What Is Retail Visual Merchandising?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 28, 2022

Published April 13, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Retail visual merchandising is how retail stores show their products to customers in certain contexts that make the items seem more interesting. Once a shopper is interested in an item, they're more likely to make a purchase and tell their friends. In this article, we define retail visual merchandising and examine why a retail business should choose it, how to use it and tips for making it work for you.

What is retail visual merchandising?

Retail visual merchandising is a marketing practice that uses aspects of visual design to engage customers and increase sales. Visual merchandisers use the store floor plan to their advantage to create product displays and sections that use different colors, lighting and signage to attract attention. This marketing practice requires creativity and an understanding of the target audience to improve a company's sales successfully.

Related: Visual Merchandiser Cover Letter Sample

Why choose retail visual merchandising?

There are many benefits to choosing retail visual merchandising to market your products. For instance, there's a lot of flexibility in how you can present your products. You can reflect your brand style with creative displays that target your audience and make them feel welcome. You also get to create the context in which shoppers see your products. If you use a display to present your items as stylish and popular, then customers may accept them as that, which can lead to new retail trends, increase sales and spread good word-of-mouth.

How to use retail visual merchandising

Your retail visual merchandising style will be unique to your store and products, but there are some basic ways to approach it. Consider following these steps to create the most riveting visual experience for your store:

1. Put your prime goods up front

The key to successful retail visual merchandising is in the merchandise's placement. Some areas of a store get more traffic than others, like the space right by the entrance or cash registers, which means more customers may see the products in those spaces. Try to keep prime goods, like new or limited-edition items, where customers can easily find them to generate the most sales.

2. Create a story

Make your visual merchandising more appealing by creating a story for the products and layout. You can create a visual story in different ways depending on your products, but you can typically include characters, like mannequins or pictures of people, and signs. An example of visual storytelling would be if you dressed a few different-sized mannequins in matching outfits. Customers would then read that display as a family going somewhere together. This story makes the products seem dynamic and engaging.

3. Make it easy for customers to peruse

Many customers like to find their own way around a store, and the layout of the merchandise can make a great impact on their ability to do so. When designing visual merchandising, think about the flow of the products and how your displays could lead customers around the store. This is another good time to use signs to designate where products are in the aisles and what kinds of sales or discounts you are offering. Consider how easily customers can touch the products or read information on tags or packaging.

4. Use color

Color is one of the most important aspect to consider when using retail visual merchandising. The color of displays and items is one of the first things customers notice and helps them choose products, especially those like clothing and accessories. Pick colors that go well together to attract customers to your displays, but also try design techniques like contrasting colors and negative space to distinguish your most important displays from the rest of the store.

5. Section products and cross-sell

Sectioning your products based on function and price is fundamental to good retail visual merchandising, but you can still be flexible with product placement. While sections help guide customers to the products they want, putting related items near one another gives you an opportunity to cross-sell. For example, if you have a display of swimsuits, you might put a small display of sunscreen nearby because you can assume customers who swim will be out in the sun.

Related: Cross-Selling: What It Is, How It Works and Examples

Tips for using retail visual merchandising

Like most marketing techniques, retail visual merchandising takes practice and creativity to generate sales for your store. To help you get started, here are some tips you can try when creating a visual merchandising experience for your products:

Understand product and brand

Each retail brand has a unique style that interests their target audience. The best way to deliver impactful retail visual merchandising is by understanding what makes your style appealing to customers. Analyze your brand and products and determine why they would attract customers. If you sell all-natural cleaning products, for example, you may market the safety and efficiency of your items to parents concerned about chemicals. Brainstorm what your brand and product can give to people and use those ideas in your visual merchandising.

Related: What Is Brand Identity and How To Build Your Brand

Communicate with your team

Ask for guidance from your retail team to gain new visual merchandising ideas from different perspectives. Engage in meetings and ask questions to the marketing professionals and sales representatives so you can get the best idea of what customers want. When you design a display or section products, ask your coworkers whether they can move easily through the layout. It's likely that any issues your teammates have could also affect customers.

Related: Sales and Merchandise: How Are They Related?

Put out plenty of merchandise

It's a good idea to stock up the store with lots of merchandise, even if they all aren't part of your display. Remember to fill out the spaces you're displaying as well as keeping shelves and clothing racks neatly stocked. Customers like to see that you have plenty of products for them to look through in many sizes and designs. They can spend more time searching for what they want and may find something else that they decide to purchase.

Display wanted items instead of needed items

Everyone has to buy certain products, like toilet paper and toothpaste, so if you sell those items, keep them further in the back, and put items that are new or nonessential toward the front. This is because customers know to look for their needed items, but they might not go searching for items that they don't need but want. Putting those wanted products on display brings attention to them and encourages shoppers to consider a purchase.

Keep adapting

There is no specific formula for creating good retail visual merchandising, so it's important to keep adapting your ideas and giving your displays a new look every few weeks. If one of your displays works well to generate sales, consider adapting it for a new product with minor changes to set it apart and keep customers interested. Keep trying new techniques until you have a good understanding of what your audience wants, and use those basic ideas to craft fun, attractive visual merchandising.

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