Using visual merchandising to boost sales

Together with expert advice and a good online presence, visual merchandising is essential for sales success of retailers. It covers all aspects of the visual presentation of goods and is part and parcel of the visual marketing of a retail store. It encompasses the best possible presentation of the products on the shelf and on the display table, as well as the staging of product images and visual incentives at the point of sale (POS), and all with the aim of inducing customers to make a purchase. 

Setting the stage for emotional shopping experiences

What does this mean in actual practice? Anyone who is aware of the strengths of their product range and shop and who manages to convert them into a visual narrative that the customer can recognise is well on the way to success with regard to the future of selling in bricks-and-mortar stores.
A product can only speak for itself if it presented appropriately. And this becomes even more important the fewer the members of staff that are available on the sales floor and customers themselves go on a journey of discovery. If you want to create emotional purchasing experiences, you have to think in terms of product images and visual narratives. This is what constitutes the major part of visual merchandising. Creative ways of presenting products mean that customers don't have a chance to get bored, because new product displays are constantly changing the interior landscape of the shop. 

Visual merchandising aims to

  • extend the length of time people stay in the shop;
  • reduce the speed at which people shop;
  • build a distinctive image through unusual stagings and creative design ideas and to create a unique selling proposition;
  • anchor oneself in the customer's subconscious mind by means of emotional images and to awaken the customer's desire to indulge in another shopping experience;
  • persuade the customer to make a purchase and thus generate more sales.

Showcasing products within a narrative

Anyone who thinks about visual merchandising thinks about a conceptual product presentation, not about mere decoration. Since that is just a flower on the table. It is without any visual narrative to go with it and with no reference to the product itself. Such decoration has no visual significance and, therefore, no significance in the shop. The conceptual presentation of goods, on the other hand, links products with a creative idea, and translates this concept into actual images. There are no limits to your creativity. The decisive factor here is the harmonious combination of all the individual products to form a single overall image. Colours that go well with each other are just as crucial as the visual significance of the individual products (purist, romantic, etc.) and the right way of appealing to the target group in question. 

Prerequisites for the perfect presentation

Presenting your products effectively can only succeed perfectly if the environment and items on which the products are displayed allow you to work effectively.

A basic set of shopfitting equipment allows the work to be done in the best possible way:

  • The size of the tables and areas where you want to promote your products should be in keeping with the size of the space available and the quantity of goods to be presented.
  • Flexible superstructures for tables (e.g. pedestals) are indispensable for bringing height into the design and for adapting the layout of the respective product.
  • A grid or two bars on the ceiling from which to suspend goods, posters, coloured panels or decorative elements.
  • Neutral and, above all, uniform containers, e.g. made of glass or acrylic glass in which to present smaller items.
  • Flexible spotlights ensure sufficient accent lighting so that the structure in the shop stands out and attracts the attention of customers. 

Ideally, one person should be responsible for the visual appearance at the POS in order to ensure a consistent style and a consistent signature, because everything in a room – and especially the product presentations – makes a visual statement, and this is most effective if everything interacts harmoniously.

Visual merchandising as a unique selling proposition

Visual merchandising is the three-dimensional part of the marketing concept of a shop. The more accurately retailers work out the framework and adhere to guidelines, the clearer their target group approach and unique selling proposition will be vis-à-vis their competitors. In order to achieve the desired result, it is vital to know all the influencing factors. As a result, product presentation is not something that can be done casually on the side. A certain amount of time and money has to be budgeted for when displaying products – as well as training for the members of staff who are to take on this task. 

Three-dimensional worlds of experience exist only in the shop

The fact is that the professional presentation of goods in times of increasing online shopping is an indispensable necessity for successful sales. Sophisticated visual merchandising not only puts the merchandise centre stage, but also animates the retail area, sets accents, provides orientation and draws attention to highlights. This gives it a decisive competitive advantage over the Internet, because customers may be able to look at 3-dimensional worlds of experience online, but they can't "immerse" or "experience" them nor can they actually reach out and touch the products. Such advantages can only be exploited by retail stores. This is why visual merchandising needs to be used everywhere where products and people come together.

About the author

Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual marketing in the retail sector. Since 1986, she has been designing and arranging sales-promoting product presentations for various industries and redesigning the ambience of retail spaces. Together with Hans Schmidt, she founded the visual marketing consultancy, Arte Perfectum, in 2002. Since then, she has been holding seminars and workshops and offering in-house consultancy services.

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