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The Role of Visual
Merchandising in
the Customer

Blog Post

In retail, it’s all about discovery, comparison and acquisition

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Jenna Worrell 2019

Jenna Worrell
Director of Marketing

First let’s address the elephant in the room: Internet shopping hasn’t killed retail store sales. Consumers continue to make purchases via both channels. Online shopping makes it easier to compare products and pricing, which may lead to more bargain hunting. With the in-store experience, retailers have the opportunity to engage all of the senses and make an emotional connection. How? Through visual merchandising, which has been called the silent salesperson.

The retail customer journey

The journey starts by attracting attention with a visually interesting window display. Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, believes great merchandising is one of the most impactful ways you have to influence a brick-and-mortar shopper and get them to pause and consider. He details the elements as:

  • curated product
  • featured spot
  • well-lit display
  • props of appropriate size
  • limited color palette

It’s all about discovery and drawing potential shoppers inside where retailers can then continue the journey through the physical store and engage customers with product displays, signage, personal interaction and more. As Sharon Lessard, Senior Director of Global Store Development at Under Armour, said in a LinkedIn article, “Successful visual merchandising attracts, engages, and motivates the customer to make a purchase.” She goes on to explain the key elements that should be considered:

  • Customer journey map: Express how the brand should be experienced from windows to checkout, setting the stage for all other customer impact elements.
  • Floor map: Create a merchandise hierarchy and zoning for merchandise placement.
  • Window displays: Communicate current styles, content and price messaging to entice customers into the store.
  • Feature presentations and walls: Engage customers as they enter the store, departments or transition spaces through use of vignettes of mannequins, forms, furniture, fixtures and visual communications, such as digital content and photography.
  • Tables, vitrines, hanging floor and wall fixtures: Present merchandising to create a customer experience with interest, density and display.
  • Fitting rooms (if applicable): Generate discovery and engagement through human connection, something not available with online shopping.
  • Checkout experience: Maximize this sometimes overlooked visual merchandising tool, the last touch before the customer leaves the store.

Showcase your brand

Visual merchandising also plays a role in the look, feel and culture of your brand, as noted in this article by Ruth Altman in Chron.com. Altman says, “(Visual merchandising) can create awareness while simultaneously increasing brand loyalty. Most importantly, it can draw customers in and close the sale — all based on the aesthetic quality of your retail display.” She believes when a brand is successfully showcased, it enriches the customer experience, leading to a positive shopping experience and increased sales.

Remember to be consistent with your branding throughout all of your marketing materials. This means conveying your brand’s voice, look and feel consistently across all platforms from window and in-store displays to signage and advertising. This builds customer awareness and brand loyalty, strengthening the emotional connection customer have with your brand.

This content also appears on Curtis1000.com

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6 thoughts on “The Role of Visual Merchandising in the Customer Journey”

  1. I’m a serial ASOS shopper but I love a day out shopping too! it’s a totally different experience, going out shopping you make a day of it, invite your friends and spend time looking at and feeling the products. Online is about fast convenience and the excitement of awaiting a package delivery. That said, exciting window displays have frequently caught my attention and had me entering the store when I otherwise wouldn’t. Not only that, but look at supermarkets, as you mentioned the right floor plan is extremely important if you’re trying to direct your customers towards certain products/promotions. It drives me crazy when I visit my local supermarket only to find they have rearranged everything but it works! I always pop in a few new items that I have passed by just to ‘try’. Is it just me that’s a shopaholic, or is there really something to this visual merchandising thing? I certainly think so!

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