Did you know that window displays alone influence almost 25% of purchases? Can you then imagine the power of creative visual displays and activations throughout the rest of your store? Visual Merchandising (VM) is a selling tool with immeasurable value in boosting the aesthetics of your brand through striking product displays that draw shoppers into your store and drive sales. No matter how great the products are, if your displays and in-store activations lack that multi-sensory magic that play on your shoppers’ five senses, you are holding your business back from massive traffic flow and increased sales potential. While visual aspects are by far the most important to focus on (sight is responsible for more than 80% of our information processing), they are not the only useful elements in creating engaging displays. Looking back on design elements and retail formats that captured shoppers’ attention in 2019 – pop-ups, interactive displays, digital integration, texture walls and touches of nature, all work towards the goal of creating Instagrammable stores (already mentioned in our retail design blog) – retailers can draw inspiration for new visual merchandising strategies to implement in 2020. Here are 6 key features to keep in mind for creating retail displays and activations that will create a buzz around your store. 1. STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD The solution to making your store stand out from the crowd is a strategic use of a variety of elements – materials, textures, colours, lighting, signage, wayfinding, digital technology etc. Before you begin planning this visual strategy, it’s vital to evaluate the store space and location: is it in a busy shopping centre with a constant flow of bypassing foot traffic, or in a quiet street where you need to go above and beyond to draw potential customers in-store? In an already busy, cluttered environment like a shopping centre, perhaps your brand will benefit from a space that offers shoppers an oasis amid the chaos – a space where they can recharge from the noise of their surroundings. In a quiet area, a stronger ‘out-there’ approach will make shoppers aware of your store. A tip: get the basics right before you move on to anything new. Good lighting, clear wayfinding and complementing colour palettes will lay the foundation for creative features like focus walls (green walls are really popular at the moment), attention-grabbing storefront/window displays and engagement-stations like an in-store café or bar. Louis Vuitton did a great job on their latest pop-up store that ran for a short period from July to August this year in Tokyo’s bustling Ginza district. The designer used colour as a tool to lure visitors in, craftly pairing unexpected colours to draw the eye to hero products. Although Louis Vuitton already has a well-established presence in Ginza, this pop-up was a strategic move to give the brand that extra push with a design that deviates from the usual appearance of its stores. This temporary store also has increased drawing power by stocking limited edition products of which most are exclusive to Japan. 2. DESIGNING FOR DIFFERENT FORMATS Temporary formats are experiencing massive growth in popularity and are changing the game for brands capitalizing on their exclusivity to build brand presence and test new markets, and for businesses experimenting with a new approach to engaging with their client base across various scenarios. Designing and building temporary displays require a different approach to traditional permanent activations. Modularity is key to ensure simplified installation, breakdown, transport and storage. Of course, the benefits are endless: cutting down on manufacturing costs, lower rental expenses, flexibility in terms of using the same unit for multiple purposes, a boost in attention from customers in new locations… the list goes on. In Singapore, Robinsons Department Store collaborated with clothing brand, The Corner Shop, to open a modular pop-up store offering a temporary retail space for the brand to sell their signature t-shirt lines. Aside from a few clothing racks, the product displays are almost entirely built out of cardboard – an unlikely yet effective method for the construction of this pop-up. No doubt the manufacturing costs were minimal, as was the time needed to install and relocate this structure. 3. CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT Ultimately, customer engagement is what it’s all about. Capturing shoppers’ attention, increasing dwell-time and creating memorable experiences to build lasting relationships and encourage them to support the brand in the future. How do you do this? To set your brand apart from competition, you need to be able to offer customers something no one else can. A fun, fresh approach to the shopping experience can go a long way in building a loyal customer base long-term. The strategy for this will differ depending on the store format, location, target audience and brand identity. Think about this: do your customers want to see digital innovation, or do they prefer a more traditional ‘human’ touch? What does your budget allow? A survey by Ripen eCommerce found that the sensory aspects of brick-and-mortar is the primary reason customers still prefer