The science of retail visual merchandising and consumer behavior

Consumer spending habits – what truly drives behavior? We’re not talking about simply coercing prospective shoppers into your store, we all know (as does your bottom line) that at the end of the day, it involves so much more than the simple volume of foot traffic. Truth be told, we ALL want to compel consumers to actually transact business, which comes down to exploring the science behind those all-important strategies and proven effective retail visual merchandising techniques that will generate an uptick in sales. Here’s the million dollar mystery: how do we captivate customers and capture their attention in a fast-paced, competitive retail landscape? At BIGEYE, a retail visual merchandising agency, our goal is to transform businesses by helping them better understand these buyer behaviors and purchasing decisions –  and to design messages that reach, resonate, and compel customers to take action. This could be why I have more throw pillows than I’ll ever need – honestly, one more accent blanket and my living room could look just like the Pottery Barn display. Gets me every time.
[quote]Oftentimes, when playing “psychologist” and conducting focus groups and other exploratory research, we uncover a disconnect between a brand’s ideal essence, and the in-store presence that is being communicated via visual merchandising displays – unbeknownst to the client. [/quote] When engaging with a skilled retail visual merchandising agency, our approach starts with a gap analysis to determine a company’s strengths and weaknesses inherent in its existing retail strategy. This process affords us with the opportunity to make changes that have a lasting impact on a potential customer’s decisions to purchase specific products, drilling down by factors such as color preference, price point, and a number of other characteristics. While this gap analysis serves as the initial brand “discovery,” it always leads us to the identification of  areas of improvement and easy, high-impact wins (talk about two birds, one stone!). Taking this information, we then work with our clients to redefine their retail strategy. In some cases, this may mean updating the business’s brand strategy, or even embarking upon an overall rebranding process.

Then, we look to actual retail visual merchandising services, and identify tactics we can use in order to drive success. Here’s one way to break down our approach: identifying tangible and intangible techniques that we may use to better implement and stimulate customer interest in the specific products being sold.

With tangible techniques, we’re focused on how customers are influenced by aspects such as window displays, brands, signage, sight-lines and other clear, visible aspects of the design – elements that as a retail visual merchandising agency – we’re able to control. The intended results of our efforts include altering these techniques, and making ongoing revisions to continue to both compel, and to draw in more customers. I’m an uber-savvy consumer, too, and as a result of a number of these strategies being implemented in-store, I find that one minute I’m just looking, and next thing I know, the sales associates are offering to help me carry my overfilled shopping bags. It’s okay to admit it – you know you’ve been there, too, right? Proof positive that using tangible techniques simply works, albeit when implemented correctly, of course. For the tangible, we emphasize those tactile aspects of building displays that will capture our customers’ attention.

To highlight the winter campaign for London-based men’s clothier, Ben Sherman, images of London at night were used as large format backdrops in the store’s windows, featuring twinkling LED lights, capturing the Christmas spirit in a dreamy and luxurious way. Additionally, Hostem, another London clothing store featuring progressive Japanese brands, accentuates their avante-garde fashion through the use of visual merchandising. The impressive (and award-winning) displays are always unique, yet fitting to their aesthetic; using items like vintage church pews, ladders, old beer kegs and cases – even a Chesterfield sofa from the 19th century. It is this use of visual merchandising that truly allows shoppers to experience complete immersion of the brand when walking through the store.

On the other hand, when it comes to intangible techniques, we’re looking into the deeper psychology of how people react to certain stimuli – all of which are impossible to touch. For instance, we may look at customer influence via the senses (sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing), reactions to combinations of color and light to create visual effects, and the use of furniture to create social familiarization. For instance, many stores employ specific scents, think warm cookies fresh out of the oven – all in an effort to elicit a sensual consumer response, where shoppers are “hungry” to spend more. In addition, offering samples of products – food, perfume, or even makeup – may entice a customer to purchase the specific goods and products being promoted. Through the exploration of intangible techniques, we take a more theoretical approach to consumer behavior, based upon plenty of inferences, and supported by detailed, qualitative data. This is why I’ve yet to enter a Target and leave with only the items I planned to purchase – see, once again, the power of psychology is at play.

The benefits of partnering with a retail visual merchandising agency are tenfold, and through our exploratory research and based upon client implementation and testing, we’ve uncovered that both of these types of tactics have the potential to have significant positive impact on your bottom line. In research done by IJESIT on the effect of visual merchandising, 85% of the study’s participants agreed that color, lighting, ambience and attractive visuals (and we mustn’t forget welcoming scents, as in the prior home-baked cookie example) make them spend more time in store. In applying both tangible and intangible tactics, we are able to create cohesive retail displays that generate an emotional association with a brand’s target customers. Be it the individuals who prefer the heavy discounting of “sale” goods, or the power of a stunning display that seemingly – and rather inexplicably –  compels a person to buy, BIGEYE‘s skilled team members understand each company’s need to master such practices in order to ensure that shoppers are drawn into a store, and that they remain interested in its inventory throughout the customer experience.

