The Power of Great Visual Merchandising

Have you ever found yourself out shopping at a huge store cluttered with all sorts of options, but you can’t seem to find one thing that you want? Then you go to some unique little boutique around the corner with not near as much merchandise but you can’t seem to narrow down what to buy (because you want it all)?

Well this happens to me all the time, but why is this happening? Obviously, a variety of factors could contribute to this. For instance, maybe the small boutique is more of niche store that caters directly to your individual needs or simply has better options. But I also believe it has a lot to do with visual merchandising. Great displays and space design can be a powerful way for retailers to market their products and generate sales.

Here’s an example: A little while ago I was shopping at a little boutique in my hometown. This boutique sells jewelry, home decor, and clothing which all has a kind of rustic chic feel to it. Its displays are sometimes unique and sometimes simple but they are always nicely done and always seem to reflect this rustic chic feel. It’s one of my favorite boutiques and I always love pretty much everything in there, but it’s a little pricey so I usually can only limit myself to a few things (if any). Well, I saw this scarf that I absolutely loved. It was actually a pretty ordinary infinity scarf, but for some reason it was perfect to me! It was $40, and for a pretty plain scarf, that is pretty pricey (a rational person would think). But of course its perfection completely outweighed every rational thought in my head. They had it displayed with this cute and casual little outfit which was much more expensive (and that I definitely could not afford to buy at the time), so I decided to settle for just the adorable scarf.

After I buy the scarf, I’m in the shopping kind of mood so I head over to another boutique down the street (literally two minutes away) that I had never been to. I go in, its not near as appealing—kind of cramped and boring— and I’m not really seeing anything I like. But then all of the sudden I see this pile of scarves in the corner with a sign saying that they are $20 each. And, what do you know, the exact scarf I had just bought was laying right there… Just to make sure that they were truly the same, I compared them side-by-side—yep, they were literally identical. Of course some of my rational thought comes back to me and I buy the scarf that was half the price of the one I had just bought. Then I go back to the first boutique and return the $40 scarf. (I could only get store credit so that was kind of frustrating too but not the point.)

At first I was kind of angry at the first boutique… I mean it was my favorite, but this was making me question the real worth of everything in the store. However, after calming down and addressing my naivety, I had to think: this store is actually just doing some really great in-store marketing. Kudos to them for being able to display things in an inspiring enough way to convince me that this scarf was worth more than twice the amount that another store was pricing it. My initial negative feelings towards the boutique have subsided, though not enough to be convinced that all their stuff is worth the price (especially since I’ve caught these price discrepancies more than once). Now every time I’m in there I still think everything is perfect but also can’t help but think: “I could probably find that for cheaper somewhere else.” But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

The point is that by displaying things in such a unique and attractive way, this boutique was able to increase the value of it’s merchandise in its consumer’s mind and was able to instigate a point of purchase sale that another store (which made no effort to organize and display its merchandise in an inspiring way) probably wouldn’t have gotten. If I had never gone to that first boutique, I am convinced that I would not have looked twice at that same scarf in the second one…

Although visual merchandising is obviously not the only thing to consider when marketing in the retail world (e.g., nowadays good digital marketing is ABSOLUTELY vital for retailers), it is definitely something to keep in mind. The more attractive, unique, and inspiring your displays and overall space design is, the more appealing your product will be.

This blog post by Humayan Khan at shopify.com had some good visual merchandising tips to think about if you’re interested!

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