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How to boost sales with visual merchandising

17 February 2020 Small Business Advice

Being a bricks and mortar business is becoming increasingly difficult across the UK, and as ecommerce is seeing healthy growth (reportedly, retail spend amounted to £476.65 billion last year), shops have only seen a growth of 0.4%, (opposed to the 10.9% of growth for online retailers).   

Although these stats seem a tad gloomy, there is no reason for high street retailers to despair. It just means that the hard work is never done and making those extra sales is a priority, especially during the quieter months.  

Having a physical store also has its perks though, especially when it comes to upselling. Forbes reported that while more of us are choosing a virtual basket to a physical one, consumers are on average spending more in store than they are online

This has a lot to do with the emotional side of our brains when shopping, which can release hormones such as adrenaline or lower our levels of cortisol (the pesky stress hormone) which is why we often hear phrases such as ‘retail therapy’ or ‘panic purchases’. The latter is true especially around big events such as Christmas, which results in us spending a lot more than we should have.   

As well as the emotions, visceral experiences (touching the materials and really experiencing the colours/smells of a store) and customer service, there is another, perhaps less obvious way to help increase sales in your retail store— through a solid visual merchandising strategy. 

So, if you’re wondering how to display your merchandise in a more meaningful way, or simply looking to expand on your visual merchandising ideas, you’re in luck, Paymentsense has rounded up our top tips for boosting sales with effective VM in 2020.

Use your data to target customers’ wants

Where possible, all decisions should be underpinned by data. If you’ve managed to incorporate any data collection into your marketing or sales process, why not use it to target your customers with your visual product placement. 

For example, if your audience is predominantly mothers, and you know they’re more likely to shop during the late-afternoon and spend around £50 per purchase, then it makes sense to merchandise things that hit around this price mark,  plus products which are slightly higher to encourage a reasonable splurge, or add on. It also makes sense to look at things that these people want and turn them into things that they need

A way to visual merchandise in this way is to place your best sellers for this demographic (e.g. basic cotton t shirts) next to new products which are less everyday essentials but are more aspirational (silk scarves, jewelry, bags, or shoes) and produce more excitement for customers (because they are less mundane).     

Alternatively, if you don’t have any granular or bespoke insights into your audience, your inventory data is a good enough starting point to tell you:

  • Your best sellers for each week
  • What products you sell the least of 
  • What colours and sizes are selling best 

What you do with this data is really dependent on your business KPIs and stock. However, using inventory information is a smart way to get ahead on your VM plan as it allows you to make decisions such as:

  • Displaying new stock 
  • Displaying higher value/revenue stock 
  • Changing the way you display stock which isn’t selling
  • Changing the way you display stock which is no longer available/limited units

Complete the look, or experience

Whether you sell clothing, candles or utensils, there is always a user journey and wider picture you can tap into. It’s fairly obvious with clothing that you should be creating full outfits for customers who may have only wanted a dress, but couldn’t refuse the shoes, jewelry and bag that complemented it perfectly. But what about in other scenarios, which require thinking outside of the box a little more? 

In order to figure out what is a relevant add on for customers and to help your staff up-sell more easily, when placing out your stock, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Why is my customer buying this product?
  • Is there anything that they need for preserving/caring for it?
  • Can they complement it with something else?
  • What else are they using the product with, that you could replace with your stock?
  •  What scenarios are they using it in, and are their other products that also work for this scenario?
  • What type of person is buying this product and what other products fit into their aspirational lifestyle

Be practical

It’s tempting to get carried away with visual merchandising, and there is definitely such a thing as too much stock. While your aim should be to promote your products, you also need to prioritise the customer’s shopping experience so they can peruse at leisure and find the sizes they need, without feeling like they’re about to topple your perfect pyramid of origami scarves.

Making beautiful displays is undoubtedly a craft and gives you the opportunity to tell stories, stand out from the swathes of competitors, tap into culturally relevant events and show what your brand is all about.

But it’s probably best to limit more grandiose or abstract displays to your windows, using your creative flair to increase footfall and visitors, who once are in the store can shop in a carefree manner, with stock that’s easy to navigate.

Link your merchandising with your promotions

Promotional signage is an important part of visual merchandising as it shows customers not only things that are desirable to them, but at what reduced price. It’s also crucial in driving footfall, luring passers by in with hard-to-ignore promotions and sales. 

For example, if you have a promotion on bags, you may want to dedicate a wall showing off all of your collections and styles.

Yet, because of the promotion, maybe these bags will fly off the shelves, with very little effort. In which case, try to merchandise the bags next to matching purses or full priced accessories to increase the transaction value.

Use the rule of three

The rule of three technique, (also known as the pyramid effect) is a technique using in merchandising that favours three different mannequins or window displays of different cascading heights. It works by creating a symmetry using the tallest objects in the centre back, and smaller ones on either side. The rationale for this is that our brains are wired to remember things best in threes, both visually and audibly.

As well as mixing up heights and perspectives with your mannequins, try mixing textures, fabrics, colours and lengths, to stimulate our eye and evoke responses (e.g. that looks so warm/soft/shiny!).

Have fun with it

While visual merchandising has an end goal to drive conversions and traffic into your store, it’s also something which is difficult to measure the success of directly. It requires insights, gut instinct, and of course, a lot of imagination.

It’s your opportunity to release your creative inhibitions in a productive way, so be playful with it, let it show your brand’s personality, and keep iterating and shifting things up every few weeks until you’ve found the perfect vibe.


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