Secrets of VM

Ikea 2944As the efficiency of online retail makes visiting bricks and mortar stores increasingly redundant, providing a unique instore experience is more important than ever.

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Shoppers are looking for something more than what they are able to experience online, so it’s up to retailers to find ways of enticing shoppers instore through things like visual merchandising (VM).

Inside Retail PREMIUM spoke with Karl McKeever, MD of Visual Thinking, about the do’s and don’ts when it comes to creating visual displays.

McKeever is a VM expert whose team has developed strategies for Coles, Ikea, Marks & Spencer, and John Lewis.

Think like a shopper

Ultimately a successful VM campaign is one that is able to identify and satisfy a shopper’s needs, and in turn, deliver sales.

Grouping different, yet unrelated product items together to provide usage ideas and pairing suggestions makes it easier for shoppers and saves them time.

Retailers such as Coles and Woolworths execute this method perfectly, where pasta, pasta sauces, and garlic bread are all merchandised in the same display.

The same concept can be used by any retail sector, with McKeever highlighting Ikea as a retailer that utilises VM exceptionally well.

Ikea stores provide inspirational room set displays that show shoppers how to combine a variety of Ikea products in the one space.

On the fashion side of things, he highlights Zara as a standout performer.

“Zara products are carefully segmented by lifestyle category and the use of strong fashion merchandising techniques presents each collection with genuine fashion credibility,” he said.

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Think high standards

According to McKeever, most approaches to product presentation and displays start well, but can be neglected over time.

“Developing robust VM and retail policies that deliver clarity and consistency of message to retail teams for the most effective retail implementation, is vital.”

Keeping displays clean, simple, and uncluttered, and making sure staff are well trained and up to date with new products is just as important as delivering a visually appealing store.

“If staff aren’t motivated about what’s happening with new products and season ranges, how can they stimulate their shoppers?”

Every creative concept must be delivered to customers consistently across a brand’s entire store network.

“To me, this means the same standards of product presentation, customer service provision and crucially, albeit hardest to achieve, the communication style,” he said.

Nike has created a market leading shopper experience across its store network, according to McKeever.

Stores are designed to provide shoppers with the definitive experience of the brand, with inspirational POS and marketing messages reinforcing its mantra of ‘Just do it’.

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Reduce complexity

Although it sounds obvious, making sure products are merchandised logically for customers to find what they are looking for quickly will give them more time to spend browsing other products.

When it comes to displays, think logically, and think simply. Know your brand and the message you are trying to deliver, and avoid anything overly elaborate that will scare your customer away.

“Research has shown that displays that appear touchable and have been lightly shopped sell better, because people are more comfortable picking the products up.”

Great VM is not all about the display. Ikea is an example of a retailer that has designed its store layout in a way that essentially forces its customer to enter every section.

Known as a ‘racetrack layout’, it leads customers through every zone, and once on the circuit there is no escape until the customer has made it to the end of the store.

“It’s a brilliant device for maximising the selling potential of the whole retail space,” says McKeever.

He predicts the next 12 months will see growth in more niche, concentrated offerings from retailers, providing fewer and better brand experiences that are distinct and finely honed.

“Far from online representing the death of the high street, it could actually be the catalyst for retail resurgence.”

Great VM is about providing a “silent service” for shoppers and helping them to find products more easily, providing inspiration and solutions, and advising on product information, which all ultimately lead to more sales.

This story first appeared in Inside Retail PREMIUM issue 2037. To subscribe, click here.

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