Spanning two areas of customer experience, visual merchandising is both about turning over product and also impacts how shoppers interpret your setting. Merchandising and staging product with strategy and purpose will elevate your retail space, perceived brand, and ROI.
Having a strategy for how you feature or organize your products will not only impact your customers’ journey, it is also key in guiding your associates to create an environment cohesive with your organization’s values and goals.
As we remodel retail spaces across the country, visual merchandising is always a part of our conversations with owners and operators. We encourage thoughtful visual product placement on the sales floor because it directly correlates to the success of any investment in retail decor and design. Here are eight tried and true visual merchandising strategies that will make an immediate difference in your space, complement any signage or decor, and are proven to increase sales.
Sales to the Power of 8
Stage multiple products together to build a “scene” or “story” that your customers can relate to or connect with. What about pairing ingredients that make it easy for your customers to quickly gather what they need for a meal or recipe? Grocers are good at using this strategy around major holidays. At Thanksgiving, there are always displays featuring French onions, green beans, and cream of mushroom for that traditional green bean casserole. Why not consider what shoppers would be looking for throughout the year? This is also a good way to highlight sale items and pair them with partner products at regular prices.
Rotate your displays and featured products weekly. Customers want fresh finds when they visit your store. Your loyal customer base expects to know where to find their go-to staples, but at the same time appreciates novelty and your investment in highlighting something new! Debra Templar, a retail consultant, keynote speaker, and founder of the Templar Group in Australia says, “a good display is new, exciting and memorable – and gone before it becomes too familiar, musty, dusty and part of the landscape.”
Feature projects that are not staples. Many customers are excited to try new things, yet most won’t spend extra time browsing your aisles for products that are unfamiliar. Unless they need a special ingredient for a new recipe, your customers will probably be shopping in “task” mode. Your displays should cause shoppers to pause and take a chance on something novel - not because they need it, but because they desire it. Tap into the power of an impulse or emotional connection.
This principle is foundational to all design, and visual merchandising is no exception. You are able to influence your customers’ visual movement through your space by strategically positioning product using some basic compositional rules:
- Identify what is being placed at eye-level for your different demographics. Kids are more likely to spot something placed lower on a shelf, whereas an adult would see an item higher on the shelf.
- Most people scan left to right - just like we are taught to read. If you want to tell a story through your product placement, start left and move right, then drop down in a “Z” pattern to the next shelf.
- Hierarchy is another key ingredient to purposeful placement. Think of a pyramid when organizing featured products. The top of the “pyramid” should be the focal point and where your primary product needs to be. Then, place additional items below it - encouraging the eye to work its way down to find the base.
- Don’t forget the infamous “rule of thirds.” Our eyes naturally look for symmetry and balance. If that is disrupted, it draws more of our attention. When you group items in three’s, eyes linger and individual products are given more attention.
Similar to composition, and borrowing from some of the same design principles, color can play a major role in drawing attention to specific products. Using stark contrasts in color and value, such as black and white or lights and dark’s, creates eye-catching displays and holds more focus. Use a color wheel to determine what colors to group together for pleasing combinations. For example, orange and blue are across from one another on the wheel, making them “complimentary.” Colors immediately next to each other on the wheel are considered “analogous” and work well together. Have fun with color; it makes all the difference!
6| Customer Journey
Whichever direction your primary departments or staging areas are from your store entrance, make sure to clear a path that is easy to navigate to direct your shoppers that way. Consider how you might lead them through the rest of your space. Place featured items and new displays along this “route” so your customers can’t miss them. Look at your stores “heat” map and use the hot zones to grab their attention towards something specific. Use the previous strategies of composition and color to grab their attention.
7| Show, Don’t Tell
Samples are a tried and true way for grocers to show their customers what a product tastes like, how to cook a product, what pairs well with a product, etc. With recent health concerns and tightened regulations, retailers everywhere are having to get creative with how they safely provide samples to shoppers. Position a service team member where you are offering samples to oversee the station and sanitation. They should be knowledgeable about the product and ready to answer questions. Keep the samples fresh and the table clean. We can all remember a time when we made a purchase solely because we got to try it first. It works!
8| Communicate Cost
For most products, it’s not fair to make your customer guess at your price, or have to ask. This can be a turn-off and a good way to lose an impulse buyer. The price should be visible and easy to read. If the item is part of a sale, make sure the tag is easy to identify and contrasts with your normal pricers. There are numerous ways to visually merchandise and increase sales while elevating your customers’ experiences. Get your associates involved! Challenge your team members to innovate within their departments and try new ways of staging products. Make sure they have a strategy to back their solutions and expect them to track changes in customer behavior to validate their decisions. By making associates a part of your staging process, they will be empowered to problem-solve and will appreciate ownership over the successes.