With Christmas just a few short days away, you may have noticed retailers – especially the likes of Harrods and Selfridges - going all out to try and lure in busy shoppers with promises of a magical experience, rich with the memories of old, traditional customer service and real value.
The cynical amongst you may consider this to be a marketing ploy than an attempt to rekindle the ephemeral spirit of Christmas.
Regardless of your personal view, visual merchandising plays a major part in our shopping experience. It’s so prevalent and often timed so effective that you may not have noticed it as you move around your local branch of Debenhams.
Visual merchandising is anything everything that communicates a message to you in a window or on the shop floor be it an overt call to call action – Sale Now On – to the more subtle but much loved Christmas displays.
Image courtesy of Harrods
But in an increasingly digital world, is the age of the window display dead? With the launch of Amazon Go – Amazon’s first bricks and mortar store – you could be forgiven for thinking so.
However, now is the time for ‘traditional retailers’ to actually be traditional retailers as they can offer customers something a pure play online retailer can’t: a shopping experience.
That means fantastic window displays, bespoke banners and long drop pennants, bold acrylic signage, and decals. It means whimsy and toy departments like Duncan’s Toy Chest from Home Alone 2.
Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
Obviously budget is a consideration especially as retail has been under growing pressure for years in the face of online dominance.
Not everyone can pull off a Selfridges but that’s assuming you have to. Customers just want theatre.
Tell a Story
You have a window or a shop floor and you want to make it a showcase. Whilst many retailers use windows to tout wares, this is the retail equivalent of the hard sell. It focuses on the what, not the why. Customers are looking for something more.
It’s why you sell, not what you sell that’s important and this is what you can communicate through all of your displays, signage and stands. Obviously the ultimate aim is to turn a profit but setting the economics aside, understanding and channelling your company values is what makes your company unique.
Whatever those values are, it serves you far better to communicate your love of your business, your industry and your customers than it does how eager you are to devalue your stock.
Similarly, telling a story doesn’t have to be a fairy-tale, it can be a joke, it can be a parody of a movie scene. The possibilities are near limitless.
Of course if you make a product or a promotion the punchline of your set piece then all the better but first and foremost is how you want your customers to feel.
Right in the Feels
It’s that ‘feeling’ that you’re trying to tease from your customers. A sense that you value them, not their custom. A purchase is earned by having a great store, staffed by great people, selling a great product at a great price.
Understanding your audience, their age and interests will go a long way to helping you understand how to present yourself as a business.
If you’re a sailing supplies store then making clothes rails out of old boats makes quite a statement. However, if you don’t have that kind of money (or the boats) lying around, cardboard technology, fantastic decals or bespoke bunting are all great ways of achieving a similar affect.
Whatever your business create an experience that is stylistically consistent from the displays to the ticketing and beyond.
This can’t be stressed enough.
Research your audience. Understand the kind of people walking through your doors.
If your target audience is 12-16 year olds but fully half of your footfall is parents then striking a balance between a décor your customer will enjoy but won’t drive out the paying parent is key.
Similarly, attracting professional couples to your home store will not be achieved by the cold practicality of your local DIY store.
Once you have identified the personas of who you’re trying to attract (we suggest engaging specialists on that if you can afford to) then work on designs both in terms of decorations and props that will make them feel comfortable in the space.
Know how you want your windows, stand signage, or decals to look before you spend a penny. Work with someone like Evans Graphics to determine just what can be achieved for your budget.
Whether it’s for a refit or a campaign, planning out how everything should look, what materials should be used and the key message behind the design will be the difference between a great shop fit and a disaster.