With shops and high streets now open and buzzing across Australia, store owners are getting creative to lure gift-givers through their doors. Visual merchandising entails arranging your store displays, shelves and signage in a way that draws people through your doors and makes it easy for them to buy.
This blog will use the year’s busiest holiday to share powerful visual merchandising tips to help attract, engage and motivate your customers to make a purchase.
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8 tips to boost your store’s visual appeal
There’s a lot of planning and organisation behind those enchanting displays. Use the following 8 tips below when designing your Christmas visual merchandising strategy to ensure you meet your sales targets while serving up a stellar shopping experience:
Let’s dive right into our list of merchandising tips.
1. Start with a festive window display
Brick-and-mortar stores have a big advantage over online shops in their ability to create the perfect Winter Wonderland experience. It’s almost impossible to replicate this feeling in an online store.
No wonder people crowd around the windows of department stores such as David Jones — because the visual merchandising is just so beautiful and iconic.
It makes news every year, with hundreds of eager shoppers taking happy snaps next to the displays.
A festive window display is like a ‘welcome mat’ for a wondrous shopping experience. It tells a visual story of your brand and what customers can expect once they step inside, so make sure you have an eye-catching window display to entice shoppers to enter your store.
While window displays are a critical starting point, your visual merchandising should also extend to:
- Shelving layouts
- Themed displays
- Interactive and in-store displays
2. Show them the discounts
Make consumers aware of special discounts your business offers during the holiday season. Christmas shopping is a big spending period, so customers are on the hunt for the best deals – especially since the cost of living is increasing.
Your Christmas displays and props should make it easy for people to find out what promotions and specials you have on offer. So, it would be a good idea to have them displayed front and centre in windows, hanging from ceilings, at the register, etc. Other retailers are competing for your customers, so make sure your business stands out.
3. Bring back the old and nostalgic
Christmas has a way of bringing people back to their childhood memories through family traditions and heirlooms. Play to this feeling of nostalgia by adding something old-fashioned to your overall theme. Offering consumers something that brings back fond memories can trigger a purchase.
This is a cost-effective way to spark shoppers’ emotions and Christmas memories without the hard sell.
4. Display complementary items together
Placing related products near one another can drive impulse buys. This subtle upselling technique leads consumers to see products not as individual items, but as pieces of potential gift sets.
For example, group recipe books with cooking utensils, smoothie kits and blenders. Or nestle slippers and packaged tea near book displays.
Again, you want to make it irresistible for customers to buy from you, so make sure your merchandising makes it easy.
5. Have gift cards front and centre
It can be challenging to gift someone something when they have everything. That’s when gift cards come in handy. Also, sometimes gift cards are an afterthought, but because it’s Christmas, you’ll need to make an exception.
This means you will need to strategically place gift cards in the front and centre of your store to lead consumers to purchase one in addition to the other items they came in to buy. This will also capture those indecisive or last-minute shoppers.
6. Go green
The trend today is to be sustainable and eco-friendly — at Christmas and throughout the year. In a world where climate change is on top of the agenda, consumers want to feel good about the gifts they’re buying, so highlighting the sustainability of your brand is good business.
You’ll want to draw attention to items that are:
- Made from recycled materials that reduce carbon footprint
- Locally sourced and produced
These will always be a winner among certain customers who want to maximise their social impact.
7. Walk the floor and shop your shop
At the start of the day, spend about 15 minutes to experience your shop like a customer. Sit out the front of your shop and see what customers see. Enter your shop and walk through it as a customer.
Photograph problem spots in the windows, displays, counter, aisles, fixtures, tables, and walls and make a note of what needs fixing. Communicate these with the team to ensure attention to detail during the festive season.
Often it could be just general tidying up, removing a few items or stock replenishment. The small things can make a difference to the overall customer experience.
Also, make sure your store is accessible, and customers can move through it easily. This means you might need to make room for trolleys, prams and wheelchairs in your store layouts to ensure traffic flows smoothly.
This is especially important when stores still have physical distancing measures to ensure COVID-safe shopping.
8. Put Santa’s little helpers to work
If creating displays is not your strong point, ask for help. Do you have staff who are interested in getting festive and creative with setting up displays or windows for you? If so, delegate this to them. If this employee is going to be around for a while, consider investing in some visual merchandising training for them.
If budget permits, you can outsource this to professional visual merchandisers who will strategically turn the store into a magical experience for shoppers. Store owners have enough to worry about and hiring a pro can save a lot of headaches.
