Do you run a retail store and need ideas to get customers in the door? If YES, here are 20 practical tips on how to do visual merchandising for a retail store. This generation is very distracted. In fact, people are too distracted that they cannot afford to waste a single moment figuring out what is and what is not. When walking on streets, they can be checking their Instagram feeds, updating a post, texting, making a call and maybe trying to balance groceries on their arm all at once.

If you want to attract this person to take a second look at your store, then you have to pull out all the stops to get their attention, and this is where visual merchandising comes in.

What is Visual Merchandising?

Visual merchandising is a practice in the retail industry of developing floor plans and three-dimensional displays in order to attract customers and maximize sales. The purpose of visual merchandising is to attract, engage, and motivate the customer towards making a purchase.

Visual merchandising is a time-tested retail concept that focuses on enhancing the aesthetic appeal of a product or store to attract customers and increase sales. Research has shown that most shoppers actually make most of their purchasing decisions while they are inside the store. This makes visual merchandising a powerful marketing tool, one that can influence your customers to get attracted to things in a bid to purchase them.

So if you are not yet employing this tool, now is the right time to start. If you are wondering how to make your retail store pop out through visual merchandising, we have provided a couple of tips here for you.

20 Practical Tips on How to Do Visual Merchandising in a Retail Store

1. Start with your door

If you want to carry out visual merchandising in your store, the first place to typically start is close to your front door. This is because this is the first place that customers make contact with, and this is the likely area they spend more time in (this is if your check out desk is located in this area).

Start with the display area closest to the front door and put your newest and most expensive items in the spotlight. Be sure to have several levels of height and enough products so that the customer can pick up and touch without having to totally dismantle your display.

2. Make your window pop

Your window display is the first impression your customer will have of your physical store, when he or she is still outside. It’s a great place to let shoppers know what’s new, which products are best sellers, and what’s on sale. Think of it as a controlled stage where you can communicate and play with your brand.

Find a totally unrelated item and put it in your display. It serves as a prop. Its only purpose to grab your customer’s attention. It is not necessary to add a prop to every display, but the idea should always be there.

Use repeating elements to create a powerful display and showcase a variation of products. When doing this, ensure that there is adequate space around products you’re featuring as busy displays tell a muddled story and are less likely to convert browsers into customers. Bring your most current inventory up front and center to lure even repeat customers in to see what’s new.

3. Use the appropriate fonts for words

The next thing to do is to add a few well-placed, well-worded signs. Make sure your words are short and easy to read from a distance. If your customers are mostly seniors, make it easy on them by using larger fonts. Handwritten signs with markers are are a no no; you should upgrade and use something more sophisticated.

4. Show off the wants

Don’t choose to highlight products the customer already needs, those are what they are coming in for. A customer responds to things they want through impulse buying. Just because they need a mixer, doesn’t mean they won’t treat themselves to the expensive model if it is displayed well. Get those things they want and place them beautifully.

5. Play With your outdoor sign

Signage can be directional, informational, or promotional. Smart visual cues guide your customer through your store strategically and provide them with the information they need, and when they need it. Think of signage as an effective go-to source of information when your sales team is busy with other customers.

The human attention span is around eight seconds. So, make sure your customer can find what they’re looking for in that time, or you risk losing them. To do this effectively, you need to play with graphics, imagery, and iconography to add personality to your store’s visual identity and draw your customer in. Your signs can serve up the information customers need while still being an extension of your brand — so have fun with them.

Ensure your signage can be understood at a glance. Use large, bold copy wherever possible. Task a friend or family member with locating a high-selling product in your store and observe their behavior. Note where they expect to see information and be sure to place signage in those key areas.

6. Group your products for effect

The way you group products on display can attract customer attention and even jumpstart their imagination with ideas on how they can be used. Start by telling a story. For example, appeal to the inner baker by placing intricate cake platters alongside cake servers and cake mix. Items can be grouped based on color scheme or use, but the aim is to tie it all together.

Professionals use the rule of three when creating displays. You’re more likely to capture a customer’s gaze when their brain is triggered by imbalance. This can really be applied to all odd numbers. Try including an object in your display that will make the customer stop and look twice. Incorporate something that almost seems odd or out of place.

7. Consider Display Colors

Color plays a major role in luring a would-be customer into your store. It also has the power to evoke strong emotions and influence the way your product is perceived. Our brains — being hyper visual — attribute certain emotions to specific colors. While blue and green are calming, red and orange are considered arousing.

