90% of information sent to the brain is visual. This means that when it comes to selling at retail, the way you present your product will notably influence buyer decision making. So how do you make sure that every time a shopper passes through your aisle, they reach for your product instead of your competitor’s? The answer is visual merchandising.
Visual merchandising is the retail practice of designing in-store displays that will catch the shopper’s eye and increase sales. A good visual merchandising strategy involves multiple different components. In this blog post, we will go through everything you need to know about visual merchandising: what it is, who does it, tips, techniques, and examples. To jump to any part of the guide, use the table of contents!
- What is Visual Merchandising?
- Who Does Visual Merchandising?
- Collecting and Analyzing Merchandising Data
- Visual Merchandising Techniques of 2019
- Visual Merchandising Dos and Don'ts
- Visual Merchandising Examples
What is Visual Merchandising?
Visual merchandising is the retail practice of designing and executing in-store displays in order to engage shoppers and increase sales.
Visual merchandising takes into account how your products come across to consumers as they interact with them in a retail setting, and applies certain techniques to make those interactions as impactful as possible. When it comes to in-store merchandising, organizing products, analyzing merchandising data, and executing promotional displays are just a few tasks merchandisers carry out.
Example of Lush Cosmetics' unique in-store merchandising
Who Does Visual Merchandising?
Any brand selling a product at retail carries out visual merchandising campaigns. In addition to brands that carry out their own merchandising activities, many retailers also engage in merchandising, as they have the insight into the inner workings of their own store and are well-versed on what works and what doesn’t for their customers. Brands use visual merchandising across many retail categories, such as apparel merchandising, grocery merchandising, and beer or wine merchandising.
Visual Merchandiser Job Description
Visual merchandising jobs are plentiful as a visual merchandiser has an extremely important role to play. The in-store decisions they make have a direct effect on sales, so visual merchandisers should be well organized, creative, and have an eye for detail. They monitor product appearance on the shelf in various stores throughout their designated territory. By working closely with suppliers, retailers, and manufacturers, they make certain that the placement and promotion of specific products will have a measurable impact on sales.
Some responsibilities included in a typical visual merchandiser job description include:
- Collaborating with suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers to ensure proper execution of merchandising plans
- Ensuring retailer compliance with merchandising strategies
- Creating and organizing in-store promotions and advertising campaigns
- Maintaining inventory of products
- Gathering information on market trends and customers’ reactions to products
- Analyzing sales data — reporting growth, expansion, and change in markets
Collecting and Analyzing Merchandising Data
As mentioned, a visual merchandiser has the responsibility of collecting and analyzing retail data. While merchandisers should have a good understanding of all three types of retail execution data (Activity Data, Sales Data, and Observational Data), merchandising data most often falls under Observational Data: Store-level data that merchandising teams observe and record about their product in retail locations, such as the condition of displays or position on the shelf.
The point of collecting this data is so that you can plug it into a cycle of continuous improvement that takes into account a wide range of factors. You can then derive insights from this data to inform future merchandising strategies.
An example of this would be observing a difference in sales between a retailer where you occupy a bottom shelf vs. a retailer where you occupy an eye-level shelf. While common sense tells us that eye-level shelves equal more sales, you may find after analyzing the data that the increase in sales is pretty small compared to investing in POP displays within the store. Thus, paying close attention to merchandising data helps you make better-informed decisions in the future.
Visual Merchandising Techniques of 2019
Now that we have a grasp on the basics of visual merchandising, we can get into some of the tips and tricks of the trade. There are several visual merchandising tactics that brands can use to drive shoppers to purchase. Below, we’ve gathered some of the top visual merchandising trends for 2019 to give you some ideas of what consumers are looking for from a brand.
Utilizing interactive displays is a fantastic way to engage customers who otherwise may just pass by your product. Interactive displays can incorporate high or low tech experiences; Some brands may have the budget to include a screen with a standalone display that shoppers can play brand-based games on or explore a company’s story.
If this isn’t feasible for your business, fret not -- there are plenty of interactive experiences you can design that won’t break the bank. Consider creating a 3D display with a pair of glasses tethered to the shelf to be reused. Or, set up a “Wheel of Fortune” game with your display that customers can win discounts with.
There is no shortage of amazing artists out there ready to collaborate with businesses on creative advertising campaigns. By incorporating art into your visual displays, you’ll draw in customers by standing out in the crowd. Different ways of doing this include integrating art into your product packaging, organizing products in a unique way, or designing exclusive posters and signage. Not only will shoppers be impressed by the creativity of your brand — the visuals will also stick with them far beyond the conclusion of their shopping trip.
This Coca-Cola display is sure to draw attention
Scoring a window display is a real advantage for brands. The window display is the first impression shoppers have — both of the retailer and of your product — when walking into or past the store. They also provide an opportunity to promote any special sales or offers on your product. Get creative with window displays and attract the customers' attention with more than just a presentation of your product. Important aspects of a window display encompass creating a pleasant ambience through lighting and color schemes, including signage, and a design that supports your product narrative.
