“The use and manipulation of attractive sales displays and retail floor plans to engage customers and boost sales activity. In visual merchandising, the products being sold are typically displayed in such as way as to attract consumers from the intended market by drawing attention to the product’s best features and benefits.” (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/visual-merchandising.html)
Visual Merchandising is a marketing tactic we often experience but rarely takes hold in our conscious. To take a look into visual merchandising is to delve into the science and art of aesthetics. We have to understand the appeal in seeing the product in real life over a simple image. So why do we sometimes prefer the mall over amazon?
Visual Merchandising as a Science
The smartest retail stores have a floor plan that convinces the consumer to buy, buy, and buy. The everyday customer walks in and at some point comes across a form of visual merchandising. This is intentional. These products are modeled and displayed to appeal to you. They can reach out to sight, sound, touch and even taste, engaging your senses. The display draws you in and makes you pay attention to the product before you. In short, visual merchandising guides the customer experience. It appeals to you.
Target for example, may be displaying a surplus of pots and pans that are so cheap you need them. IKEA’s room ideas convey what you can do with their furniture. Clothing stores nearly always have mannequins and/or window displays. These showcase their best offerings of the season to show you what ‘look’ is in and help to achieve multiple purchases.
To properly communicate these messages is where science comes into play. A visual merchandiser has to consider many variables: what’s trending, consumer psychology, textures, fixtures, props, branding, seasonal themes, marketing materials, etc. With a national chain the same display has to be designed to fit variable floor plans. In addition, narrowing down the parameters for a display is often only a component to the overall campaign. There are many tried and true formulas for what consumers respond to. But to stay fresh and trending means knowing when to break away from the norm. Visual merchandisers are tasked with tying all this together into one neat and pretty display.
However, figuring out how to convert a powerful display into a transaction also calls for creativity.
Visual Merchandising as a Craft
No matter how many variables you might consider a display is ugly without an artistic component. Those with fashion or art degrees tend to flourish as visual merchandisers. After all, a unique aesthetic is always eye catching. To create a successful display you have to consider the following:
- Create a strong theme/setting.
- Placement of props in addition to product.
- Keep the display clean, minimal and balanced.
- Use lighting and bold colors to emphasize/dramatize the environment.
- Change the display regularly.
- Great ideas fail if they can’t be implemented.
- And most important, design for the existing environment.
In designing these displays a visual merchandiser is not only providing artistic expression but driving expectations. They are creating something that enhances the brand. They are creating an experience for the consumer. They are balancing between bold and subtle messages. Here, the aesthetic triumphs over reason or assigned value. The ability to piece together a cohesive experience takes flair. These creative skills can’t be taught and takes talent to put into practice. There’s lots of coldly calculated marketing ploys to visual merchandising but also a great deal of artistry.
The next time you visit your favorite retail store keep visual merchandising in mind. It’s often a display blatantly in front of you, meant to impress and entice you. But if done right, you won’t quite notice that until you’ve already checked out with your purchases. That means it worked.