In the retail sector, everything has the power to increase sales, from the signage, store layout, lighting, and even the fixtures. But it can be a struggle to figure out how to design your store in order to draw more customers in. Visual merchandising is the practice which seeks to address this problem, making products look aesthetically pleasing to capture customer attention and boost profits. Here, we’ll go through some of the most important aspects of visual merchandising so you can draw more customers into your store.
1. Tell a story through visual fixtures
Creating some form of narrative journey with your visuals can capture your customers’ imaginations. If you’re telling this story through a large section of your store, it can keep your customers interested, allowing them to follow a path of your choosing, and exposing them to even more of your products. John Lewis embraced this concept during a 2018 Christmas campaign, by building an in-store Christmas Forest for customers to walk through before reaching a wood cabin. Working with retail design agency Prop Studios, the “Christmas card scene” concept evoked the feeling of cosiness while showing off John Lewis’s seasonal stock. Most importantly, the display showed customers how to style these products, allowing them to clearly see how items might fit into their homes, increasing their likelihood of buying them.
IKEA works in a similar way. Each “showroom” gives a full picture of how to style each room in your house using nothing but IKEA products. This even includes little touches such as fruit bowls, photo frames, and vases, perfectly showing how products could feel in your own home. Each room in the house is covered with various setups in an IKEA showroom, showing off all the products, as well as different ways they can be styled. Customers have to walk through the whole store, going room by room, to get out the other side to pay, providing more opportunities to sell more products on impulse buys. Customers are then able to believe that a perfect showroom is both realistic and attainable, as all the products they could possibly need to recreate the ideal home are available to buy there and then, at affordable prices—which could be one of the main reasons the flatpack furniture giant achieved over £1.8 billion in UK sales in 2017.
2. Create a focal point for your customers
Having a main attraction or focal point within your store can encourage your customers come to your branch in person rather than online. This is particularly useful when promoting a new range, much like the John Lewis Christmas scene mentioned above. However, a focal point doesn’t necessarily have to tell a story, and may simply be used as a statement piece. This could be a combination of styled mannequins, displays, props, or signage. You could even have a few different “hotspots” in your store, guiding customers on a journey to see all the stylings, rather than dwelling on one main focal point. Introducing multiple hotspots encourages customers to walk around and spend more time in your store, giving you even more opportunities to sell.
Many stores on the high street use focal points to increase sales, as it gets the customer more involved with your brand. Lush, for example, offers live product demonstrations, drawing in and engaging customers. This often brings in passers-by, who are then converted into buyers. Whether you do this with live demos like Lush, with a selection of mannequins styled with props, or something entirely different and unique, a focal point is an excellent way to encourage buyers into your store.
3. Carefully choose your colour scheme
Colours can have a huge effect on emotions, which can impact your customers’ decision-making processes. Having the right shades and hues in your store can attract passers-by, encouraging them to step inside, and can even influence them to buy your products. Black suggests power and glamour, red evokes excited emotions, while purple is connected to luxury and dignity. Having the right shades—and the right amount—in your store can keep a customer engaged and excited, which could encourage purchases.
However, it’s important to realise that overdoing it with a specific colour can work against you. For example, the wrong tone of yellow, and having too much of it, can negatively impact your customers’ self-esteem, which could leave them feeling deflated, and not completing any purchases at all. A massive 93% of customers place importance on visual appearance over other factors like texture and sound or smell, while 85% of shoppers will buy certain products based on the colour, according to Kissmetrics. Colour is also used in branding and brand recognition. If a customer recognises a particular shade use by your brand, it can build consumer confidence, making them more likely to purchase from you. Think of the McDonald’s red and yellow, or the Starbucks green, and how customers know exactly what they’re getting from these brands, making them happy to spend their money.
4. Pick the right lighting fixtures
Just as colour can have an effect on your customers, having the right lighting for your store is crucial. If your shop is too dimly lit, or even too bright, you run the risk of driving customers away. You can also use your lighting to lead your customers through the store, and highlight specific products you want to push. You need the right level of primary lighting, which illuminates your whole store, as well your accent lighting, which is what lights up specific areas.
Having the right lighting can also work to influence buying decisions. Research from the Kellogg School found that darker lighting causes customers to shop at a slower pace, and make more decisions based on what they want and desire, so are therefore more likely to buy on impulse rather than necessity. You could also use lighting effects to highlight your brand image. Bridal stores, for example, may include uplighting, or ground-based lighting, which is commonly used at fashion shows and product launches. This can make customers feel like they’re part of a prestigious event, adding to the wedding excitement.
By choosing the right lighting fixtures, and the right level of light, you can highlight newer products which you want to sell more of, as well as keeping your customers in your store for as long as possible. This can boost in-store sales, which in turn increases your profit.
Having the right visual merchandising is crucial for encouraging customers to shop in your store, however it’s important to remember that there is no single rule that every retailer must follow. Instead, try and experiment with your store layout to find a formula that works well for your customers and your business. Mix it up regularly to keep it fresh and encourage your customers to come back—you may even come across a new trick that works well for you.