The science of retail visual merchandising and consumer behavior

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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.

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.
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!

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