How does visual merchandising help retailers increase their profits? Did you know how long it takes for a customer to figure out if they want to make a purchase or not? 10 Seconds. It would take the customer that long to receive the first impression of the product, which always subconsciously influences the purchase. And everyone knows that there won’t be another chance to make a first impression.
The human brain is a visual learner, primarily processing the picture it perceives, receiving about 80 percent of the information. Further, in descending order, information from other channels is processed:
- auditory (audio);
- tactile (sense of touch);
- taste (gustatory);
- olfactory (odour sense).
Today, we will talk about how visual merchandising standards affect the consumer and encourage them to buy a product.
The visual techniques and effective tools that we are going to talk about belong to merchandising area with the same name. As usual, let's start with the theory.
What is visual merchandising: the basics of proper display
In barren style, visual merchandising in a store is a marketing technique, a set of techniques, principles, laws, and tools for placing and displaying products aimed at stimulating sales growth.
The standards and rules of visual merchandising are a broad concept that covers not only the products display directly on commercial equipment, but also comprehensively considers a store/space/chain as an object of interaction with a consumer. Some sellers mistakenly believe that merchandising and its rules are just a “beautiful” display of products on the shelf as they see it, so programs and software for merchandising are just a waste of money. That is not the case.
There is a science to what visual merchandising is, helping to build relationships with the customer and to mastermind the customer’s attention – from acquaintance to motivation and brand loyalty.
Merchandising rules apply to everything from price tags and product nameplates to the interior colour scheme and the showcase lighting brightness. Knowledge of effective laws of merchandising implies knowledge of the basics of marketing, psychology, colour theory, the laws of sales of certain groups of goods, and so on.
To sum up, the main functions and tasks of visual merchandising in a store are:
- to encourage the customer to notice the product;
- to set a strategically necessary, and at the same time a simple and predictable the retailer trajectory of the movement and behavior of a customer in a store;
- to induce a positive emotion, a pleasant association, an atmosphere of comfort;
- to drive a purchase;
- to become one of the drivers for customer loyalty improvement.
Visual Merchandising Rules
How to entice buyers using the principles of visual merchandising to evoke their positive emotions, to drive a purchase of a specific product and to build loyalty to the manufacturer or your brand?
Let’s take a look at a few basic rules of visual merchandising.
1. Always remember the “golden triangle” and right-hand traffic
Any lecture on merchandising traditionally begins with the law of the "golden triangle", which underlies all the rules and techniques of visual merchandising.
Its essence is to place the most top, attractive, and well-selling positions in the farthest corner of your store. Have you noticed that supermarket chains always place the most popular basic fast-moving consumer goods (eggs, milk, bread) in the farthest corner of the trading floor, so that to get to them the buyer has to go around the entire store? In the other corner of the "golden triangle" is the checkout area.
Having come for bread, the customer N should make his way around the store and back to the checkout area. The customer’s mind is already focused. With great probability, the customer N will make a series of unplanned purchases on the way to bread, filling the cart with various everyday essentials, cunningly placed around the display area.
Except for conventional bread, eggs, and milk, retailers often place visually pleasing stands and zones in the area of top-selling items — for example, a bakery with fragrant croissants and pastries, bright (and well-lit) fresh fruits and vegetables. Thus, an additional incentive is created for the customer to walk around the entire retail space.
According to products merchandising rules, there are the most slow-moving and the least selling products at the entrance group (that is, the zone along the hypotenuse of the triangle, to the left and right of the entrance). Having studied the customer psychology and traffic flow through numerous focus groups, surveys, and analysis, the marketers have found that a consumer entering the store, hardly pays attention to the goods at the entrance, but will turn right and head immediately deep into the store, counter clockwise. Accordingly, merchandisers do not recommend placing strategically important well-selling products at the entrance group – leave them for the display area.
Checkout area is one of the most profitable, “hot” and filled areas of the store. The rule of classic merchandising is to place impulse products for spontaneous purchases in the checkout area. These can be the products you buy to “indulge yourself”, “get something for a child”, “spend your time in line”, these are plain and, most importantly, inexpensive goods.
