Why is Visual Merchandising Important in Retail?

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

What catches your eye first in a retail store? A display? The colors? A mess? In this lesson, we'll discuss why visual merchandising is so important in the retail environment and how, when done correctly, it keeps people spending.

Looking Good

Amanda is walking down a busy New York City street, heading home from work with a million things waiting on her to-do list. Just as she ends a phone call with her sister, she stops dead in her tracks. No, it wasn't something her sister said that got Amanda's attention but rather a beautiful sweater in the window of her favorite retail store. The display is so appealing Amanda can immediately picture herself wearing the sweater, out on the town with her best friends. She pulls out her credit card to make the purchase.

The goal of visual merchandising is to maximize sales.
visual merchandising, window display, advertising, marketing, retail

Much to the excitement of its owner and employees, the store's visual merchandising did exactly what they wanted it to do: it compelled Amanda to stop, engage, and ultimately make a purchase. Let's take a closer look at the importance of visual merchandising in the retail space.

What Is It?

In its simplest form, visual merchandising is the act of making retail spaces attractive to customers so that they spend money. If a store is not attractive or eye-catching, or is perhaps confusing to navigate, dark, or smelly, consumers are likely to run - fast - in the opposite direction.

If however, you can make displays, racks, shelves, and other retail store designs pleasing to consumers, you've won half the battle of getting them in your store, snooping around, and finding things to buy.

But why is it so important? Surely if a customer wants something bad enough, they'll find it right? In some cases, yes. On the other hand, if you had a magic trick that would pull people in and get them to open their wallets, wouldn't you use it? That's where visual merchandising comes in. Humans are, by nature, visual creatures and we are drawn to things that look pretty, organized, and appealing.

The Importance of Visual Merchandising

We know now that visual merchandising can make great things happen in a retail space. Let's look at five specific ways that visual merchandising can be beneficial.

More Money

Usually, the more time people spend in a store, the more money they're going to throw down at the cash register. For the business owner, that's really the bottom line, isn't it? Getting customers to spend. Think of the last time you were in a furniture store. They probably didn't have row after row of couches, but instead, a couch, table, and arm chairs set up in a living room-type arrangement. This layout helps people to envision the products in their own homes and can also lead to additional sales (since you need that chair that matches your new couch so perfectly).

Enhanced Brand Identity

The right type of visual merchandising can help build an identity around your brand. For example, when Victoria's Secret developed their PINK brand, they stepped away from the more mature and provocative nature of their lingerie merchandising and went with a more youthful and playful vibe. This decision has helped them to build an identity around the brand that appeals to their target audience of teenagers and young adults.

Better Aesthetics

Who doesn't love to shop in a visually pleasing store? Everything from the colors used to how empty space is incorporated around the merchandise and even the easy-to-spot clearance section makes the entire shopping experience more enjoyable to consumers. The smallest aesthetic details, such as the type of music being played or the type of lighting, can have a profound effect on a shopper's mood and, ultimately, their spending.

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