What Is Visual Merchandising? Definition, Types and How To Use It

Updated March 10, 2023

Customers often base their first impressions on what they see. This is why the field of visual merchandising can play a crucial role in enhancing the appeal, atmosphere and customer experience inside of a store. Effective visual merchandising transforms a physical or digital environment into an extension of a brand's image. In this article, we discuss what visual merchandising is, the types of visual merchandising and how to improve your visual merchandising.

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What is visual merchandising?

Visual merchandising is the practice of organizing and displaying products in a retail space. It is used to highlight products and their features, gain customers' attention, make customers feel comfortable and promote sales. Visual merchandising began in physical retail stores, but companies are now using the same techniques for digital storefronts.

Effective visual merchandising uses a range of physical components to reflect a brand's image and aesthetic, including:

  • Color: Different colors reflect different moods and tones. Choose a color scheme that matches your company's image.

  • Lighting: Lighting can help set a mood in your space and draw attention to specific products or areas of your store.

  • Space: The layout and spacing of your store dictates how customers move through your space, where they spend more of their time and what they see.

  • Sound: Sounds, like ambient nature sounds or loud rock music, can add to the overall atmosphere in your space.

  • Smell: Certain smells may promote distinct feelings, such as calm or excitement. Smells can also trigger memories and positive associations, such as the smell of evergreen during the holidays.

  • Technology**:** Technology, such as digital displays and interactive installations, can enhance customers' engagement with your brand.

Related: Visual Merchandiser Cover Letter Sample

Types of visual merchandising

Visual merchandising includes the following elements:

  • Interior displays: Interior displays are displays arranged inside the store that can include products and decor.

  • Store layout: Visual merchandising includes how a store is laid out, including where certain products are placed, the flow of products from front to back of store, where points of sale are and where dressing rooms are.

  • Mannequins: The type, styling and positioning of mannequins can communicate messages to your customers.

  • Point of purchase display: The signage, decor and physical structure of points of purchase are part of visual merchandising.

  • Bundling: Bundling refers to displaying products together to show customers how they might use multiple products.

  • Store environment: The atmosphere of your brick and mortar or digital space can create a tone for your brand, such as loud and fun or serene.

  • Window displays: Window displays are an important part of visual merchandising that can catch the attention of people passing your store, which can lead to more customers.

  • Outdoor signage: Outdoor signs communicate what your business is and set the tone for your space.

  • Exterior fixtures: Exterior fixtures, such as marquees, banners and awnings, provide the customer's first impression of your store.

  • Seasonal displays: Seasonal displays can show off new merchandise, encourage add-on purchases and create interest.

  • Product information: Where and how you communicate product details, including size of labels and signs, typeface and tone of content, can reflect on your company's brand.

  • Design decisions: Design decisions, like flooring, textiles and other materials can create a physical representation of your brand's aesthetic.

Read more: How To Become a Retail Merchandiser (and What They Do)

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How to improve your visual merchandising

Here are 10 ways you can improve the visual merchandising in your space:

1. Conduct research

Use market research to identify what your target audience responds to. Identify your ideal customer's interests, hobbies and lifestyle. Apply this research to your space by incorporating elements that will resonate with your target demographic. For instance, if your ideal customer is a parent, consider images of smiling children and families.

2. Consider safety

Ensure that displays, signs and structures like shelving are secure and safe. Follow all manufacturer guidelines for installation and maintenance, and hire professionals for electrical, construction and complex installation projects.

3. Promote engagement

Using interactive displays can increase your customers' level of engagement with your brand. Displays that link to your social media accounts or website can drive traffic to your sites, which can increase your search rankings. Using creative, interactive displays can also increase referrals to your store as more people learn about your unique features.

4. Keep up with trends

Stay updated on industry trends that you can use in your space, like design, art and fashion trends. For example, if monochromatic fashion is popular, you can incorporate similar colors together in your store or design a monochromatic display.

5. Hire a consultant

Consider hiring a professional merchandiser to assess your space and make recommendations to better represent your brand, implement best practices, encourage repeat business and increase sales. You can find merchandisers at interior design agencies, fashion and design schools and through industry websites and publications.

6. Use merchandising as marketing

Consider your visual merchandising another facet of your marketing strategy. Optimize your physical space to draw customers in, show them your products' best features and close sales. Incorporate thoughtful elements that people will remember and share with others.

7. Test merchandising variations

To determine the most effective merchandising strategies, you can test slight variations in layout, color schemes, signage and displays for a period of time and compare sales, traffic or other metrics to show which option is more successful.

Read more: What Is Point of Purchase Advertising?

8. Edit your space regularly

It's important to keep your visual merchandising elements balanced, meaning you have the right amount of products, decor and displays to draw interest without overwhelming customers. Scan your store often to make sure your visual elements are working to enhance your brand rather than drawing attention away from your products or services.

9. Use themes

Consider using themes throughout your space to reflect a new product launch, seasonal items or special promotion. Themes can be as simple as coordinating colors or as in-depth as a fictional storyline or customer testimonial. Incorporating themes can help differentiate certain products or features that you want to highlight.

10. Be consistent

Your brand and voice should be consistent throughout your physical and digital spaces. The tone, style and messaging should be cohesive through your store, website and social media accounts. This helps foster brand awareness across all channels, helping customers recognize your products and creating trust among consumers.

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