Research suggests people are more likely to recall a color over an object or product. The same study says shoppers make a purchasing decision within 90 seconds of interacting with a product, and over 60% of the assessment is based on color alone.

One tip to employ here is to go bold in other to catch the eye. However, if you notice that your neighbor’s window displays are full of reds and oranges, go with a darker palette to create a stark contrast. Using a subtle backdrop can help keep your customer’s attention on the products you’re looking to sell. There’s a reason many retailers opt for solid-colored backgrounds (particularly solid white or black): Your products really pop in this scenario.

8. Ignite the Imagination with Product Grouping

Products grouped together can put a customer’s imagination to work. A store window can group together items by use, price, size, type, or by color scheme. For example, group together a heavy winter jacket, a pair of snow boots, a knit cap, and a sled. The sled would make window shoppers pause to look twice. Try replacing the sled with something more offbeat like a surfboard.

Product grouping is enticing because it shows instead of tells by igniting consumers’ imaginations. They’ll be likely drawn to further explore the store for the products grouped in the display. Shopify suggests using the rule of three when creating a grouped products. The rule of three entails arranging items in groups of three to create balance and symmetry.

9. Have Your Target Customer In Mind Always

Knowing your target customer inside and out will help tremendously when creating effective visual merchandising and product displays. We don’t just mean familiarizing yourself with demographic data like customers’ ages, income, and education level, but digging a little deeper into their psychographics and behaviors.

In other words, don’t just target individual customers — also examine their lifestyles. You can begin doing some of this research by combing through customer data on your point-of-sale system.

10. Take advantage of the various human senses

It can be easy to focus on just creating visually stimulating product displays and forget about the other four senses. But the secret to an engaging and immersive shopping experience is to create a multi-sensory experience, or what’s known as “sensory branding.” Let’s take a closer look at how you could go about doing just that:

  • Sight: There are a lot of visual indicators you can play around with to communicate your message. From using colors for their psychological triggers, to leveraging lighting, symmetry, balance, contrast, and focus to direct and control where a customer looks and for how long. It’s one of the fascinating components of visual merchandising.
  • Sound: The music you play in your retail store has a profound but subtle effect on how your customers behave in store. Depending on who you are targeting, you can slow people down by playing more mellow music, causing them to browse. On the other hand, playing the latest hit songs say that you want teenagers in your store.
  • Touch: This is another sense you can use to the best of your ability. You should remember to give your customers the ability to touch, feel, and try out whatever it is you are looking to sell.
  • Smell: Believe it or not, there’s an entire science to what’s referred to as “scent marketing,” with several studies and real-world case studies of global brands like Samsung, Sony, and Verizon applying it to their advantage. Smell is a fast-track to the system in your brain that controls both emotion and memory — two very prominent factors behind why we choose one brand over another.
  • Taste: This can work best if you happen to be in the business of selling consumables. Giving customers the ability to sample products before they buy is the equivalent of letting people try on clothes. This practice is highly effective and you should use it.

11. Light your display like it’s important

Light is something that you cannot ignore while carrying out visual merchandising. If you have particularly dark display with no way to highlight it from above, consider moving it to an existing light source or light form below with small spot lights. Remember, light makes the merchandise pop.

Lighting shapes the overall atmosphere of your store and helps draw a shopper’s attention to a particular item in a display. Like signage, it can elegantly guide the shopper to the areas of the store you want to highlight. There are three techniques in lighting composition — primary lighting, accent lighting, and ambient lighting.

Primary lighting is the overall illumination of your store. Accent lighting draws the shopper’s focus to a specific display. Ambient lighting tends to be more dramatic in that it plays light off of shadow to create an intriguing effect.

A recent field study looked at lighting’s impact on customer behavior. The research found that customers spent more time in areas of the store that had warmer lighting and that the average sales per customer increased by 1.93% when a dynamic lighting installation was introduced. Be careful not to set your primary lighting too dim, as it makes the largest overall impact and can affect the customer experience. Contrast makes perception easier.

Accent lighting should be used sparsely to avoid cannibalizing its effect. Be thoughtful about which products you want to highlight. For example, consider using accents on the lower levels of a shelving unit which might not naturally attract a shopper’s gaze.

12. Use the pyramid principle

Contrasting heights and depths grab customer interest. Varying heights can fuel interaction among shoppers and products. For instance, spread out items on tables at hip level. Put baskets can on the floor and fill them with items easy to sort through. Large lights can hang from the ceiling in precarious manners. Position props or plants on high podiums, and racks can be strategically placed.

