Visual merchandising (VM) refers to anything that can be seen by the customer inside and outside a store, including displays, decorations, signs and layout of space. Visual merchandising is also practiced online. The aim with VM is to influence the behavior of shoppers in a store and website visitors in the online channel.
For example, intimate apparel retailers spend much effort in creating a unique identity through distinctive visual merchandising strategies to provide a positive mood for consumers. Indeed, they want to increase purchase intention, store loyalty, and repeat purchase 1. After all, they succeed with VM by changing the mood of the customers in the store…
Emotion is an important factor of how we perceive something. It serves as the internal motivator that attracts us to the things that makes us feel good or positively associate with our minds 1. So, astute retailers use their store environments to manipulate affective responses. Indeed, a positive impact of affective pleasure can elongate the purchasing time in terms of customer involvement and time spent in a store and gaining customer share.
We all know that online retail is now taking business away from traditional Brick and Mortar retailers. However, the one thing the online channel can’t offer to its customer is an in-store experience. Retail Expert Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor concurs: “When they’re online, they can’t emotionally connect to the merchandise. And let’s be honest, they’re probably just searching for the cheapest example of what they’re looking for.”
Therefore Brick and Mortar retailers should use the competitive advantage that an in-store experience offers to get feet back into their stores. One way to enhance the effect of visual merchandising in the store, is to use digital technology.
The use of digital technology for visual merchandising
The use of high-tech applications in visual merchandising is one of the strategies employed by retailers to attract young people who were born in the midst of this technological revolution 2. “With the ever advancement of digital technology, the longer technology is left out of your visual merchandising strategy, the more you have to lose as a business”, according to Sarah Gray (Luminati.co.uk).
Applying digital technology for visual merchandising (Luminati.co.uk):
- Floor standing iPad stand. A floor standing iPad stand is a fantastic digital platform to incorporate into your visual merchandising strategy. It’s perfect for use in exhibitions, lobby areas and showrooms and it allows the public to view a portfolio, your products or anything at their leisure, and without any pressure.
- Bespoke multimedia displays. These are custom made to order so you can ensure that every part of your brand is portrayed to the customer in the way that you desire, branding of corporate logos can be included, as well as any other printing that you need applying.
- Freestanding Multi Touch Screen. Fitted with a commercial grade panel with a lifespan of 50,000 hours, this will fulfil all your visual merchandising needs for months to come, as well as being fantastic for use at trade shows, with the ability to get all your customers involved in your brand.
- Wall Mounted Multi Touch Screen. A wall mounted multi touch screen is a great starting point that is fantastic for displaying and allowing users to interact with your website, images and content.
- Meet and Greet Station. A perfect way for greeting new and existing customers, these are ideal for greeting customers in a retail space, at exhibitions or conferences when perhaps there may not be any staff present to start with.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) can be defined as a real-time direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment that has been enhanced/augmented by adding virtual computer-generated information to it 2. Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions (Virtual Reality Society).
AR and VR are playing important roles to enhance the in-store visual merchandising experience for customers.
Joe Bardi writing in Marxent proposes four reasons why Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are made for visual marketing:
- VR and AR visual merchandising ideas: It’s the evolution of experiential marketing. By offering an experience that’s as entertaining as watching a movie or playing a video game, merchants who sell with VR and AR hope to increase sales and customer loyalty, while also building buzzy word of mouth from shoppers. After all, the more enjoyable the experience, the more likely the customer is to spend money — and tell a friend.
- VR and AR are generating data about customer behaviour. AR and VR platforms are constantly generating statistics on user behaviour and activity. Hence it allows merchants to better target the shopping experience to the individual consumer and convert more browsing to buying.
- Unlimited square footage and infinitely customizable. VR and AR systems allow for a fully customizable space that can be updated with speed and ease.
- Cost control: Reduce real costs related to logistics, loss and manufacturing samples. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality eliminate the need to keep expensive and bulky samples on hand. Furthermore, no physical display means greatly reduced costs.
However, the best news for retailers that invested in AR/VR visual merchandising, is that the younger generation cohorts love the technology! “Virtual experiences are thriving amongst the millennial audience and it’s clear that the future is going to be filled with exciting technology used to craft online experiences, especially in retail”, according to Augment.com.
It goes without saying that the “younger” Gen Z cohort takes AR and VR as a matter of fact. Indeed, 79% of Gen Z US internet users – ages 10 to 18 – said they are interested in virtual reality (Touchstone Research). They grew up with smartphones and prefer in-store shopping above online shopping. So, give Gen Zs AR and VR in your store to get them buying!
Online visual merchandising
The design of your eCommerce website and merchandising needs to attract online shopping customers. Moreover, it should give them enjoyable experiences. Indeed, the website that creates pleasure for customers has a positive effect on their approach behaviour. It also makes the customers return to the website more often 3.
Also, retailers should remember that the online channel has limited capabilities to offer complete experiences that can be directed at all the senses of the customers. However, the customer’s visual sense can be experienced at its fullest in the online channel.
PoqCommerce.com offers five tips to improve your online visual merchandising:
- Get beautiful, high-res photos. Your product photos are your no 1 asset. Make them clear, uncluttered, and high-resolution. Great photos can help to answer customer questions about the product.
- Consider model shots. Model shots are a great added extra to your flat product shots.
- Add some video. Video is the next level – an expensive option, with potentially great results.
- Play with your layouts. Make sure they’re fun optional extras – you should always make it easy for consumers to shop by category when they’re not in the mood to browse.
- Write a killer product description. The final piece of the puzzle, this is where you need to fill in all the information customers can’t get from your photos.
Apart from perfecting visual merchandising for your eCommerce website, your site still needs to be user friendly. Otherwise, the best visual experience will be sadly a non-experience for most of the visitors.
So, as you can see, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of your silent sales person, your visual merchandising. Therefore, if your customers likes what they see, and enjoy the experience, they may buy your stuff. And if they really liked the experience, they will tell others about it.
- Augmented Reality in Retail – a Useful Customer Experience
- Bricks and Clicks Retail – Shopping Experience makes the Difference
A Marketing Plan helps you to communicate the right content to the right audience.
1 Law, D., Wong, C. and Yip, J. 2012. How does visual merchandising affect consumer affective response? An intimate apparel experience, European Journal of Marketing, 46(1/2):112-133.
2 Sampaio, J.P., Zonatti, W.F., Mendizabal-Alvarez, F.J.S., Rossi, G.B. and Baruque-Ramos, J. 2017. New Technologies Applied to the Fashion Visual Merchandising, Modern Economy, 8(03):412.
3 Choudhary, M.F.S. 2017. Connecting online visual merchandising and consumer response behaviour, International Education and Research Journal, 3(5):553-556.