It may start with receiving a catalog, finding a site online, strolling down a street viewing store fronts or walking through a mall. However it finds you, it has the ability to draw you in time and again. What I am referring to is the power of visual sales.
According to Wikipedia (my go-to for definitions these days ) Visual merchandising /visual sales is the activity and profession of developing the floor plans and three-dimensional displays in order to maximize sales. Both goods or services can be displayed to highlight their features and benefits. The purpose of such visual merchandising is to attract, engage and motivate the customer towards making a purchase. I believe it also is meant to draw emotions from us – a response, a comment.
What I love about visual sales goes beyond the products the retailer is selling, it is the artistic displays within the space (or the photography & styling in a catalog). It is creating the environment that features and highlights the products. It can be quite minimalist (think of an apple store) or as detailed and at times overwhelming because there is so much to see and experience (abc carpet & home store in Manhattan). The main objective of these presentations is to attract, engage and communicate with the potential customers. Customers entering a store are greatly influenced by the visual information they gather in the first split second. One simple visual element, such as color, can catch a shopper’s attention and also greatly affect their mood, it could also be an aroma wafting out of an open door (LUSH) that draws you in as well, or the music playing within the space.
Working as an interior designer, I find that my own experiences in retail environments can influence the purchases or selections I make for myself as well as for my clients. Sometimes having a wonderful visual display makes it easier for the client to envision the final outcome of the objects within their own home as we shop together.
Window displays are important because they provides us with a first encounter. If it is not interesting, creative or eye catching – we may not go in. (Of course, there are many stores we shop at out of utilitarian purposes and as far as window or merchandising displays, they are critically lacking i.e. Market Basket. But I am not talking about that kind of store right now). Some of the reasons the following are my favorite stores (and catalogs) – Anthropologie, Sundance, Free People, Urban Outfitters, West Elm, Aurhaus – are because they have taken the time to create attractive visual displays that evoke emotion from their customers and create an experience upon entering.
I also love to look at the lighting within a store. How a store works with their lighting is important as well. I used to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch with my daughters, I hated that experience. I loved the scented fragrance wafting through the store, but that was about it. The music was always too loud, the space was so dimly lit I really could not see what they had selected and all of the table displays seemed identical. I know it was branding, but it did not work for me.
Walking into Anthropologie as well as abc carpet & home is a totally different experience for me. From the moment you walk onto the pebble flooring, look up to see an interesting hanging fixture, look to one side and see home goods and glance to the other side of the store with clothing and then in the middle all things mixed – it is like walking around a museum and experiencing everything. No road map needed, just start on one side and enjoy strolling through the space. Not only are the products wonderful, but how they are displayed, gathered together, set off by something unexpected at times. It just works for me. I don’t want to forget to share that being in that store touches most of my senses as well. To me that is a full experience.
Another aspect of creating a total shopping experience for me is the bag – I am not sure if this falls under marketing materials and/or visual sales as well, but I always love a great bag with my purchase. Many years ago, I would collect bags from my favorite stores and display my collection over an entire wall in my kitchen. I considered them artwork.
I am sometimes called upon to create a space for a client based upon an object they found in a store or an image they may have seen online. I like to tap into the emotions the client experienced upon the initial sighting – as that is what will draw them into the space long after I have finished my work with them. This seems to be why I am drawn into my favorite stores time and again. It is the emotional connection I make to the products and the visual displays. Let me know what stores/catalogs evoke these feelings for you. I would love to grow my favorites!