The top 3 visual merchandising principles
In visual merchandising, many aspects must be considered. However, not everything is equally important. It helps to look at visual merchandising from the customer’s perspective. So, what do customers expect from the product presentation when they enter a store? I have summarized the customer’s expectations in three principles:
1. Make the merchandise visible
2. Make the merchandise tangible and easily accessible
3. Give shoppers good choices
Principle # 1: Make the merchandise visible.
This point seems to be obvious, but this is not what I’ve found in many of the stores I’ve visited and analyzed over the years. Sometimes I found that merchandise was hidden behind large point-of-purchase displays. This may be great for the merchandise on display, but I strongly feel that the products in less prominent positions have a right to be seen as well. On other occasions, the products were missing from store shelves completely. They were simply not regularly restocked, and no effort was made to conceal the gaps. Shoppers will only buy what they see. Therefore, it is the essential task of visual merchandising to make products visible.
Principle # 2: Make the merchandise tangible and easily accessible.
Shoppers tend to touch most products before buying them. Eyesight is the most dominant sense through which humans gather information but touch is important as well. Touching helps shoppers make an emotional connection with a product. Seeing is believing, but touching is feeling. Just think about the softness of a cashmere sweater, the steady and secure grip of a cell phone or the sensuous curves of a shampoo bottle, and the feeling of sitting on a soft sofa—they all sell the product. Giving the shopper a chance to feel products is also a major advantage that brick-and-mortar stores have over online retailers.
Many retail stores use locked display cases or find other ways to prevent customers from helping themselves and selecting the products. For example, they place them on high shelves that petite shoppers have no chance of reaching. It is understandable to keep expensive jewelry under lock and key to prevent shoplifting but the vast majority of products should be easily accessible.
For many products, shoppers don’t want to see just the packaging, but the product as well. Stores where such products are sold should display a selection of unpacked goods. For example, an electronic store should have a selection of demonstration cameras on display to allow the customer to feel each product, see how it works, and decide whether to purchase it based on their own experience. Many demonstration products may, of course be, unusable after having been touched by thousands of shoppers, but isn’t that a small price to pay for the many additional products sold?
Principle # 3: Give shoppers good choices.
Consumers want to have full control of what they are doing. Visual merchandising should be used to give consumers a feeling of freedom of choice, not that they are being forced into making a purchase.
Some stores offer only relatively few choices on purpose. This strategy follows the scarcity principle. The scarcity principle is based on the assumption that because valuable objects are rare, artificially limiting their range or availability will increase the perceived value of those goods. Examples are limited editions or sales items that are available for only a very short period of time.
The scarcity principle can be part of a successful visual merchandising strategy. If it is used excessively, however, it can restrain a shopper’s perceived freedom, which will in turn lower the shopping enjoyment. At the same time, there is also a dark side to having choices. If shoppers are confronted with too many products, they get overloaded. Therefore, measures have to be taken to reduce the risk of overstraining customers and provide a balanced display of choices that works for the customer.
This will be the topic of our next video.