Visual Merchandising: A Pro Channel Distributors Silent Salesperson
Sharon Lessard, a Retail Design Institute leader, recently discusses the importance of visual merchandising, and how it becomes one of the prime vehicles for creating a retail experience that’s memorable for consumers and profitable for brands. Because of this integrated experience, and always focusing on the customer experience, she brings a unique perspective and understanding of business-driven design...including slow shifting trade channels.
Can Trade Distributors Learn from Retailers?
Let’s start by defining visual merchandising.
Visual merchandising creates a journey through a physical space and engages the customer in a variety of experiences and storytelling to maximize sales. It builds upon the design of a store, reinforcing a fresh and inviting customer experience. Successful visual merchandising attracts, engages, and motivates the customer to make a purchase. In fact, when stores are designed for end-to-end customer experiences, revenue grows 10 percent and customer satisfaction grows 20 percent. (McKinsey & Company, 2013)
Creating a strategy for visual merchandising includes many tools. Here are the ones I find most valuable:
- A customer journey map expressing how the brand should be experienced from the windows to checkout. This will set the stage for all other elements of impact for the customer.
- A floor map that creates a merchandise hierarchy and zoning for merchandise placement.
- Window displays that communicate current styles, content, and price messaging. They are often used to entice customers into the store.
- Tables, vitrines, hanging floor and wall fixtures for presenting merchandising to create a customer experience with interest, density and display.
- While the checkout experience might not seem like a visual merchandising tool, it’s the last place on contact with the customer before they leave the store. It should be just as impactful and engaging as the windows.
So, why is this seemingly simple concept an area of question in a distributor's budget?
Sharon reminds us that it has become somewhat of an after-thought for retailers. I would suggest the home & building controls industry has not broadly recognized visual merchandising as a core competency. This said, cash registers have slowly migrated towards the loading dock. Gondola’s have been relocated from restricted areas behind the counter, to easily accessible areas for a Home Technologist to load up his or her cart.
With the accelerated adoption of smart home technology, like virtual assistants or smart thermostats, carefully merchandising these high-value products in a location that is both intuitive for the Home Technologist and considerate of loss prevention will become important.
Sharon gives the following advice for struggling brick and mortar locations:
Consistency is fundamental to brand building. Through consistent touch-points, customers build familiarity and a relationship with a brand is formed. Familiarity becomes a shorthand way for customers to engage with brands and connect with brands more quickly.
The retail environment allows customers to have a sensory experience. This environment allows customers to participate and connect emotionally with a brand. By inspiring, surprising and delighting a customer, they are more likely to remember the brand and become a brand advocate.
Keep it Simple
Life is complicated and filled with stressful decisions and distractions. A good retailer edits assortments and presents simple, yet inspiring solutions on behalf of the customer. Presenting solutions in a simple way reassures the customer, reduces stress and builds confidence in a brand.
Let’s disrupt convention thinking!