Red dress on display around black dresses

Creating an effective merchandise display

10 min read
Brandi Johnson

Ever wondered how your shopping basket gets filled up so fast in some stores and in others you just don’t find anything that catches your eye?

The answer probably lies in their merchandise display.

What is a merchandise display?

A merchandise display is simply how you organize and place your merchandise in your store or retail space. Some are made with specific products in mind, displaying merchandise intended to target a certain shopper, while others provide a mix of merchandise to inspire all shoppers — with low-end, medium-end and high-end merchandise.

You’ll often see complementary products on these merchandising displays.

In a shoe store, you may see laces that go with the featured shoe, socks, or a purse. If you’re creating a display of cleaning products, you may include mops and mop heads, cleaning solutions, gloves and buckets.

Why are merchandising displays important?

Stationary items on display

Effective merchandising displays are designed to attract and engage customers while motivating them to make a purchase. The first type of merchandising display that comes to mind is a window display that brings customers into the store. But merchandising is important throughout the store to keep customers moving and can even help them find what they’re looking for.

All successful merchandise displays contain these two elements:

  1. Effective product placement: Place the merchandise in a way that shows it off.
  2. Placement and layout: Include all the styles, sizes, and colors of merchandise available so customers see what they want.

A merchandise display will look unprofessional if there aren't enough styles or sizes displayed. A professional merchandise display is an organized yet attractive representation of your merchandise that's designed to promote customer interest.

An effective merchandise display will:

  • Draw customer attention to merchandise by using lighting, color, and other visual merchandise presentation techniques.
  • Showcase specific merchandise in a way that's attractive and organized (i.e., draws customer interest).
  • Create curiosity about merchandise so customers can't resist wanting to find out more or give it a try.

Related: Inventory management 101 for small business

16 tips and techniques for effective merchandise displays

Whether you’ve got a whole store to manage or a booth in a market that you want to improve, here are sixteen tips and techniques to improve your displays.

Understand psychographics

Create displays that appeal to your ideal customers and help them solve their problems or achieve a better life. Your merchandise displays can paint a picture of the life they want to have — whether it’s cleaning supplies or a fresh fall outfit.

Get inspired

Sometimes it’s hard to come up with creative ideas to display your products, but there’s inspiration all around. You can look at other retailers, Instagram, interior decorators, and Pinterest to get fresh new ideas for your merchandising displays.

Use merchandise displays to educate your customers about new or existing products.

Educate your customers

One of the best ways to introduce new products is to educate your customers about them. Your merchandise displays can educate customers on how to use new or existing products through signage and visual product placement.

Build with balance

For your visual display, leverage the power of asymmetry. Create groupings with uneven numbers — three vases, five pairs of earrings, etc. The human brain looks for patterns and repetitions. Asymmetry is harder for your brain to figure out, so it holds your interest longer. And more attention is more likely to drive more sales.

Consider the size of your display items

When building a merchandise display, you’ll be tempted to put your featured item in place first. After all, you want it to be the first thing that your shoppers pay attention to.

Instead, put the largest items for your display in first and then fit in smaller ones around it. This creates a layered effect that draws attention to the display as a whole.

Use color

T-shirt retail display

Color sets the mood and attracts attention. Pairing the right colors with the products in your merchandise display can inspire people to buy. Colors also drive emotional impact.

  • Red: Energy, passion and love
  • Orange: Youth, enthusiasm and creativity
  • Yellow: Happiness, hope and positivity
  • Green: Nature, spring and wealth
  • Blue: Calming, intelligence and power
  • Purple: Prestige, luxury and spirituality
  • Pink: Femininity, romance and sensitivity
  • Brown: Warmth, stability and utility
  • Black: Elegance, power and exclusivity
  • White: Minimalism and simplicity
  • Gray: Professional, conventional and formal

Related: How to choose brand colors and use them on your website

Use contrast

Contrast can come through using colors, textures, and light. Contrast helps attract attention and establish a hierarchy in your display, and can even help with your focal point. Leverage high- and low-contrast to get the right level of attention on your display.

Create a focal point

Your merchandise display should have a clear focal point - the key place where you want to draw your customers’ attention. You can do this through the use of lighting, color, and placement. Your focal point should be at or near eye level and be well lit.

Embrace simplicity

More isn’t always better when it comes to your displays. Creating the right balance to draw attention to your featured products and accessories is key to increasing sales. If you have additional inventory, place it near the bottom of the display so your users can still find what they are looking for.

Engage other senses

Creating a great atmosphere in your retail store goes beyond just the visual appeal.