Cross merchandising is a strategy that boosts sales by placing complementary items alongside one another in stores. There are many classic cross merchandising examples, such as putting ketchup and mustard next to hamburger buns, placing dog food next to food dishes, and setting Halloween candy next to trick-or-treating buckets. For some brands, there is an opportunity for cross merchandising within their own product portfolio. For companies without this advantage, working with other brands can be a great option. Talk to other brands and store managers and introduce the idea of collaborating on a cross merchandising display.
POP displays — which stands for “point of purchase” — capitalize on the impulses of shoppers to maximize sales. Point of purchase is defined as “the location or medium at which a product is purchased by an end-user.” A common misconception is that point of purchase refers only to space within the store where the transfer of money for the goods occurs, such as the register. Point of purchase can be broader than this and actually accounts for the entire store. Some common POP displays include shelf talkers, dump bins, and free standing displays. These 30 different POP display examples are sure to provide some inspiration when planning your next merchandising display investment.
Rule of Three
Three is the magic number when grouping products in a display. Not only does it catch the customer’s attention, but it also helps cement the product display in the customer’s mind. This is why many visual merchandising experts follow and preach the “Rule of Three.” If grouping by height, have short, medium, and tall. If by width, narrow, medium, and wide. If you truly want to capture the attention of price-conscious customers, arrange items in order from good, better, and best value to the customer.
An example of multiple visual merchandising techniques
Visual Merchandising Dos and Don’ts
While memorable visual merchandising is the goal of your merchandising strategy, you want customers to remember your brand for all of the right reasons. Keeping in mind the techniques listed out above, it is important during execution that your team isn’t going overboard or putting too much emphasis on the wrong components of a retail display. Here are a few dos and don’ts for balanced merchandising:
- Do make constant check-ins to your displays after they are established. A merchandiser’s job does not end at simply putting the products where they need to be; it extends far beyond the initial set up. Periodic check-ins will help ensure retailer compliance.
- Don’t go overboard on visuals. While you certainly want to captivate the attention of your audience, you don’t want them to be overwhelmed by your displays. Tying in too many colors or elements to a visual display can distract customers from the actual product and miss the point of your merchandising efforts.
- Do test before you invest. When it comes to creating novel merchandising, there is a lot of time and money that goes into any campaign. Before making the jump into something that may not provide the ROI you expect, start small by testing a display in one or two locations before deciding to spread it into all of your stores.
- Don’t give shoppers information overload. If you include words on your displays or signage, try to use minimalist messaging by only addressing the most important things you want to get across to the consumer. Chances are, you’ll have a lot of shoppers that only momentarily glance at the text as they walk by, so having too much of it can create missed opportunities for engagement.
Visual Merchandising Examples
When devising your next visual merchandising campaign, it can be difficult to come up with a winning retail display idea off the top of your head. We’ve collected some of the most inventive and well-executed visual merchandising examples for you to get some inspiration.
Creative Window Display
This creative Valentine’s Day window display showcases various apparel items in a way that subliminally markets to passersby.
Here we see a fantastic cross merchandising display. Pairing the cookbooks with ingredients on the shelf is a power move, and the shelf as a whole boasts products any home chef would be tempted to purchase together.
This simple yet sleek display by Absolut Vodka is a great example of minimalism. While the display is certainly eye-catching, its limited color scheme and symmetrical design don’t overwhelm the customer.
Here we see a POP display that gets the point across about the product without giving the shopper information overload. Soya focused on a couple of their products' benefits that they know customers appreciate and simplified their messaging to get that point across.
Rule of Three
The tried and true merchandising technique of the “Rule of Three.” Grouping these three products together is aesthetically pleasing and provides the potential for making multiple sales on products a shopper would consider buying together.
For brands with a high enough budget, interactive tech displays can provide a major sales lift. This 7” Shelf Edge Video Blade is a great example and definitely draws the shoppers’ attention to this section of the shelf.
With all of the information provided above, it might be a little difficult to extract the key points that will benefit your business. To help you organize your thoughts, here are some key takeaways from this visual merchandising guide:
- Your visual merchandising strategy has a significant influence on consumer decisions.
- Visual merchandisers have a responsibility to ensure retailer compliance and successful retail execution.
- There are many different visual merchandising display techniques to choose from, so the decision of which ones your brand will use needs to be informed by market research.
- Simply setting up a display and expecting it to be a success isn’t sufficient; Visual merchandisers need to continuously monitor and maintain their displays in-store.
- Collecting and analyzing visual merchandising data allows your team to discover insights that will refine your visual merchandising strategy.
Now it's time to learn how to incorporate this knowledge into a higher level retail execution strategy. This retail execution webinar provides a detailed explanation of retail execution best practices, the three types of retail execution data, and how all of this fits into a cycle of continuous improvement when strategizing with your team.
Melissa is a Content Marketing Intern at Repsly, Inc. and is currently studying International Affairs, Environmental Studies, and Law at Northeastern University. She loves the opportunity Repsly provides her to help some of her favorite brands grow by creating quality content. Outside of work, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, making music, and anything dog-related. She has traveled to multiple countries in Latin America to work on reforestation and agriculture projects, and uses her marketing and advocacy skills to try to make the world a better place.