Imagine you walk into a new store. The shelves look like they came directly from Pinterest. The earth-tone color scheme of the space puts you in a zen state. And with every turn you take, you discover new surprises you can’t wait to pick up and examine. That’s the power of merchandising.
When it comes to thriving in retail, looks matter. Presentation can make all the difference in whether shoppers notice, trust, and ultimately purchase your products. Merchandising gives your products the advantage they need to make a great first impression. You want shoppers to have an experience that feels curated and premium and will keep them coming back to your store.
Everything you do to arrange, display, and promote the items in your store is merchandising. To help you excel at merchandising, we’ve collected some best practices to get you started.
What is merchandising?
Merchandising is the act of showcasing products in a visually appealing way that encourages shoppers to make a purchase. Good retailers leverage merchandising to influence shoppers and motivate their behavior. Merchandising can happen both online and in-person and can include everything from how you carefully arrange your wares on the shelves to how you manipulate lighting and colors. And it’s not just visual; great merchandising engages all five senses to draw the shopper in.
Why is merchandising important?
When merchandising is done correctly, it can help increase not only awareness of your offerings but also sales. Merchandising makes it easier to find products and lowers the effort shoppers make when they’re digging for the perfect product. If a shopper walks into a store and it’s a chaotic mess with products tossed on shelves with no rhyme or reason or improperly organized and labeled, they won’t hang around for long. Your inventory is likely one of your biggest costs, so display it effectively so you can move products.
Merchandising makes your retail space enjoyable and gives you a rare opportunity to tell a story about your brand. Think about how differently you feel when you walk into an Apple store versus when you walk into a Best Buy, or how you feel when you walk into a Target versus a Walmart. Effective merchandising is one of the reasons for that difference. If you create a space that your shoppers can identify with, you can move inventory faster, build customer loyalty, and increase brand recognition.
What makes an effective merchandising strategy?
Merchandising can attract your ideal customer and keep them returning to your shop. There are countless ways you can help customers feel at home in your store and fall in love with your brand. Here are a few steps for being intentional about your merchandising.
- Understand your shoppers’ aspirations. Do you know your audience? Your ideal customer? If you have a strong vision of who your products would resonate with the most, then use merchandising to craft the aesthetic of that customer’s dreams. You aren’t just selling a product after all, you’re selling a lifestyle. How you design, decorate, and lay out your store is a chance to show customers that you get them. So make it hygge, make it industrial, or make it maximalist. Curate a vibe that aligns with the lifestyle your shoppers are seeking and use merchandising to showcase how your products can seamlessly complement that lifestyle.
- Create a multisensory experience. The best merchandising does more than focus on what shoppers see, it also impacts what they hear, smell, feel, and sometimes even taste. You can play with color and lighting, but you can also burn pine candles to inspire feelings of coziness in shoppers or play some ’90s R&B hits to jog some serious nostalgia. If your store contains tactile things with a lot of texture like fur accent rugs or stuffed animals, place them strategically around the store so that shoppers are encouraged to engage with them. This blog gives a great in-depth explainer on how to delight shoppers with sensory cues they can’t resist.
- Craft thoughtful, impossible-to-miss displays. Don’t underestimate the power of window-shopping. You can catch the attention of random passersby with colorful, vibrant window displays that help strengthen the story of your brand. If your shop doesn’t have the window space needed for a grand display, you can still create powerful displays around your store by using colors and lighting. Maybe for the holidays, you create a Christmas tree out of gift boxes featuring your top-sellers, or for Valentine’s Day, you arrange items into a heart or couple up your mannequins. Getting creative with displays can provide a memorable merchandising experience and maybe even get shoppers to snap a selfie for Instagram. Use product displays to help your store stand out.
