17 Dec A Professional’s Look At Visual Merchandising
“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill
Let’s face it. Competition from online sales is today’s biggest challenge. But savvy retailers are taking action. They are differentiating themselves from online merchants by creating innovative product displays and customer-friendly store environments. By focusing on visual merchandising, they attract new customers, ensure customer loyalty, convey product awareness, and encourage customer interaction.
Communicating visually with the customer has a direct impact on how products are sold. Surprisingly, many retailers don’t understand, or simply ignore this fact. But just about every major retailer knows better. They recognize the importance of the in-store experience by making frequent changes to their store displays and visual merchandising.
This topic begs a few pertinent questions:
- What did you do to enhance the in-store experience in your stores this holiday season?
- What is your visual merchandising initiative for 2016?
- How do you plan on executing your visual merchandising initiatives?
To help you move forward with your plan, I offer up my top tips on how to enhance your stores’ visual merchandising.
The best place to begin is with a self-evaluation. Ask yourself when was the last time you did an analysis of your sales per square foot or by category. This information is a vital. It determines where to place displays and how to measure the effectiveness of each display. As you look through your showroom, ask yourself which displays are delivering the best results? Do they tie into my brand and marketing campaign? Can they be customized to display other items?
Retailers often incorporate vendor displays or POP that don’t necessarily tie into the look and feel of their store. This can confuse the customer. Personalizing a display to fit your brand messaging and your visual merchandising palette will be more inviting and personal for your customers. Maintaining continuity along all elements (flooring, signage, display materials, etc.) is essential. Your showroom must be visually coordinated.
Customer Friendly Approach
Customer-friendly is an oft-used retail phrase that means many things. I like to define it using the “Three C’s.”
- Cleanliness. Nothing turns off a customer more than an unkempt showroom. Store maintenance programs are a basic component of a well-run showroom. Remember that over 80% of buying decisions are made by women. Women are much more aware of clean surroundings, particularly in restrooms and common areas.
- Comfort. The goal of a savvy retailer is to extend the amount of time a customer spends shopping. Customers that dwell longer tend to purchase more. Relaxing furniture, comfortable temperature, and proper lighting will make your store more enjoyable to your customers.
- Communicating with customers is a key component in a customer-friendly environment. In-store signage and graphics perform many functions in today’s retail environment. Brand messaging must be clear and concise and must reflect the products and lifestyle that connect with your customers. Directional signage should make it easy for customers to find common areas and departments within your store. Policy signs must clear and concise to communicate company policies and services available. Most of all, signage must effectively communicate your corporate identity and your competitive advantages.
Set Merchandising Goals.
When not planned properly, improving your visual merchandising can be a daunting task. A great place to start is by performing a visual merchandising evaluation and a review of new product/business opportunities. I recommend creating a team consisting of members from marketing, purchasing, sales and store operations. This ensures effective communication. Start by building a list of new projects and a timeline so the team stays on track. Then create a list of deliverables for each department and schedule regular meetings to track progress. Be sure to set a realistic timeline for the installation and implementation of all new projects. This will ensure quality results and a smooth transition. Whenever executing a large scale revamping, it’s best to seek the help of outside help. A professional visual merchandising/display company will provide a fresh perspective and valuable new resources. This results in overall cost savings and a fresh new look for your stores.
Location, product, price and advertising are the key factors that influence customer shopping behavior. The customer experience is playing an increasingly larger role in differentiating brands, driving sales, and creating customer loyalty in today’s highly competitive marketplace.
Knowing this, what is your strategy for improving the customer experience in your store for 2016 and beyond?