Finally, we take our learnings and incorporate them into a business’ media mix, identifying ways to create brand alignment in all channels, including both interactive and traditional media. The goal of this portion of the process is to retain customers and encourage them to become brand advocates, serving as active members of our brands’ communities.

If you’re in search of a customer-centric retail visual merchandising agency that possesses the know-how to drive success for your brand, contact BIGEYE for a consultation at 407.839.8599, and discover how we can assist in taking your company – and your products and service offerings – to the next level!

Creating effective retail visual merchandising displays

When it comes to retail strategy, the companies that are, indeed, “getting it right” understand the importance of effective retail visual merchandising displays. These are the oft-admired businesses that attract attention by partnering with merchandisers, designers and artists to conceptualize immaculate displays that garner attention – even from far away. Think of it this way: with a penchant for specific brands, and if given the option, most consumers would typically choose to work remotely from their local Starbucks location, versus setting-up shop inside a Dunkin’ Donuts. Why, you ask? Well, it’s a fairly simple concept when you think about it. Starbucks stores have a connotation with the promotion of calm productivity; from the artwork hanging above the tables, to the light strumming of latte-friendly background music, the coffee retailer upholds its vision through and through. In contrast, the “America runs on Dunkin’” brand, (while also incredibly strong), caters to the on-the-go coffee drinker, and it’s fairly apparent in the brand’s visual merchandising, as well. Although these two companies center a majority of their promotional efforts around coffee shop marketing, and despite having a hugely similar product, the associated consumer messaging is starkly different for each brand. As a result, both have proven, successful approaches – appealing to their respective target consumer for pretty obvious reasons: speed and convenience, or relaxation and comfort.
That certainly doesn’t dilute the value of a caramel-drizzled cup o’ joe, now, does it?

So, what’s the “secret ingredient” to retail visual merchandising success? While there really is no secret formula to ensure that a brand’s message will effectively resonate with the wallet-toting, Frappucino®-loving consumer, one of the most critical – and often most powerful – elements when delivering messages via in-store channels is to ensure that displays contain two critical elements. They must be both aspirational, while also maintaining a company’s ability to deliver on its brand promise. In other words, the customer must feel as though the brand’s commitment is being fulfilled – be it a steadfast promise to adhere to service quality standards, the caliber of the ambiance of a store’s location, or to product innovation. When she purchases from your company, she must feel as though your retail strategy falls closely in line with the overarching brand strategy. Interestingly, this is why companies like Hollister go for the “California cool” approach by enlisting the use of surfboard displays and Yellowcard on their music playlist. On the flip side, and completely on-brand, the backlit displays in Chanel stores elicit a certain degree of elegance and posh. Ideally, these messages will subliminally permeate throughout the brand’s media mix, initiating a comprehensive customer experience that begins with the consumer’s initial impression, and maintains the same – or heightened – levels of engagement throughout the customer journey, and the comprehensive sales funnel.

At BIGEYE, one of the greatest cross-industry challenges we see companies encounter is in crafting enticing, attractive, and compelling retail visual merchandising displays. While some brands have been known to pay lip service to the perceived potential impact that robust merchandising has on a customer’s decision to purchase, we know all-too-well that conceptualizing designs without actually taking the necessary steps to execute them properly is a futile effort. Here’s the proof in your perfectly prepared Peppermint Mocha: psychology studies have shown that impulse buying ultimately comes down to seeing a given product. Companies may actually be able to coax customers into making certain product purchase decisions based upon product displays, assembled in a manner that elicits a “can’t pass by without directing at least some degree of focus on a product” mindset. Remember the time you purchased that candy bar you didn’t need while waiting in the Trader Joe’s checkout line? How about picking up yet another coffee tumbler from the aforementioned Starbucks location you frequent? Well, you can thank science for that! In fact, Lars Perner, Ph. D and Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing at the University of California Riverside’s Marshall School of Business, believes that the more visible the product is, the more likely it is that people will, indeed, purchase it. This, of course, is all provided that the consumer is aware of the product, and its intended purpose. (Sadly, I’m all too familiar with the consequences of that pesky candy bar on a girl’s waistline, and yet, I’ll purchase it anyway. Sigh.)

[quote]Through extensive market research, we’ve seen the proven impact that the effective arrangement of a display has on consumer behavior, with the primary approach always focused around the development of a poignant theme. [/quote] Developing a dynamic proposition opens up the doors to possibility in terms of visual storytelling. Too many times, we see brands crafting displays in an effort to find as many common connections as possible, all the while, thinking this will result in an increase in product sales. Ironically, too much clutter or disorganization within the theme can cause confusion, and may actually dissuade potential customers from entering a store. Maintaining this focus on the central theme is crucial when constructing a display’s design.

