The main goal of visual merchandising is the most effective sales of goods, formation of an incentive to buy. Now that emotions have come to be called "third oil", the role of visual merchandising in creating an emotional retail space, influencing consumer feelings and managing customer behavior with the help of feelings is increasing.
What is good visual merchandising?
Visual merchandising is a set of project, design, and communication solutions of a store, which provides high emotional involvement, customer comfort in the buying process, interest and readiness to make a purchase. Effective and competent visual merchandising, according to experts, consists of:
branding that matches the format and target audience;
a competent project for the trade enterprise, which allows the client to get acquainted with the entire range of products and services, ensuring comfortable movement of the buyer and their smooth interaction with all trade departments and areas of the store;
design solutions for the facade, showcase and sales area based on the project specifications, consumer knowledge, marketing techniques and sales promotion technologies;
visual communication points inside the sales area, in the shop window and on the facade, which will inform the buyer about lucrative offers and stimulate the purchase;
merchandising itself, like placing goods on the shelves so that customers notice and buy them.
Visual merchandising is described by the formula: see it - like it - buy it. Merchandising techniques are highly dependent on the product category, shop equipment, price positioning, service method and advertising policy of the store.
Merchandising management affects commercial performance - reducing costs and increasing sales, so competent merchandising should cover all business processes - sales, purchases, the formation of an assortment matrix, planning solutions, and equipment.
Depending on the format
Visual merchandising directly depends on the format of the store. In fact, the format dictates the rules for the design and decoration of the retail space; the choice of colors, materials, the location of departments and the style of communication depends on it.
Each format has its own fairly stable laws: SKU capacity per square meter, methods of product presentation, materials used, language of advertising and photo communications, POS materials and even price tags. In a luxury store, they won't use large yellow price tags, and in a discount center, restrained black-and-white communications of a small size will not work.
The area of the store influences preparation of the planning decision - the sequence of arranging product groups, management of the customer flow. For example, in a minimarket there is no division into departments, everything is compact - a refrigerator with semi-finished meat products and nearby - related products from the grocery group - oils, vinegars, pasta. In a supermarket, the sequence of departments is lined up in the direction of the customer's movement. Therefore, the task of merchandisers is to know all product groups from the point of view of the logic of making purchases and, already at the stage of planning decision, arrange departments and equipment so that the buyer does not have to rush around the store in search of the right product, and communication is intuitive.
One of the important management issues is what to focus on when developing visual merchandising solutions for offline retail.
The key word is 'focus', that is, you cannot select everything at once. Focal points should be “magnets” along the way in the store, located approximately every 10-15 meters, and each of them should have a business purpose. After all, merchandising techniques are "magic" that helps achieve business goals.
Some experts propose a more global approach, recommending using as many numbers as possible in merchandising - pieces, meters, groups, SKUs, plans and sales analysis. When analyzing the product range, it is necessary to take into account square and linear meters in order to understand which categories to allocate more space to, and which ones to cut in order to increase profits from 1 sq. m.
For example, the network recorded a constant outflow of customers. When analyzing the receipts, it turned out that 35% of buyers come for dairy products, and this group of products occupies only 10% of the shelf space.
Analysis of the location of commercial equipment will help you understand how to make the arrangement more convenient for the buyer. You need to know the maximum number of faces (the number of units of one SKU on the shelf), the height and depth of the shelf in order to correctly calculate the minimum inventory - how many pieces of goods are needed to fill the shelf. The layout plan should influence the ordering plan - what product need to be ordered and how many.
Often, calculations of the assortment and volume are made approximately; as a result, it turns out that the planned product has nowhere to be placed: for example, there are three refrigerators in the hall, and for such an assortment of products, at least five are needed.
You cannot deliver merchandising without plunging into the process, without knowing how the retail works, how the seller works, whether it is convenient for them to maintain the planogram, how long it takes, and so on.
Merchandising Trends - 2021
Visual merchandising trends are driven by changing customer behavior.
