Wow holiday shoppers with these 7 visual merchandising tips

7 min read
Ashliegh Gehl

With the holiday shopping season upon us, shop owners across Canada are gearing up. In this post, we’ll show you how to enhance your holiday sales with visual merchandising that will have your customers buzzing with bliss as they fill their baskets to the brim.

There’s an art to placing the right product in front of the right customer at the right time.

Visual merchandising is a powerful tool for small business owners in the retail sector. The overall objective is to move product at a pace to surpass your daily sales goals — while also heightening the customer experience.

Editor’s note: Make your brick and mortar business easy for people to find with a website. Find out how you can make a free website with GoDaddy. Includes all you need to bring them flocking to your shop or storefront.

Make more sales with these 7 visual merchandising ideas

People go holiday shopping for the experience. Here are 7 ways to enrich the customer experience in your business.

  1. Start with your target audience.
  2. Get inspired.
  3. Draw crowds with your window display.
  4. Create a story or a theme.
  5. Keep it consistent.
  6. Focal points and colours.
  7. Use the senses.

Before we discuss the tips, let’s touch quickly on why experience matters so much to us.

Using customer experience to sell more

If I were feeling incredibly motivated, I could finish all of my holiday shopping in a single day without leaving home. That’s the beauty of online shopping. I’d also go one step further and buy from shops offering free or low-cost gift wrapping. A holiday season without paper cuts? Sign me up!

We know why customers shop online. It’s efficient. Now ask yourself, why do customers shop in-store?

Visual Merchandising Starbucks Cup Pyramid
Photo: quan le on Unsplash

It’s all about the experience.

Deep down, we crave the joy of weaving through lightly crowded streets with a hot cocoa in hand as we pop in and out of shops. It’s one of the delightful hallmarks of the season. Especially when we come across unexpected finds.

The power of shopping IRL

Once in-store, we enjoy touching a new pair of shoes or smelling a candle that transports us to a cozy cabin in the woods. An elevated sensory experience gives us something to talk about with our family, friends and colleagues when they ask, “What did you do this weekend?”

You can’t tell charming stories about your online shopping excursions because, let’s be honest, they’re rather uneventful.

Through visual merchandising, you can shape the customer experience in such a way that it becomes a part of their story. A great example of this is Indigo (or Chapters, depending on where you live). They’re fantastic at visual merchandising.

The in-store atmosphere is warm and inviting. Shoppers circle large tables stacked with must-read books before perusing shelves artfully designed for reading accessories, such as:

  • Knitted socks
  • Toasty blankets
  • Large mugs
  • Loose-leaf teas
Visual Merchandising Christmas Display with Blankets
Be helpful. Place items likely to be bought together near each other in your store.

The shopper doesn’t have to think too hard about what would pair nicely with their book purchase. Indigo does the guesswork for the consumer and makes the shopping experience easy and enjoyable.

Now that you know what visual merchandising is and how it shapes the customer experience, let’s explore the ways you can strengthen the merchandising in your small business. Keep in mind that visual merchandising is all about answering questions. Below you’ll find prompts to get your wheels turning.

Related: Customer service skills that will bring them back for more

Tip 1: Start with your target audience

Which target audiences are you trying to reach?

For example, if your shoppers are mainly female in their mid-thirties, you’re targeting first-wave millennials. Dig deeper and come up with a theme, based on your products, you think they would like.

Tip 2: Get inspired!

Visual Merchandising Instagram Search

Visual merchandising is a lot of hard work that ends up looking effortless to the consumer — but it’s also a lot of fun. Get the creative wheels turning by scrolling through the endless ideas on Pinterest and Instagram — just search using the #VisualMerchandising hashtag.

Pick a couple of ideas you’d like to try this year, then list what’s needed for each and where in your shop or office they would work best.

Tip 3: Draw crowds with your window display

We may not judge a book by its cover, but we definitely judge a store by its window display. With just one look, we decide if we’re curious enough to enter or if we’re simply going to keep walking.

Visual Merchandising Shop Window

Your window is the eye to your store’s soul.

If one of your main objectives is to increase foot traffic, use your window display to entice holiday shoppers. For an array of window display tips, check out this post on the topic.

Tip 4: Create a story or a theme

Think of your main window display as your centrepiece. Everything else is an offshoot. What’s the story or theme behind your window display?

It should instantly connect with your target audience. Once you’ve solidified that, expand it to your in-store visual merchandising. People don’t buy products. They buy experiences. What experience are you selling?

Tip 5: Keep it consistent

Your vibrant window display will draw customers in, but what keeps them in the store?

If your in-store visual merchandising doesn’t match the window display, you’ll lose customers fast. Shoppers hate feeling baited. Having consistent visual merchandising that connects to your window display will encourage customers to bounce from endcap to endcap, and waltz from aisle to aisle.

It’s all about discovery. If you change visual merchandising themes, it’ll interrupt the flow.

Tip 6: Focal points and colours

Let’s say you own a home décor shop. Inside there’s a lovely round table filled with items for an elaborate dinner. Where do you want the shopper to look? By choosing your focal point in advance, you’re able to break down the elements of the display so that the customer sees what you want them to see.

Once you’ve established your focal point, use colour and contrast to draw attention to it. If your focal point is a bright plate, choose a light-coloured napkin. Be sure to leave some open space on your display. Too many products can be overwhelming.

Tip 7: Use the senses

The term ‘visual merchandising’ is kind of misleading because of its emphasis on sight. Think of visual as the draw. Once the customer is at the display, then what? You want them to engage with your products.

Visual Merchandising Woman Sniffing a Sachet
Include food samples in your display, or seasonal hand soaps if you offer these.

Go one step further and think about how your displays can be Instagram-able. Many businesses showed their support for the Toronto Raptors by creating murals that prompted fans to stop in, take photos and share their moment. This created buzz around the businesses, generated awareness and increased sales.

Related: Pricing strategies to boost holiday sales online or in-store

To recap

In-store shopping is an experience. Visual merchandising elevates the experience and can give the customer something to talk about with friends, family and colleagues.

When you’re creating your visual merchandising plan, remember to:

  • Define your target audience and do some research to get inspired.
  • Start with your window display, and then carry the story/theme throughout your store.
  • Stay consistent with your colour palette and story/theme. Use focal points on each display to draw attention to the products you want to sell.
  • Tap into the senses and encourage your customers to interact with your displays.

Best of luck with your visual merchandising this holiday season! You’re going to nail it!