These can be products packaged in small-sized packages (chocolate, children's snacks, nuts, sweets) in food retail, accessories and jewellery that may complement the main purchase in fashion industry, or gift cards.
A good trick used by a large international cosmetics retailer is to display travel kits and miniature testers of basic products, which are way cheaper and more accessible to a larger number of customers, in the hot checkout area and the customer queue zone.
2. Use smart lighting
The first function of lighting in the store and trading floor is to “pave” the path for the customer we mentioned earlier, and wend their way one more time.
Since about 80 percent of shoppers always move around the perimeter of the retail space, the retailers additionally highlight the lines or stands on the trading floor, stimulating the customer to pay attention to them. Spot accent lighting is used to highlight a product or group of products (for example, seasonal or new products).
The second function of lighting as a visual merchandising tool in a store is to influence and affect the psyche of the buyer. Light has long been proven to create emotion and mood, both positive and negative. For example, luminous colour streams evoke associations with warmth and sun, and cold ones – with frost and freshness.
Marketers took advantage of these patterns – that is why they recommend highlighting bread or cheese, for example, with the warm, golden colour of lamps and never use cold fluorescent lamps – the latter, falling on the product, will be reflected in a greenish colour and cause rejection from the customer’s side.
Lighting in the trading floor in visual merchandising
Cold fluorescent light, on the contrary, plays great for gastronomy: bluish and white emphasizes the fish, milk, cottage cheese and dairy products freshness. Neutral backlight is suitable for fruits, vegetables and citrus fruits while excessive game with the colour of lamps and backlights can create dissonance and become negative solution of the merchandiser.
Similar principles of visual merchandising and lighting selection rules basically exist for all groups and categories of goods – from household appliances to cosmetics and home furniture. So, for example, sellers of household appliances, plumbing and electronics hardly ever use warm lighting in the store interior, because appliances exposed under warm yellowish light visually give the impression of being used and outdated.
The third, no less important function of lighting on the trading floor is to attract the attention of the customer to a particular item/product by highlighting it against the others. This classic visual merchandising technique is used by jewellery stores. The jewellery store showcase has two types of lighting – soft background colour for products along the showcase perimeter and an active bright spotlight directed at the main product in the centre.
So, the lighting of the retail space and products is a very important element of visual merchandising. With the help of well-chosen and planned lighting, you can achieve the following goals:
- to help a customer navigate the store's trading floors, find the right product and “suggest” the products worth paying attention to;
- to create an atmosphere of the store, evoke pleasant associations in the customer, conducive to making a purchase;
- to focus the buyer's attention on a particular product
3. Group the products
Retailers who neglect merchandising rules and sales performance analysis make the same mistake. They locate a lot of different categories, purpose and price of goods in one place. In their opinion, this is the best way to present the wide range of products. Others, when grouping goods, are guided by their own ideas that scarcely ever correspond to the customer’s opinion.
As for the experts, they recommend being guided by principles and logic – for example, by purpose, brand, price category, weight, size, seasonality – when grouping products in the showcases. Moreover, usually each group of goods has subgroups according to different characteristics.
Visual merchandising. Product grouping example
The principles and characteristics of the product grouping must be carefully thought out and analysed. There are cloud systems for analysing demand, sales, inventory and merchandising management. They allow for prioritization and product grouping rules, construct a display planogram according to these features, analyse the results and generate reports. The use of such systems is much more rational and financially profitable than the recruitment and constant expansion of marketers and merchandisers team.
4. Control the use of POS materials
No matter how much retailers would like to attract the attention of customers to various promotions, you need to know when to stop using POS materials.
The laws of visual merchandising states that no more than 7 POS elements (price tags, banners, lights, signs, and so on) per shelving rack or showcase. Otherwise, the customer is annoyed by the abundance of information which makes it difficult to concentrate on any of the goods.
Do not forget about the visual design of POS materials as well — they should be made in brand/store style, in harmony with the interior and design of the room. The tone of voice of promotional messages should reflect the values of the retailer or brand. Price tags should be up-to-date and contain reliable information. Otherwise, the client will be annoyed, and their loyalty will be lost.
So, we have looked at some basic rules, laws, standards and goals of visual store merchandising that should be considered and put into practice.