- Curate and group products with intention. You want shoppers to understand how the products in your store might pair with one another. So do the work for them by grouping products strategically. If you have an accessories shop, maybe during the summer seasons, you group your sunglasses, tote bags, and floppy hats together. The goal is to ignite the shopper’s imagination and create a cohesive storytelling experience. Their perfect beach vacation is waiting, and your summery products are part of that vision. You can also use curated merchandising to stay up-to-date on trends by collecting all pink items in one setting for a Barbie-inspired look or all neutrals for a desert vibe during Coachella season. You can read more about how to curate a store that your customers will love.
- Know when to experiment. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. One of the benefits of merchandising is being able to quickly discover what works and what doesn’t. Are those wool scarves not really getting noticed in the rear of the store? Move them closer to the cash register. Is the handmade jewelry flying off the shelves? Use that information to forecast how much extra you should order from your wholesaler. You should also let the changing seasons inform your merchandising as well and change decor and merchandise accordingly. You want shoppers to always have something new to stumble across so that they’re enticed to visit regularly.
What are some other great tips?
Now that we’ve shared the high-level basics of how to craft a great merchandising strategy, let’s dive into some powerful tips and tricks that you can keep top of mind for your retail shop.
- Use signage effectively throughout your store. You can leverage signs like banners, posters, or floor stickers to answer common questions that shoppers may have and make it easier for them to get to know your store. Leverage signage to direct people to fitting rooms, the cash register, or your sales section. Keep the copy on your signs short and to the point as too many words may not get read. Also, make sure you’re presenting information in a legible font and avoid using a cluttered design for your signage.
- Be thoughtful about colors and lighting. These are simple ways to create focal points in your store and invoke certain feelings within the shopper through merchandising. Harness the power of color psychology throughout your shop as you choose color palettes and themes. You can use a bold shade of red to represent passion and excitement around certain products, blue to bring feelings of calm and safety, or shades of green to represent growth and balance. In a similar way, lighting can help shoppers feel at ease or put them on high alert. Opt for cozy yellow lighting or string lights to create an intimate feeling. Avoid harsh ultrabright lighting.
- Think about your layout and floor plan. You want to help shoppers navigate your store, so create a merchandising layout that’s intuitive and easy to traverse. Do you want your store’s aisles to be on a simple grid (popular in spaces like bookstores or grocery stores) or be more of a free-flow layout where people can easily hop from setting to setting (popular in boutique or specialty environments)? Be aware of how you’re directing traffic around your store and make sure that paths are wide enough so that people aren’t squeezing past each other and people with mobility devices don’t feel cramped.
- Place high-value items strategically. If you recently received a shipment of precious items like rare handcrafted slippers or beaded jewelry, make it easy for shoppers to locate those items. You might include them in your window display or on an eye-level shelf that shoppers are likely to see as soon as they walk in. For smaller trinkets that don’t have a high price tag but move easily, you can put them near the cash register or near the checkout line to encourage a last-minute “why not?” purchase from shoppers.
- Don’t forget about the front of your store. The first ten feet or so of your store is a zone where shoppers transition from the outside world into the world of your store. This shouldn’t be a jarring experience. If you’re able, leave plenty of clear, uncluttered space near the entrance of your store so that the shopper isn’t immediately overwhelmed when they enter your shop. This gives the shopper a moment to gradually take it all in without being inundated with merchandising.
- Keep it clean. This might feel like an obvious one, but it can’t be overstated. Make sure that your store is deep-cleaned on a regular basis and tidy up throughout the day. Check the fitting rooms for trash that might have been left behind and clean up any spills. An unclean store can ruin your merchandising efforts. There’s no bigger turnoff for shoppers than dusty shelves, dirty windows, or sticky floors.
Your store is precious real estate, so you should wield it effectively through merchandising. You aren’t just stocking shelves with merchandise, you’re creating a distinct experience for shoppers that they’ll remember after they’ve left your space. Merchandising allows you to tell a better story about your brand and invites shoppers to take part in that story. Through merchandising, you can build better relationships with shoppers and move more inventory.