How to Engage All Five Senses with Visual Merchandising

For the past several years, there has been a drastic decline in physical, in-store retail shopping due to the rising popularity of e-commerce. As a result, traditional retailers are trying to find new ways to create a shopping experience that keeps customers coming in-person to stores.

Visual merchandising is a great way for retailers to create a great shopping experience while also encouraging customers to make a purchase. This tactic has been proven to attract, motivate and engage the customer during the decision-making process. One of the best ways to create a successful visual merchandising strategy is by engaging all five of your customer’s senses.

It can take a lot of time and creativity to find a way to engage all five senses with your visual merchandising techniques. However, decades of retail experience has shown the payoff is well worth it. Keep reading to uncover some simple ways to integrate a five senses focused approach into your visual merchandising strategy.



Research has shown that customers are far more likely to purchase an item if they can touch, feel or try it on. Customers want to get the full experience with an item they intend to purchase before buying it, especially if it is something like clothing, where the material of the item highly affects the final purchase decision.

One way to engage customers’ sense of touch is by making your products easy to access. It is important that your items are accessible to guests if you want them to be able to use this sense, so avoid any tall shelves or intricate displays that will make shoppers hesitant to touch or move items. Simple merchandising elements, such as dump bins, provide the easiest access to products, so customers can reach and in touch things as they wish.



Sight provides the first impression of your store. Your storefront gives shoppers an immediate perception and is essentially the deciding factor for them choosing to enter or pass by. As a general rule of thumb, it is critical to ensure your storefront aligns with your audience. So, if your store is geared towards an older audience, it is best to present a clean color palette and merchandizing displays that highlight your products. On the other hand, if your store is geared towards a younger audience, use bright colors or patterns that are more likely to catch the eye.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Lighting is also a big part of engaging sight when it comes to visual merchandising. Lighting can make or break a store and the mood it sets. Think of stores like Hollister or Abercrombie, which feature very dim lighting that works for their target audience, which is late-teens to early twenties. Typically dim lighting is frowned upon because it makes it harder to shop, but in this case, the moody lighting works for these targets. This further stresses the importance of knowing your audience and adjusting your visual merchandising strategy to their particular preferences.



Sound is what creates the overall atmosphere for your store. The music you have playing sets the stage for the mood customers will be in while browsing your store. It is recommended to play some sort of music, no matter what kind of store you own, as it has been proven to heighten the shopping experience in all sectors. It is also best to keep your music at a moderate level to ensure you don’t overwhelm or annoy guests.

Failing to play music in your store is missing out on a key opportunity to keep your customers engaged. Studies have shown that moderate-level, appropriate music encourages customers to spend longer in your store. It keeps them entertained and in an enjoyable mood, which often leads to them spending more in your store.



This sense may be harder to hit in some industries where food isn’t as heavily involved. If your business falls within the food and beverage industry, samples are an excellent way to get customers interested in your business. Samples attract customer attention and help them consider products they may have been previously unfamiliar with.

Just because your company may not be food and beverage focused does not mean you can’t incorporate food or beverage samples into your visual merchandising strategy. During the holiday season, when retail stores are typically more frequently visited, consider adding samples of something small, like chocolates to the entryway of your store. This will make you stand out from other stores and encourage customers to stop in and browse.



Smell is the most powerful of all five senses. It evokes a response that is unlike any of the other senses, making it a powerful tool to use in visual merchandising. In fact, a study done by Nike found that scent marketing in retail stores “increased intent to purchase” by 80%. Many car dealerships actually spray “new car” sprays into vehicles to encourage customers to purchase the vehicle, and the truth is it works—smell is a very powerful sense that can have an overwhelming and subconscious persuasive effect on buyers.

Seasonal smells are also a great way to evoke emotion in your customers. Consider adding warmer scents around the holidays, such as vanilla or pine, as these scents remind customers of the joyful holiday season. When the summer months come around, consider adding fruity scents to match the season. It’s important that you make sure your smells are expected and resonate with the time of year, otherwise, they can be off-putting to your shoppers.


Final Takeaways

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you must create an experience that aligns with your intended audience if you want your efforts to be effective and relevant. Adjust your store to match the preferences of your target audience and you’re sure to end up with engaged patrons who convert time and time again.

repsly in-store execution

Ray Ko (Guest Contributor)

Ray Ko is the Senior Ecommerce Manager at ShopPOPDisplays. With years of experience in the retail space, Ray is an expert in formulating and implementing e-commerce strategies to increase revenue.

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