Visual merchandising has been around since, well, eyes. The pandemic has added a new spin, though. With sensory-driven “try before you buy” tactics that rely on touch, scent and taste largely off-limits for the past year, visual merchandising has taken on heightened importance. It’s also occupying new retail frontiers as customers become more accustomed to the safety and convenience of contactless shopping, even inside a store.
Here are a few visual merchandising tips we’ll be sharing in 2021.
Welcome to the front of our store
Once relegated to the dispersal of shopping carts and handbaskets,
the square footage just inside a store’s front entrance is now prime real estate. For this, we have the BOPIS trend to thank—buy online, pick up in store. The International Council of Shopping Centers estimates that more than half of adults use this “click-and-collect” option. Of those, two-thirds add additional items to their carts even though they’re ostensibly only there to fetch what they’ve already purchased.
Image source: pexels.com From a visual merchandising standpoint, this means rethinking of that former no-man’s-land in terms of a lucrative selling space. Stand at the threshold and think about what a customer does—how they move through the space to pick up the goods they ordered online—and what they encounter while they’re doing that. Without overcrowding the situation (a definite no-no during the pandemic), add interesting product displays to coax an impulse buy and signage that entices people to come back for a future benefit such as a sale, seasonal items or a great new product you’re introducing. BOPIS is about convenience—so make it convenient for shoppers who have no intention of walking further into the store to pick up “just one more thing.” Remember, lots of studies have shown they can’t resist, and 80% of impulse buys are made in brick-and-mortar stores.
“Welcome to the front of our store,” said the kiosk and the POS
Retailers are also bringing self-service kiosks and point-of-sale devices into the front-of-store space to satisfy customers’ desire for convenience and contactless shopping. There are many options available from a form and function standpoint. Freestanding floor kiosks, wall-mounted kiosks and countertop point of sale hardware are available in sleek, upright designs and large-scale models that are viewed from above. Functionality includes the ability to pay and get a receipt, be notified of upcoming opportunities, check on customer loyalty status, order additional items—delivered then and there or for pickup at a later date—get information on specific products and more. Even the touchscreen experience has taken on a safety-first angle, with screens that work with a gloved finger or technology that overlays the actual screen with a virtual one that “hovers” above it so you don’t have to touch it at all.
All of this should be considered visual merchandising, in that the look of the kiosks, where they’re placed and what one sees on the screen will play an important role in driving sales and customer satisfaction. As you install them, keep in mind the traffic flow and people’s need for personal space and privacy as they transact, then apply some of the techniques discussed in the first section.
No touching! No tasting! No trying on! Except…
People want to know what they’re getting before they spend their hard-earned money on a product. In the retail setting, how do you convince a shopper something will look good on them when they can’t try it on? Tantalize someone with a food item they can’t sample? Reassure a cosmetics customer that a contour stick won’t leave a muddy line down the side of their nose? Retailers have had to rethink the way they merchandise in-store to tempt customers in a much less hands-on environment. Here are a few solutions:
Image source: pixabay.comClothing – Provide more mirrors at more angles throughout the store so people can get some idea what a garment might look like on them, and (though it doesn’t really have anything to do with visual merchandising) make sure your return policy is generous enough to accommodate items returned after they’re finally tried on at home.
Food – Create an eye-catching display of individually wrapped free samples and place them so that they’re easy to pick up without rifling around in a deep container—think food display stands and risers—or enable your sales associates to distribute them in a contactless manner, such as with tongs. You can also provide small, beautifully wrapped samples near the point of sale that customers can pick up for a small fee.
Cosmetics and body care – Trial-size samples can’t match the instant gratification of swiping on a product and immediately seeing how it looks in the mirror, but it will give people the opportunity to try a less expensive portion of a product before spending on a full-size one. Samples are also a great way to introduce new products and entice people to come back into the store, which can lead not only the sale of the larger version, but of the aforementioned impulse buys that amplify sales over time. When they come back in, that’s also an opportunity to share new merchandise and entice with upcoming sales and events.
Signs, signs everywhere (creatively and strategically, of course)
In a touchless world, description and imagery play an increasingly important role in reassuring customers of a product’s “rightness,” introducing them to new or complementary products or bringing them back to the store as repeat customers. Signage displays come in an almost infinite variety of sizes and can be mounted on walls and countertops, placed freestanding on the floor or hung from the ceiling. They can be used to tempt with descriptions, ingredients and origin stories. They can be used to educate and provide product comparisons. They can be used to add pops of color, seasonality and brand moments to your visual merchandising strategy. They can even be used to demonstrate what you’re doing to keep your customers safe, including providing contactless ways to pay. Plus, chalkboards, sign holders and picture frames make it easy to swap out content as often as you want to.
The eyes have it
Visual merchandising has always played an important role in encouraging customers to enter, browse and buy, and the pandemic has amplified its usefulness when other, more tactile, ways of enticing customers aren’t viable due to health and safety protocols. While we’re no more prescient about the future than anyone else, we do know that some of the behavioral trends we’re seeing today will carry into the future. Continue to be creative, add more informative moments and make the convenience customers want a sales opportunity.