  • Sound. Playing the right music at the right volume helps set the tone for your shop. Soft classical piano will have a different effect on your buyer behavior than Today’s Top 40 cranked to 11.
  • Smell. According to the Independent, smell marketing can have a significant impact on sales. Nike found that adding a scent to their stores increased sales by 80% and a gas station that imported the smell of coffee increased beverage sales by 300%.
  • Taste. If you’re selling a consumable, giving your customers an option to try-before-they-buy is a great form of merchandise display. Plus, it builds the trust factor between you and your customers.
  • Touch. Letting customers feel and touch products before they buy is a powerful way to encourage purchasing, especially for tactile and fabric products.

Related: 9 retail tips to increase in-store sales through on-site marketing

Be bold

Attention favors the bold. By creating bold visual displays using color, light, and contrast, you’ll not only capture the attention of your customers, but you may also inspire them to share with others. We remember bold performances more than bland.

Be consistent

Don’t just make one area, like your window display, stand out.

When you leverage merchandise displays throughout your shop, you enhance the overall shopping experience. </blockquote>

You’ll also want to make sure your shop is clean and well-lit.

Use non-traditional display options

Every display doesn’t have to be on a traditional table or stock shelf. Pick display surfaces that align brand — from oak wine barrels to cinder-blocks and reclaimed wood, you can use a variety of tables and shelving to create unique displays.

Group products commonly used together

Shelf with stationary on display

Instead of having customers weave throughout the store, create displays that group products together. Put suede protector next to the new ankle boots, and fresh charcoal pencils with the sketchbooks.

Don’t forget signage

Your display doesn’t just have to contain products. Leverage signage to help explain your display and attract the attention of your customers. Your signage should align with your brand guidelines and complement your display.

Restock and refresh

Keep your displays attractive by refreshing them often and restocking as needed. A general rule of thumb is to refresh displays at least every thirty days. Check your displays daily (or even more often when your shop is busy) to make sure you don’t have holes in your display.

What are the kinds of retail displays?

There are dozens of kinds of retail displays — each with its own appeal. Here are nine common displays to use to enhance your merchandise displays.

Garment racks and display tables

Garment racks and display tables are the most common retail displays. Garment racks hang clothing, while display tables can be used for folded garments and packaged goods.


Mannequins complement garment racks, showing what clothing looks like. You can also use mannequins to create whole outfit displays, including accessories.

Freestanding displays

Freestanding displays can be placed throughout the store. Entryway displays capture the attention of your customers when they walk through the door, while other freestanding displays through the store draw attention to specific items.

Point-of-Purchase (POP) displays

POP displays are placed near the cash register with impulse buy purchases. These displays are common for candy, drinks, phone chargers and lip balm.

Bottles and plant in window  displayWindow displays

Window displays are a key magnet for shops in pedestrian areas and shopping centers. They’re ideal for showing off some of your best products to attract attention. Fifth Avenue in New York City is known for its window displays.

End-cap displays

At the end of an aisle, you can either just turn the corner or use the space to grab attention and extra sales. An end-cap display uses space that would otherwise be unused to feature products, giving them additional exposure and attention.

Dump Bins

Dump bins are just what they sound like - big containers full of products, like movie candy and bargain blu-rays. Dump bins attract bargain hunters and treasure seekers.

Tactile displays

These displays allow customers to experience a purchase before they actually make a purchase. Furniture displays are common tactile displays, along with other home furnishings.

Merchandising displays online

Merchandising displays aren’t just for brick and mortar stores.

Many of the same principles can be used for online store displays.

Instead of building and hosting physical displays, online shop owners build and photograph displays for their websites, and use ecommerce marketing tools like cross-merchandising and upsells to create a comprehensive marketing experience.

Homepage merchandising

The homepage of your online store should clearly demonstrate what you sell, just like the front window of a physical retail location. Select composite images that inspire and attract your ideal customers.

Category pages

Sofa category page

Category pages are a great way to highlight specific types of products in your shop. Images on your category pages can be thought of as an end-cap display to highlight what’s available in the aisle themselves.

Collection pages

While category pages are for products that are similar, collection pages are for products that work together well. Good examples of collection pages include best-sellers and new products, but you can also create collections as merchandise displays that work together. Create custom images to show how well the products in your curated collections work together.

Product pages

Even product pages are an opportunity to create online merchandise displays. Go beyond just having a strong hero product image to include images of your products in use. Place appliances in the kitchen, have someone wear the cardigan and hang the art on the wall with some accent pieces around it.


To link products and help increase sales, use ecommerce tools like the GoDaddy Online Store Builder. Cross-merchandising can incorporate products that customers also considered (alternatives) or that they purchased with the selection they’re considering (upsells.)

Following these tips to create effective merchandising displays doesn’t just make your shop look better. Good merchandising inspires your customers, increases sales, and keeps them coming back for more.