Buyers are experiencing a huge information load and have become very selective in their choice. Attention now can be attracted either by a proposal that is very relevant to the request (moreover, the proposal means not only communication, but also the entire visual merchandising - from branding to display on the shelves), or something really unusual, bright and bold. True, with the last option, you need to be sure of a positive perception of bold decisions. Negative things won't work here.
In addition, new generations are coming, whose needs and visual perceptions differ significantly from those of older consumer groups. Therefore, merchandisers need a fresh look at the design of the retail space. It makes sense to look for new options, ideas and images, to master new design directions.
Another factor in changing preferences is the protracted pandemic. People in general are very tired of the stress caused by the pandemic, the unstable economy and the negativity that is constantly being pumped up in the media. Therefore, it is necessary to offer them a space filled with positive and good emotional atmosphere, because retail is becoming not just a place to make purchases, but also a place of pastime, and this is how customers will evaluate it.
Let's highlight the main visual merchandising trends in 2021:
- Modularity of project and design solutions. Easily changeable spaces are created, capable of transforming according to changes in assortment, promotions, seasonality, etc. Flexible and movable equipment is used, allowing for quick rearrangement depending on tasks and needs. The store of today must be flexible and attuned to an unknown future.
- Eco-friendly design, use of eco-friendly materials and technologies, natural colors. At the same time, bright accents in communication points are welcome.
- Thorough work on communication points at all levels of the store space, as well as at different levels of consumer consciousness.
- Creation of an emotional trading space, awakening consumer feelings and emotions, influencing them and managing customer behavior with their help.
- Creativity is an important trend for generations z and alpha. One of the latest trends is creation of so-called neon moment - interior elements worthy of selfies and posting photos on social networks. It is not enough to evenly arrange trade equipment and hang clothes beautifully. You need to know how to hook a visitor, what will stop them in order to admire something and take a photo that they will then share? Such design elements can be large structures, whole insta-zones, and small details on the product itself or on the shelf.
- Creation of a safe space (a result of the pandemic), which includes wide aisles, possibility of contactless shopping, placement of disinfectants and protective equipment in sales areas, informing the consumer about additional security measures taken by the store to protect its customers.
- Organization of remote work of merchandisers, digitalization of merchandising.
- The pandemic has particularly increased the demand for automated, robotic shelf control solutions. With the help of such solutions, retail swiftly manages product display and changes planograms.
- Online has become a part of the trading space - special locations for storing online orders are being equipped, order pick-up points are being installed, terminals are being added. You can increase customer confidence by making the warehouse transparent, let everyone see what is inside, how the goods are laid out and the orders are formed. On one hand, this is an element of a show, on the other, it is a demonstration of the company's openness and sustainable development.
During the crisis, retailers began to take cross-merchandising and checkout area efficiency issues more seriously, thus increasing the number of positions in a check.
Merchandisers: staff or outsourcing?
There is an increasing demand for professional merchandisers, multidisciplinary specialists capable of providing customer convenience and a high level of sales. Many companies purchase automated merchandising programs, but buying an IT solution is not enough, you need to be able to use it, be in control of the situation, know trends and have analytics. There are not so many places where qualified merchandisers are trained; the industry still uses educational books that are already morally outdated, since none of the books talk about the connection between visual merchandising and business analytics. Large companies do not raise qualifications of their merchandisers, narrowing the range of opportunities.
The question remains — to have your own staff or to turn to outsourcing?
Of course, retailers have their own merchandisers, but manufacturers still prefer to retain control of merchandising at a point of sale. Hiring employees or outsourcing is a question that neither manufacturers nor agencies have a simple answer to. Own staff is, as a rule, the “privilege” of large companies with a developed regional network. But they also turn to outsourcing when it is appropriate. For example, within the framework of pilot projects in certain regions or on temporary projects, for example, for technical merchandising.
The demand for merchandisers is growing, which is confirmed by the growth in the number of vacancies and the increase in the salary rate of merchandisers. But in different regions the situation may differ.