In New York, where companies spend millions of dollars on interactive retail visual merchandising displays during the holidays, shoppers line the streets of Fifth Avenue specifically to see the winter window displays. Light shows, music, and interactive yuletide imagery entices chilly (albeit exuberant) shoppers to enter these stores to engage with the brand – and hopefully, to spend large sums of money as they purchase gifts for friends and family. These companies have deduced that they have the distinct opportunity to sell more product, simply by showcasing items in a big and bold manner, as opposed to blending into the visual scene scape. It’s driven by an individual’s inherent attraction to this novelty, as people are impressed and excited by things they haven’t seen or experienced before.

Color also has significant visual impact on purchasing behavior, so we mustn’t forget that fact. It might seem silly, however using starkly contrasting colors does, in fact, cause an instinctive reaction – likened to the primal sense of emotional arousal that our ancestors would have experienced when seeing a tiger – can you believe that one? Attribute this with the notion that certain colors also have the potential to trigger various conscious and unconscious emotional states, and designers can actually create color combinations that will attract and divert attention to these products. For instance, red is the most commonly used color in restaurant visual marketing, as it stimulates excitement and even appetite; the second is yellow, which invokes feeling of joy and optimism (are you craving a Big Mac right now, too?) But if the brand promotes health-consciousness and well being, most often the color of choice is green—think Whole Foods and, (dare I mention them again), Starbucks. The influence that color has is much stronger than most of us consciously realize; and by selecting the perfect color combination, your brand can have a very persuasive impact – likely without the consumer having any awareness.

So, when you’re considering strategies that may really make a substantive difference between a second-rate display and a insanely powerful one, hopefully, you’ve now sufficiently consumed a little retail merchandising food for thought. We’ve uncovered some pretty powerful analytics regarding trends and concepts that make in-store shopping so appealing, and if you’d like to learn how to increase your business’ revenue, paired with a positive impact on purchasing decisions based upon best practices for visual merchandising in retail, contact the BIGEYE team today to get started!

Does the Need Still Exist for Brick-and-Mortar Banks?

Living in a digital age, we are privy to the technological shifts that are occurring on an everyday basis. Almost everything we do requires some assistance from high-powered technology, including handling our finances. The days of the brick-and-mortar bank location seem to be numbered, with many banking locations shutting down in favor of investing more resources to reach people digitally.

From a financial perspective, it makes sense. After all, it’s far more efficient to have your clientele handle all their banking needs online, eliminating the need for tellers and associates who are expensive to hire and retain. And, it’s much more convenient for your customer to obtain all of the services she needs through a few swipes on a smartphone app, rather than having to visit a bank each time she wants to know her account balance. With these factors in mind, the shift toward digital is a win-win for both banks and their customers.

It’s impossible to say whether digitization will ever eliminate the need for brick-and-mortar banks completely, but there are some financial services institutions “banking” on this trend. There are dozens of online-only banks, which operate entirely in the digital realm. Many of them offer exactly the same features as traditional brick-and-mortar banks, with the only exception being that there’s no physical location to visit to obtain information and make deposits.

For instance, Ally boasts that it too, has no brick-and-mortar locations, which means less bank overhead and fewer staff to pay – and even going so far as to pay customers’ ATM fees to remain competitive. Moven also embraces the idea of online-only banking, but supplements it with budgeting tools similar to those that Mint offers. And, according to The Business Journals, BankMobile aspires to become a mobile-only bank, allowing users to do anything via their smartphone device that they could do in person, including applying for a loan or mortgage.

It’s no surprise that banks are embracing this technology, given a recent Pew Internet report that says [quote]51% of all American adults bank online[/quote] 51% of all American adults bank online. And, according to the same article, 32% of all U.S. adults (or 35% of all cell phone owners) bank using their mobile phones. As smartphone use becomes even more widespread, it’s likely that this number will continue to increase, especially as long as banks continue to make an effort to phase out dated technologies.

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Need help digitizing your business? Let BIGEYE create and monitor your website and mobile apps. Contact us today, and we will share our recommendations to set up your business for success!

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So, what’s the takeaway from all of this? Banks need careful monitoring their customers’ digital activities so that they do not fall behind the times in terms of service offerings. A bank that’s just now launching a responsive website, an easy-to-use app for both iOS and Andriod, and a mobile check deposit feature is simply playing catch-up, which becomes a real weakness on the competitive landscape. Also, bank marketers who don’t seriously consider that the future of banking will likely require a mobile-first strategy and the potential eradication of physical credit cards and debit cards need to understand how rapidly technology is changing the way we do our banking.

Using this information, banks can work with their development teams to introduce technical strategies to be better equipped to customers’ needs, both online and offline. Doing so may also result in identifying supplementary marketing strategies to specifically target customers on their phones and computers, or that introduce user-friendly budgeting tools to effectively reach their clients, thus increasing the number of consumer touch points.

If you have more questions as to how to best create and develop a digital strategy for your bank or financial services business, contact the team at our Orlando marketing agency to schedule a consultation.