From the ground up there is room for the eye to wander and pique interest. Use the pyramid principle if you’re struggling with creating a visual hierarchy. The pyramid principle makes items look like they are cascading in the line of vision.

13. Create a Focal Point

For you to create an effective visual display, you need to create a focal point in your display. Where does the viewer’s eye focus on your display? Do their eyes move toward a specific location on the display? Or are they confused about where to look? Note that you must have to create a focal point because hotspots can increase sales by 229 percent.

Examine your display from the customer’s point of view: the top, the floor, both sides. Often the focal point is positioned too high for the customer to see. Always check your displays to ensure customers can easily view the hotspots and merchandise. Remember, the hotspot is the product, not a visual element you use to add to the story.

14. Expose Customers to as much merchandise as possible

A well-designed, impactful display exposes the customer to as much merchandise as possible while avoiding confusing the customer. The more products customers see, the more they buy.

Consider using a circular store layout, which many retailers use. It is powerful because it exposes customers to more merchandise than traditional aisles. Where your store does use aisles, place a display in the dead center so customers are forced to stop and look at the products.

Have as many displays as possible, and present as much merchandise as possible. But keep displays clean and sharp, and ensure aisles are spacious and barrier-free to prevent deterring customers from products.

15. Use Empty Space Wisely

It is a fact that there is always a space in all retail stores that is the most underutilized. It is the section between the displayed merchandise and the ceiling. If this space in your store is empty, you need to start using it. You can use this space for many different things, like signage providing information about products or brands. You could display customer testimonials with the customer’s name and picture. You could profile a designer or supplier.

You could also display lifestyle graphics that help customers make associations with your products. For example, a furniture store could display an image of a family cozied up on a couch, emitting those warm, fuzzy feelings that put shoppers in a good mood. A jewelry store could display a woman at a fine dining restaurant wearing a bracelet, creating an association between the store’s jewelry and a luxurious lifestyle.

16. Change your displays from time to time

Holidays and seasons only last so long, and promotional goods have a short shelf life as new arrivals are always on the way to replace them. If you ordered a merchandise that is meant to go together, keep it together. You don’t want its first appearance to be diluted. Later, the few items that may be left can be grouped with new arrivals to give them a new look.

If you ordered red Valentine candles from one vendor, mugs from another, and teas from another, wait for them all to arrive. If you put the candles out first as a sole item and you can lose the potential add-on-sales you would have gotten from the whole display.

17. Group Like with Like

Grouping products with other similar items will give your customers additional reasons to buy more items from you. But grouping products also has a more utilitarian justification: it saves shoppers time. They don’t need to wander around your entire retail store trying to mix and match things. It’s one of the reasons grocery stores will put dips right beside their chips, or peanut butter with jams.

You can also think of it as creating categories. But you don’t need to limit your creativity there: you can also create “groupings” within categories. That means having merchandise that might be the same color, price, size, or type together. Depending on what you have in stock, you can make various groupings from seemingly ordinary items. Just channel your inner creativity.

18. Offer creative Places To Sit

Many times shoppers come into your store with someone else. This is a fact that has been noticed especially in stores that are gender selective. The more uncomfortable shopping partners get, the less time the main shopper is likely to devote to browsing your merchandise.

Give those shopping ‘guides’ somewhere to sit, either a seat, a bench, or a couch, and make sure that it is creatively designed to send the right message. For example, if you are a lingerie shop, you can design a sort of man cave for men that accompany their partners to the shop.

19. Unleash the power of storytelling

Use stories to spark imagination, inspire new styles and trigger emotions. Retail storytelling is one of the most critical factors in creating a great experience for your shoppers. Stories that form an emotional connection with the customer can have a long-lasting effect on the in-store shopper journey.

They give your brand a voice and move it away from being “just” a retail store. Giving your brand a personality ignites a human element and allows customers to connect on a more personal level.

A great place to start your offline storytelling is at your window displays. Often window displays are the first point of non-digital interaction with your brand. If you are looking for inspiration and creative ideas, don’t forget to use free online tools such as Pinterest.

Consider setting up your product displays in a way that shoppers can envision your items in their own home (or wearing them, in the case of apparel). Examine your floor layout with a fresh set of eyes to see how you can utilize in-store branding and fixtures to communicate your message.

20. Use symmetry in your displays

When creating visual merchandising in your retail store, you need to make good use of symmetry. Repeating the way your products are folded, stacked, hung and styled in symmetrical ways can elevate your store’s visual feeling. When repeating products around a focal point and using symmetry in styling your display, you can also look to incorporate different colour balancing techniques to deliver an even more striking look.