shopping in-store instead of completely reverting to online shopping. Creating product displays that invite shoppers to touch, feel and interact with your products will encourage them to keep coming back to your store. Test devices in tech stores, tasting samples in grocery stores and try-on stations in clothing and beauty stores are a few ideas to brainstorm. Having something for kids is another great way to create a family-friendly story around your brand. Working with greater group, luxury fashion brand Carolina Herrera and PUIG delivered a new counter in Jakarta’s Seibu department store, focusing on the implementation of digital integration throughout the store to offer an improved in-store experience. On the other hand, there are many examples of online retailers who expand to physical formats – both permanent and temporary – to increase customer engagement, build awareness and test drive potential new markets. Photos: Eco Chamber 4. NEED FOR SPEED Many retailers are struggling to find their balance between traditional brick-and-mortar and e-commerce. This is where temporary formats come in handy. It offers personal touch and direct engagement that cannot be achieved digitally. Even for retailers who majorly operate through physical stores, pop-up formats pose great potential in expanding their brand presence to new locations. Temporary formats thrive on the time limit bound to it, arming it with a sense of exclusivity that encourages shoppers to engage with the brand or business in question before they miss their chance. A location in a busy shopping mall is advantageous because it disrupts the natural flow of traffic, making bypassing shoppers quite literally stop in their tracks to get a look at the latest addition to the space. For customers, the service is quick and pain-free, and for the business, bigger and better results are reaped at lower costs and less hassle. Everybody wins. X-Factor Displays collaborated with Australian bank, ANZ, on a temporary format project to provide a platform for customer engagement across a number of scenarios. After piloting the first pop-up kiosk in Riverlink shopping centre, the bank has already seen an incredible spurt in engagement figures in comparison with the permanent branch the pop-up temporarily replaced. 5. FOCUS ON THE PRODUCT Less is more – especially if you’re just starting to experiment with VM. Evaluate your store: how much ‘buzz’ can you fit into the space you’re working with? At which point does ‘out-of-the-box’ begin to clutter the box? The goal of these creative displays is essentially to promote a product, so make sure your VM doesn’t distract from what you’re actually aiming to showcase. Choose a core element and keep the rest simple. What is the first thing you want customers to see? Establish a focal point and develop the rest of the design around that through signage and touches of colour, shapes and textures that lead your shoppers’ eye towards the hero product. Estée Lauder’s #PicturePerfect Event Pad delivered in T Galleria by DFS in Singapore’s Orchard Road in collaboration with greater group offered an interactive shopping experienced that wowed shoppers without taking the focus away from the products. This digitally immersive playground was a fun way for Estee Lauder to experiment with their approach to customer experience while keeping brand consistency. Visitors could take photos in the Hollywood showbiz-style decorated space and share it on Instagram with the tag #PicturePerfect. Provision was made for peak hours with an additional HPP space showcasing the brand’s hero products to ensure the focus doesn’t shift away from the products themselves amid all the excitement. 6. CONSISTENT BRAND STORY Creative displays and activations are a fun way to experiment with your brand, especially in temporary formats, but make sure it aligns with your other in-store and online formats to stay true to the brand story. Our minds automatically want to assign meaning to what we interact with, so it’s important for the design to speak to customers’ imagination. What do your displays say about your brand? What can customers get from your brand and products that other retailers do not offer? Department store, Macy’s, has taken steps to remodel their brand to appeal to the Instagram-focused generation. Their ‘Story’ concept store has already been rolled out across a number of locations across America, operating according to their tagline “changes like a gallery, sells things like a store”. The idea is for the shop to rotate its product ranges based on a variety of themes, each accompanied by relevant events, experiences and workshops. This concept might seem counter intuitive in building a consistent brand story, but the surprise element of what will come next is ironically where the success of Story lies. Because it does not operate as a stand-alone store but houses itself within Macy’s stores, Story has the freedom to play around with its retail methods while keeping shoppers hooked and having them return every cycle to get a look at the new offerings. Story therefore serves as an ongoing in-store experience for Macy’s customers. Photos: Macy’s Inc Liked this article? Stay tuned for more industry insights, thought leadership and market news coming your way!