Need ideas? Stop by Pinterest and Instagram
Pinterest and Instagram are social media networks that allow users to share images associated with projects, themes, products and services. Here, you can discover and pull together new ideas by browsing pictures others have posted.
Being a highly visual format by nature, social media is the perfect source of inspiration for Christmas-themed visual merchandising ideas.
To start, type key terms related to your business into the search box at the top. For example, “Christmas display for fashion boutique” or “Christmas store windows.” Organise your pin boards relating to the colour scheme, theming and product type on Pinterest. Browse and pin until you have a couple of solid ideas you can use.
For Instagram, search key terms as hashtags. You can save the posts that inspire you or take a screenshot from your smartphone.
Visual merchandising really works
When it comes to visual merchandising, just remember to be authentic and keep your customers front of mind. Gifting during Christmas is a joyous task, and you are helping with the decision-making process using creativity and storytelling.
Your visual merchandising should always enhance the experience, never take away from it.
Well-executed visual merchandising will help your customers to feel inspired, possibly even curious about your values and what you stand for as a business. So, make sure you provide that extra visual boost to bring them into your retail store for Christmas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below we answer popular questions about the elements of visual merchandising, as well as the skills needed to work successfully in this fascinating field.
First up, what is visual merchandising?
Visual merchandising is the practice of mapping out the overall in-store design, from displays to shelves and signage.
Chances are you’re already doing a lot of merchandising without even realising. But when it comes to the festive season, your visual merchandising needs to reach a whole new level of excitement.
Christmas product displays must be intentional and well thought out in advance. Everyone will be shopping for loved ones, and customers will make most of their buying decisions inside the retail store. So, it’s especially important to spotlight items that catch a customer’s eye for impulsive purchases.
Natural skincare store L’Occitane is a perfect example of how to do Christmas retailing right.
They go all out with their displays and create memorable experiences from the moment you step in. They include:
- Beautiful window displays
- Christmas trees adorned with gift packs across varying budgets
They know how to make the purchasing decision easier.
Homeware giant IKEA also knows how to visually merchandise by bringing a room to life. They invite customers to imagine the products in their homes, which means customers will likely walk away with many more things than were on their shopping lists.
What qualifications or skills do you need to work in visual merchandising?
While there are tertiary courses in visual merchandising, such as a Diploma of Visual Merchandising from TAFE NSW or a Bachelor of Design which can help, you don’t need a formal education to create store displays people love.
You could be thinking, ‘well, if I don’t have qualifications, I’m no IKEA or a big retailer who can afford elaborate displays.’ Fear not, because according to the career website, Indeed, there are some transferable skills which include:
- Creativity: Think about your customers and what brings Christmas cheer to them, then add a little imagination and creativity to your brand. You can improve your creativity skills by doing creative things like making arts and crafts, colouring in, solving puzzles and much more. Make this a habit, and you’ll naturally think more creatively.
- Commercial know-how: the ultimate goal of visual merchandisers is to attract customers and increase sales. There is usually a dedicated budget to plan and design displays to increase sales as an outcome. Effective visual merchandising involves making intelligent decisions with the budget and aligning that against sales budgets. Ideally, you want to keep costs low, so this also requires creativity.
- Communication and storytelling skills: Each display should convey a story or theme, which requires thinking about who the display is for and your sales objective. It requires imagining yourself in the customer or buyer’s shoes and presenting it in a way to draw people in.
What are the main elements of visual merchandising?
There is a bit of art and science to attract customers to retail stores. Visual merchandising applies four main design elements:
Colour: Bright colours attract more attention than darker ones. Use bright colours to draw attention to specific products. Ensure the colours match the overall theme and complement your branding palette.
Let there be light: using light can make the space complete. Lighting can create an ambience and set the mood of your store. Good lighting design will highlight the products you want your customers to see. Light can also be decorative such as the fairy lights we see around windows and Christmas trees.
Strategic floor planning: To use IKEA as an example again, notice how their floor plans are like a maze? It’s no accident and well thought out to ensure you visit every part of the store to maximise sales. Using this as inspiration, you’d want to strategically place products in areas of high foot traffic and at eye level.
Be mindful that floor plans can impact the flow of foot traffic, so you want to strike that balance of products and retail space for people to enjoy.
Promotional signage: Do you have an irresistible deal like buy one and get the next half price? Perhaps there is a special offer like spending more than a certain amount and getting a discount? Chemist Warehouse and JB Hi-fi always have special offers left right and centre with displays, custom price tags, and ‘loud’ signage so you don’t miss it.