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!

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