4 Visual Merchandising Strategies for 2021

In an era of overwhelming change and innovation, retailers must update their visual merchandising strategies to keep customers engaged.

Visual Merchandising Strategies

Whether you are designing window displays or an online storefront, your primary goal is to attract and sustain customer attention. In 2021, however, retailers have additional challenges to consider: Do your visual merchandising strategies account for social distancing, eco-friendly sustainability, or social media? In the modern retail landscape, businesses cannot afford to ignore these vital elements.

This article will explore the ways retailers can upgrade their visual merchandising techniques to remain competitive in 2021 and beyond.

Need to brush up on the fundamentals of visual merchandising? Check out Visual Merchandising: The Complete Guide For Modern Retail.

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Visual merchandising strategies

Rethink your shelf space

Emphasize sustainability in your messaging

Leverage all five senses

Make your visual merchandising shareable

Visual merchandising strategies for 2021

Rethink your shelf space

In the wake of COVID-19, many retailers will need to rethink their interior spaces. Store layouts must now account for social distancing between customers — which can mean reduced shelf space and fewer in-store display areas. If retailers must limit their promotional displays to select core products, visual merchandising will need to change to meet the new reality.

This challenge can be an opportunity if business owners are willing to embrace these changes. One solution to changing store layouts is to adopt user-friendly technologies that enhance the shopping experience. Augmented reality features, for example, can help retailers optimize in-store navigation and provide in-app product displays.

In 2021, leveraging these technologies rarely requires advanced hardware — most contemporary examples use sensors and a smartphone app. That means AR will be easier to implement than ever before and a boon for retail businesses adjusting to new standards.

Emphasize sustainability in your messaging

Climate change is an increasingly important global issue, and retailers must play a part in addressing it — with 50% of consumer packaged goods growth coming from sustainability-marketed products, they cannot do otherwise. By including eco-friendly elements in your visual merchandising, you will communicate a brand commitment to sustainability that resonates with a growing majority of consumers. In short, by highlighting green initiatives in your messaging, it’s possible to help the world and make a profit!

Sustainability in visual merchandising can take many forms, some of which apply to product packaging and others to the retail environment. Consider adopting some of the following visual merchandising techniques:

  • Label sustainable products: Use specialized labeling to highlight sustainable or eco-friendly products. Options can include something simple, like a green sticker, or something more attention-grabbing, like specially-designed signage for a natural products category.
  • Choose the right colors: Certain colors are strongly associated with sustainability, especially green. Use these colors in your merchandising to communicate to customers that your brand embraces these practices.
  • Highlight green initiatives with signage: Signage can communicate green principles just as effectively as your branded messaging. By encouraging customers to buy reusable bags or avoid using plastic, you can highlight the ways your brand participates in sustainable initiatives.

Leverage all five senses

While it doesn’t quite fit with the “visual” in visual merchandising, many retailers find great success when leveraging other human senses. Sound, touch, smell, and — in the case of food products — taste can be a significant part of product merchandising. Whatever the category, retailers can draw from the entire human experience when deciding how to present their brand. Here are a few outside-the-box techniques you should keep in mind:

  • Find your branded scent: Have you ever noticed that you can smell freshly-ground coffee at Starbucks, but not their food selections? That’s by design, much like how movie theaters only smell of popcorn or hardware stores like wood. Scent marketing is an actual practice that links brands contextually to customer’s memories. Find your own branded scent to boost your visual merchandising strategies.
  • Set the mood with music: Sound can have a powerful effect on your customers and how they behave upon entering your store. Calming music is ideal when you want customers to feel comfortable while browsing. If you’re looking for an upbeat teenage crowd, playing the latest pop artists is a better approach.
  • Highlight touch and taste with samples: If it suits your retail category, give customers opportunities to sample your products. Most clothing stores will let you try on products, while supermarkets like Costco can draw crowds with unique food samples. Your options are limited in a post-COVID world, but try to offer product contact where it is safe to do so.

Of course, these techniques don’t override visual strategies. Color and lighting choices are major factors that drive customer attention, purchasing decisions, and even help visitors navigate your store. The key is determining which elements contribute to a positive in-store experience and building your visual merchandising strategies around them. You might be surprised at the impact the right combination can have on your bottom line.

Make your visual merchandising shareable

Social media is a regular part of daily life for 3.6 billion people. Your customers are sharing pictures of what they’re doing, what they’re eating, and where they’re shopping — and the right visual merchandising strategy can ensure you’re a part of their story. By optimizing your business to be social media friendly and shareable, you can increase organic web traffic for your store and gain new customers in the process.

  • Add social media handles and hashtags to signage: If customers are talking about your store or taking pictures of displays, it helps to know what’s happening! Be sure to include social media details that others can link to from a smartphone. If nothing else, it will help you gain followers and expand your reach online.
  • Use depth and height in displays: If your displays are too uniform, not only will customers avoid taking pictures, their eyes will start to glaze over. Adding depth and height in some form, such as mannequins beside a display table, can give enough detail to draw attention.
  • Be original: The least effective display is one that looks exactly like everyone else’s. Look for original touches that can help your storefront stand out. As long as the presentation reflects your brand, anything is possible — like the Converse store that built a skull display from shoes.
  • Don’t be afraid of humor: When all else fails, making customers laugh can work wonders for your brand when you’re in on the joke. Humorous displays are certainly the most shareable, such as this creative window display of a texting snowman. As long as you workshop your idea to make sure it’s funny — and brand-safe — your customers will almost certainly embrace it.

Just as businesses need to refresh their brand messaging, retailers must also periodically update their visual merchandising strategy. Given the vast array of social changes and cultural innovations of recent years, 2021 is the ideal year to modernize your techniques to ensure customers engage with your brand.

Are you ready to build a forward-thinking visual merchandising strategy? Get in touch with Resonai today and set up a free demonstration.

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