To See Is to Buy: The Basics of Visual Merchandising


There are enough elements to visual merchandising to fill a book with. Here are some of the more important parts to it.

A Sight to Remember

An essential element of visual merchandising is the use of dominance and emphasis to bring attention to a particular display. Stores that wish to sell their newest seasonal product may place them on literal pedestals set aside from regular displays to draw the customer’s attention to it. The new product becomes a focal point for the shop; often the first thing a customer may notice when entering the place.

Stories Told Through Merchandise

Visual storytelling catches the attention of customers after the initial interest from the focal point fades. A store’s narrative is told through colours, lighting, product layout, and décor. Select merchandise is put on display to help the visual narrative.

Stories can strengthen brands. They can educate customers on hot new trends and looks. Informative displays can also tell customers what they want: its price, the material of the product, whether it’s humane or vegan.

There are myriad ways to tell a story through visual cues. Group products together to mimic relatable situations where customers can imagine themselves wearing or using these wares. Pieces that complement each other may also encourage customers to buy these items together.

Classy shops utilise one-of-a-kind art pieces to show off luxury items and their penchant for elegance. Trendy stores use signage and mannequins to distinguish areas and parlay furnishing into the story. Nearly all shops incorporate these elements on displays around the cash register to spur last-minute additions to shopping carts.

More than Brown or Black

Colours, shapes, and various textures all affect the mood of a store. Too much contrast or not enough personality can turn away customers at the door. When it comes to store colours, harmony and the right value can create a more inviting or impressive space.

The colour of a store can play to its visual story, calm customers, point them to select merchandise, and play up to a store’s identity. They must also play second fiddle to products—colors are picked to enhance, not overwhelm.

Decor can also affect a shop’s mood. Flowers are more likely to be found in boutiques that sell light, breezy, or mature clothing than youth athleisure. Props are also used to create visual illusions. Mirrors are slapped on wide spaces to allow customers to check the fit and look of clothing before a visit to the dressing room, but they’re also used to make small shops look bigger than they are.

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Couple making foof and mom proud

Good quality commercial shelving and custom racking systems halve the work of retailers. They provide ample room to play around with negative space, arrange and display products in appealing ways, and withstand all kinds of pressure from exuberant customers.

So do modular mannequins. While some retailers have their employees wear seasonal items, mannequins are proofs-of-concept for customers that the clothes on display suit their style. Manufacturers offer petite to plus size mannequins to reflect customer sizes better. Modularity has also been improved to demonstrate product durability better and allow retailers to change mannequin poses in addition to using them as part of their visual stories.

Visual storytelling’s ultimate endpoint is to engage customers, encourage sales, and promote brands. A store that carefully balances all three can create instantaneous boosts to sales and reputation.

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