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What is Visual Merchandising and How Too Much of It Can Harm a Retail Store?

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Some people call it visual merchandising while others call it visual noise. Regardless of the label, product displays posters, promotional materials and products in a retail store all combine to create a visual impact. In that sense, they are noise, craving for attention from shoppers.

Visual merchandising is nothing but the art of exhibiting merchandise in a style, which is alluring to the eyes. As the saying goes “First impressions last”, this is also true in the world of merchandising display.

Why Apply Visual Merchandising?

There are times when products that were thought to be of high quality, that every market test and analysis concluded were going to be a hit with the market failed miserably. When such a mishap happens, there is a predisposition to either blame the manufacturer, the market research company or even the economy. However, in many cases, it turns out that it is not just about the quality of the products; presentation of the product is also an essential component of the sales process.

Sales are dependent on good marketing. A huge part of retail marketing is visual merchandising. Those retail organizations that understand this concept are the most successful in the industry today. Retailers who fail to make the link between good visual merchandising displays and sales continue to struggle.

The most important element of visual merchandise displays is the psychology behind the process. People purchase emotionally even though they might justify their purchase decision rationally. Consequently, it is crucial that the psychological viewpoint of visual merchandise display is given key consideration in any retail establishment.

Visual merchandisers use season based displays to introduce new products arrival to customers. The arrival of summer, winter, holiday seasons such as Christmas, Easter and other special events are displayed on season based displays systematically and stock related to those seasons are displayed during those periods to increase conversions.

By using creative visual displays, the core strategy of visual merchandising, you make a positive, long lasting, visual connection with potential buyers of your product. For example, retail stores display discounted products or those advertised as buy one; get one free. Displays can also be used to promote products that are overstocked.

Now, let’s discuss the negative impact of Visual merchandising

Where is a shopper supposed to look in a store with plenty of posters, displays and other materials craving for attention?

Sometimes, retail stores are too visually cluttered to be effective. The best way to discover this is to:

1. Observe customers as they enter and browse the store.

2. Where do their eyes look at what are they drawn to?

3. Do they notice displays?

4. What do they pass by?

5. What products do they browse and for how long?

6. Where do they move to next?

7. What is the success of major displays in driving incremental sales?

Answer these questions and you start to develop a feeling for the effectiveness of the visual noise in the store.

Some suppliers will tell you a different story. They want their products on display regardless of what the sales impact may be for your business. They see such displays as promoting their brand – like a billboard.

Another way to observe customer interaction with displays, promotions and other visual presentations in-store is to watch security camera footage on fast forward. Notice how many times customers appear to notice a prime position display. It could be that the visual merchandising effort is achieving little more than filling space.

In a busy retail store with plenty of customer traffic, an approach worth considering is less is more. Sometimes, cutting back on visual noise can help draw attention to the products you want to promote.

To choose the displays, posters and other visual material you want to take down, look at sales data. If a product is not responding to additional effort, it should be a candidate for reduces display space allocation.

It could be that you replace a big bold display with something more strategic and better located. These are decisions to be made by senior business management as they involve strategy.

If you do take a retail display down, track the sales result to ensure that there is no negative impact as a result.

By reducing the visual noise volume in a retail store, you provide more fresh air for the remaining displays. The goal is to have more eyeballs noticing them and therefore following the call to action.

Good visual merchandising is all about business strategy and driving better outcomes for the retail business.

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