent backgrounds to signage which highlights messaging or promotions, while others use bright-coloured backgrounds to make their window signage stand out.

Exterior Lighting

Lighting can make a shop more inviting from the outside. There are a number of ways to utilise exterior lighting, including:

  • Lighting on signage to make it stand out
  • Doorway lighting to create a welcoming feel
  • Window lighting to draw attention to window displays

Remember, some of your interior lighting may be visible from outside, so consider the impact of these displays on passers-by.

Exterior lighting

Image credit: David Anthony Creative

Make queueing enjoyable

For shops that wish to limit the number of people instore at any one time, it can be worth creating a positive experience while people queue. Having an inviting queue can allow you to engage customers while they wait, instead of deterring them.

Ways to turn queueing into an experience:

  • Undercover queueing areas
  • Doorway heating
  • QR codes and interactive advertising on the shop’s exterior

Read more about how to turn queues into a positive here.

Using themes for displays

A great way to tell a story through your brand is to use themes for your VM.

To decide on a theme, you should begin by understanding what your target market wants to see. Carry out market research and look for common themes that you can make your own.

When thinking of a theme, consider different ideas that will accompany your products well. This can then be continued all the way throughout the store, from the window display, across the shop floor and all the way to the checkouts.

Themes could include:

  • Seasonal themes
    Showcase your winter ranges of products as the colder weather sets in, or create a beach theme throughout your store as people prepare to book summer holidays. Think about autumnal colour themes, or even flower-themed displays in Spring.
  • Holiday themes
    Create stand-out themes that show off your products, whether it’s in the form of a Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Halloween display. Capture the attention of passers by, while positioning gifts and products at eye level.
  • Back to school
    This popular time of year is one where new bags, shoes, stationery and clothing are needed. Use this theme to create captivating displays, whether you use mannequins to model school uniform, or create a display of your rucksack range.
  • Anniversaries and milestones
    Celebrate positive news, even if it’s your own. The growing support for local retail means people are passionate about the success of local business. Whatever the milestone, use it as a reason to spice up your VM. An example of this could be your 10th year in business.
  • Local events or collaborations
    Creating displays that align with local events, charities, or other businesses is a great way to engage your target market. Show your support for the community by sharing interesting information, celebrating local successes and showing that you’re up to date with what’s happening in the local area.
Seasonal displays

Image credit: David Anthony Creative

Tools for planning your layouts

There are many tools and types of software for to plan your layouts. Each of these can help business owners to envisage different store layouts and designs.

Here are a couple of tools that can help you to design a successful retail store layout:

  1. Floor plans

A floor plan, or floor map, is a diagram that allows you to see the proposed layout of a store. It can help to realise the positions of fixtures and fittings, as well as enabling you to look at it from a traffic flow perspective. The main benefit of a retail floor plan is that it can help you to organise the store to maximise shopper engagement.

  1. Planogram

A planogram is a visual merchandising tool that takes product placement into account. It will show the exact placement of items on shelves or fittings, helping you to maximise space and understand how it will look before committing to a layout.

Sometimes referred to as a POG, shelf space plan, schematics or a space plan, a retail planogram can vary in detail. As an example, you may require a relatively simple planogram if you have a small store with few products. Contrastingly, a large store with a high volume of products may require a comprehensive planogram which enables them to understand the space for each product, the way it will look and the amount of space it will leave for customers.

Visual merchandising planogram

Planogram image credit: https://planogrambuilder.com/planogrambuilder.html

Online visual merchandising

Online VM is an important consideration. The impact of creating a desirable brand online through captivating, appealing imagery is irreplaceable. As ecommerce continues to grow at a rapid rate, here’s how you can maximise the impact of your online merchandising.

Product imagery

When it comes to ecommerce, product imagery is essential. It’s the easiest and quickest way to convey details and features of an item. It also helps the customer to imagine the item in use and leaves a lasting impression.

Interestingly, shoppers tend to trust customers’ photos of products more, so consider featuring these on your online channels. An enormous 75% of people prefer to see user-generated content than only imagery from a professional photoshoot.

Integrating imagery that helps customers to make an informed purchase decision can be a fantastic online VM technique.

Top product imagery tips:

  • Use high-resolution images
  • Consider combining professional photography with user-generated content
  • Make sure imagery accurately represents products

Optimise your ecommerce site

A successful ecommerce site must be simple to navigate, easy to understand and enjoyable to browse on. The user experience can transform a shopper into a loyal customer when the on-site experience is enjoyable, or it can damage brand reputation when it doesn’t work properly.

This means your ecommerce site must be optimised for mobile. Demonstrating the importance of this, 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months. In addition to this, visitors are five times more likely to leave a site that is not mobile friendly.

A large part of online merchandising relies on enabling users to view products, prices and relevant information in an attractive way.

Top site optimisation tips:

  • Make sure your website loads quickly
  • Ensure it is easy to navigate
  • Create simple calls to action that make it easy to proceed

Visual merchandising for social media

Social media is revolutionising the way that online sales take place. It allows brands to showcase products, grow brand loyalty and create an engaged online audience. Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook can play an essential role in securing sales, creating consumer confidence and growing reach.

An impressive 54% of social media users visit these platforms to research products before making a purchase. This creates an opportunity for retailers that perfect their VM on social media. In addition to this, 71% are more likely to make a purchase if a product is recommended on social media.

Visual merchandising on social media is not only about creating attractive product imagery, but also creating a visually-appealing timeline of content. This can include posts that highlight customers’ reviews, user-generated content and much more.

Interactive content can quickly grow retailers’ reputation and audience, working as a form of free publicity while getting your brand message across. Remember to look for inspiration from successful brands and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Top visual merchandising tips for social media:

  • Keep your branding as consistent as possible across all online and offline channels
  • Fill Instagram feeds with colourful imagery and striking messaging
  • Consider ways to engage your audience, whether it’s through giveaways or polls
  • Make the most of social media stories
  • Use sites such as Canva that offer free social media templates

Courses for visual merchandising

There are plenty of VM courses available. Some are free to access, while others require payment. Whether you are looking to become a visual merchandiser, or update your own store, these courses make it possible to learn the art of VM without a degree or previous training. As well as enabling you to learn new skills, these courses typically teach effective display techniques. They also give you a core understanding of how to build your own merchandising strategy and attract your target customer through successful store design.

Free visual merchandising courses:

Here are just a couple of examples of free courses that can give you an introduction to VM:

There are also many useful videos that can be found on platforms such as YouTube, which explain display skills in more depth for free.

Paid-for VM courses:

There are also plenty of courses available to purchase online. If you’re investing into learning more about this key area of retail, it’s recommended that you check reviews and ensure that your chosen course is right for your requirements.

Here are some examples of paid-for visual merchandising courses:

Summary

This guide has outlined various visual merchandising techniques and store design hacks. Use them to grow your VM skills and improve your retail merchandising strategy.

To summarise, here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Understand your target customer and their preferences
  • Pay attention to traffic flow instore and specific areas that attract attention
  • Find inspiration and look for examples of impressive displays
  • Invest in versatile furniture and props that can be used for different purposes
  • Don’t be afraid to try new VM techniques
  • Regularly change your store design to intrigue customers
  • Consider the interior and exterior appearance of shops
  • Use courses and online content to grow your knowledge and skills
  • Don’t forget online merchandising for ecommerce sites

Thanks for reading – and good luck with your VM endeavours!

Further reading on Modern Retail

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Holly Worthington

Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail's Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today's ever-changing market.

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