Visually merchandising your retail store or pop-up location can seem like an easy thing to do, but doing it right to encourage sales requires a few tricks that can be easily overlooked. When followed, not only will you increase retail sales but you can improve the visual impact of your shop with little to no cost.
In this post, I’ll share the ten most powerful lessons I've learned over the years of running, merchandising, and photography pop-ups to increase foot-traffic and drive greater sales.
Ready to dive in?
1) The 7% Rule
For those running a small business or pop-up shop, budgets are always on your mind. Luckily, when considering how much money you have to spend on your merchandising, 7% of your gross revenue for the month is a great place to start. 7% of your revenue is industry standard one should spend on average on their advertising budget.
If your store is selling a gross of $3,000 per month, your marketing budget should be for that month $210. It is important to know that this cost should include not only the materials needed to advertise but the merchandise within your display. This is to make sure you never have to take merchandise from your display to sell.
FUN FACT: Budgeting doesn't have to be all numbers and cash flow. Don’t forget that creating your merchandising budget includes budgeting time to get inspired. See Tip 4.
2) Show Off the Wants
No one really needs that gorgeous burnt ceramic glaze bowl from that buying trip you had in San Jose. Trust me, they don't. But I do when I see it stacked 20 times with complimenting products in varying sizes. Stacks of hardcovers and a framed painting? Yes please!
When you display any product in groups, not only will you want to buy more than just one, those other products begin to tell an attractive story about how you too can feature them in your own life. I like to think of it like Warhols. They look fabulous on their own but shown nine times in various colors just makes you want to buy them all. Not unlike Warhol's, your customers cannot live without 3 of those bowls and all you did was make a pyramid or grid of products.
3) Feature the Hero
So now I'm really wanting that ceramic bowl, but what can I put in it? Some sage? Artisanal soaps, pencils or pens? Why not?! Tell a story relating to the product's use. This is done by creating a product hierarchy. Sounds tough, but it can be really fun. Just pick the one product you want to be your feature and let that be the hero of the story. Find a few sidekicks that can play along and let them be your upsells. You will notice that your customers will be attracted to the idea of wanting to buy both since that little old ceramic bowl won't be complete without that fabulous sage and soap feature within it.
4) The Infamous Window Display
If you have a window, use it! This is the best way to advertise to your customers walking by and to get people on social media to see what's new in store. Feature your latest superhero. You do not need a lot of money to create a captivating window display. Just remember to feature one product dominantly. Repetition of a desirable product will be enough to get people through the door.
Another great tip is to change your display bi-weekly if you have the chance. A window display is your best campaign and even changing it daily could create some interesting buzz (Christmas: “5 days of giving”/5 days of different product features). Just remember to keep it simple and not try to tell too much at once.
Looking for inspiration? Take a walk with your bestie or business partner and see what other people are doing. What attracts you? What is making you want to walk into other shops? Is it color, design, the message or just something as simple as “50% off Final Sale Items”? There are Pinterest boards devoted to merchandising, wayfinding and signage. On a slow day, take the time to see what attracts you and try to incorporate those elements into your window’s message.
5) Outdoor Signage
For some retailers, outdoor signage is a start up cost and need only be changed with soap and water and a different message with chalk. Some invest a majority of their marketing budget on printed graphics. Outdoor signage paired with a window display is the age old method of foot traffic conversion. However simple or complex you wish your outdoor marketing to be, understand that it if you want to keep it lean on your budget, keep it simple and know your consumer. Know the message you want to send and make it visible. Whether on a sandwich board or 15 billboards, outdoor signage will send the message to your consumer before they make it through the door. Make it clear enough to ensure they do.
6) See and Say
When you have a lot of money to burn, it becomes easy to overdo things. Likewise, when you don't have much, you may feel like you need to say more. Large posters, information cards and product knowledge brochures are useless unless they say 30% off. They also can become costly clutter. All this information isn't necessary because it detracts from the product. Price tags and sales indicators are all you need. Let the other left out information be talking points you can use to connect with your customer and entice them into buying what they are already wanting.
7) Signage, Furnishings & Other Display Add-ons
With inkjet printing so affordable, you can create your own tent cards or other display signage for only a few dollars. Vinyls can be hand cut and applied to windows and mirrors to not only advertise sales but your social media channels. Get creative with you messages and your medium.
When Crate & Barrel first opened as a brick and mortar start up in Chicago, they had spent all their money on products and other necessary start up costs. Ironically, they spent the last of their money on their cash register. Having no money for furnishings, they used the crates and barrels that their products were shipped in to create shelving and display cases. That's how they first merchandised their products and got their name.
Keep it simple. Salvage what you have around you. A table or shelf made out of the products you are selling or by-products of them can be a unique display that will intrigue customers, get you press and shrink your merchandising costs.
Make sure that your products are lit accordingly. Mood lighting can be bright or dark. The key is to know what feels appropriate for the consumer's experience. You want to create the atmosphere that will stimulate them to spend. Understand that without the right lighting, your store won't showcase your inventory properly and will have a negative effect on your sales. Focus on utilizing your ambient lighting to light your entire store. This is the standard overhead lighting that comes with the premises. Save your money for feature lighting. Get creative discovering lighting fixtures that make your display(s) pop. This will reinforce your story and navigate your customers towards certain products.
TIP: If you can find fixtures that are not hard wired, you can move them around and repurpose them.
9) Switch It Up
Rotate your displays to feature your latest arrivals. Bring the new to the front, move the semi new to the middle and the old to the back. This is a free way to bring your old customers back in again and rediscover old products that seem new again.
10) Track It
So I came in on a tear and fell in love with those bowls, the sage, the pencils and the books but ended up leaving with something entirely different. Maybe it was the artisanal soap from Paris that look as good as they smelled. Their packaging? Flawless! And then the next few customers do the same. And by the end of that day, you notice a lot of people feel the same way because those soaps need some massive restocking. No, we're not crazy, this is a trend. You will notice it in your sales, and this is when you should react to profit. Lucky for you your sidekick just turned superhero.
The technical term for these statistics are Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. Mention that to your friends and you will definitely feel pro. Some KPIs used in retail to determine product positioning, campaign message or even your next inventory buy can be found simply in your point of sale (POS) system. Using Squarespace, Shopify, Big Commerce, or WooCommerce? Look no further than your metrics tab or dashboard.
Ecommerce platforms have made it very easy for anyone to analyze in a flash their sales data. UPTs (units per transaction) will tell you how many products are being being purchased per transaction. Let’s use the bacon and eggs example. If your UPT for bacon are 1, but you are selling out on eggs, try merchandising your bacon closer to the eggs. Your UPTs for the bacon will likely increase to 2 in this example. The idea that people want to purchase items that work well with one another is an example of how you can increase your UPTs. The technical term for this is Product Affinity (which products are purchased together).
Another KPI is a list of your top 10 performing products sold per day, week or month. This is usually the first thing you will see next to the visitor count to your online store (if your POS is connected). This is a great way to assess what is your highest selling items. Investigate why certain products are doing well and see which items are underperforming. There are many factors to why certain products may be doing well. Perhaps they are seasonal, merchandised properly or in high demand and with little competition. Likewise, the products which may not be doing well could be due to being out of season, under-represented (low stock quantities, sizing) or just not the right price. Experiment! Try placing products on sale or re-merchandising, or looking into your previous sales reports to see when they sold best. Just makes sure to investigate and react.
Rejoice! This is an amazing time for sales and starting your business. Enjoy the creativity and support that is out there. Have fun and experiment. Sometimes it will come easy and other times it will feel like an uphill battle. But most importantly, buy that burnt ceramic glaze bowl. You know you want it!