The common perception is that visual merchandising (VM) is about making your products and your store look nice, but I assure you that there is a lot more to it than this. It is healthy to view your VM as a hub that links directly to all your other main business departments. These usually include Stock Control, Marketing, Customer Service, Human Resources & Professional Development, Housekeeping and of course Sales. Understanding the connection between VM and other functions within your business opens new levels of creativity for you while making it easier to justify further resources on your VM and in-store animation.
VM is also a key way to pull customers over the threshold into your store and assist you in delivering a high level of customer service, resulting in increased sales. Here are my top five tips to bring this to fruition:
Visualise your store as you walk in the main entrance, and ask yourself - what is the first thing that your eyes are drawn to? In retail, we want the first focus of attention to be the promotional product or range of the week, month, or season. It is critical that retailers have an engaging promotional display front-and-centre as shoppers enter the space. This not only creates interest for the consumer to stop walking and turn into your store, but it also excites the shopper - no matter if they are new to the store or a returning customer. The golden rules are to use a New Product, a Seasonal Product, a Topical Product, or a Hero Product from your range. This promotional product should also link to the display in your window. Additionally, make sure your store remains fresh and up-beat by changing this display regularly.
There are Hot and Cold Zones in our stores, with a Hot Zone representing an area of high foot traffic. You may know why people gravitate to this area, or it may be a mystery. Either way, be sure to recognise your Hot Zone, and the shelving units within this zone. This zone is generally the first-place shoppers will look and want to browse after they have enjoyed your promotional display at the entrance of your store. You may designate a shelf at eye level, or an entire bay as your Prime Shelf Real Estate. Whatever amount of space you choose, be sure to fill it with product that matches your promotional display mentioned above. The key to this is to make it clear that people can shop from this area. I say this as a promotional display can often be left untouched by shoppers as they do not feel that they are allowed to shop from this area. By using the sequence of your window display, that matches your promotional display, that matches your Shelf Prime Real Estate - we have now built a slick easy to use path-to-purchase.
The way that we communicate individualised pricing is a critical part of VM. Pricing needs to be visually aligned with branding, scaled appropriately to products, and be easy and clear to understand. Depending on your type of retail you may use hanging tags, pricing stickers, branded labels, or shelf talkers. Whatever pricing display you choose, be sure to pay close attention to detail. Make sure pricing labels are consistent throughout the store to make pricing easy to find and read. Let’s face it, the first question most consumers have is “how much is it?”
Premium Retail will usually not display prices and certain retailers will have a different pricing convention (i.e. on lists or in menus), but no matter what pricing is relevant for your business, be sure that it is brand aligned and that it is correct! There is nothing worse than getting pricing wrong and costing your business money, credibility and resulting in a negative customer experience.
In large discount retailers and supermarkets, you will see products jammed in and stacked as high as possible. This signals to the consumer that the products are of a low value. In a majority of retail environments, we want to increase the value proposition of our products using VM. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use Negative Space. Negative Space is the use of gaps, or space between products. This is a clever technique that draws a shopper’s eyes to the individual products allowing the shopper to browse at ease while creating more interest in the shoppers’ mind. Negative Space also signals to the consumer that the products are important enough to command such a generous use of space. This is where the perceived value of a product is enhanced. This layout technique will enhance your overall branding, and will be noticeable from the exterior of the store as consumers look in through the entrance. It can also be used in window displays.
This is my favourite as it is vitally important. No matter how much a consumer is paying for an individual product, if it’s not clean then it’s not attractive to buy. The retail environment out there is ultra-competitive, so if a store is not clean and tidy, then the consumer will simply go somewhere else. Cleanliness underpins all of your VM. You may have the latest technology, the biggest screens, the flashiest lights, or the most on-trend animation, but if your window and shelves are dusty, sticky, grimy or dirty in anyway, then your whole VM is undermined. My golden rules are that we clean at the beginning and end of every day, and then throughout the day constantly. Other than education and product knowledge, re-stocking the shelves and cleaning is the number one task that we all need to commit to when we have down time in-store. It is critical that everyone in the store team is contributing to this too, and that there are no exemptions. It is a team game with sales to be lost if someone is excusing themselves from cleaning. Keeping your store and products clean can be made harder if your store has an Open-Door Policy (ie. Your front doors are left wide open during trading hours). This is always a great best practice as it invites customers into your space (take that as an extra free tip!) but it will encourage dust to accumulate quicker so be aware of this in regard to directing your team to clean.
Paul Farina is a trainer for ARA Retail Institute and runs Fresh Eyes Solutions as a leading retail business coach. To challenge, motivate and innovate your business visit www.fresheyesolutions.com or contact Paul on 03 9972 5287.