What is Visual Merchandising? (Explained)

Revel Blog | Revel Systems | May 11, 2021 |


Retail merchandising is at the heart of grabbing shoppers’ attention. Mainly known as visual merchandising or visual styling in retail circles, you need to master this skill to capture the passing shopper and maximize your sales.

Every retailer needs to know about the elements of visual merchandising and why they can transform your bottom line.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the basics of retail merchandising.

What is Visual Merchandising?

Attracting more foot traffic and shifting more products lies at the core of visual merchandising. Define the term, and you’ll see there’s a considerable amount of misunderstanding about what it actually means.

It’s not just about creating a window display. This widely adopted practice involves developing floor plans and three-dimensional displays around shifting specific products.

So, what is a visual merchandiser?

This is someone who knows how to showcase products in a way that maximizes sales. It typically involves grouping different types of products and using clever signage to communicate the unique selling points of each product.

Visual merchandising displays are all about creating natural focal points within a retail environment.

The benefits are simple:

  • Attract more customers.
  • Maximize sales.
  • Reinforce branding.

Visual Merchandising Basics  

Although major brands will have dedicated retail teams and store design departments working in collaboration, even the smallest retail store can take advantage of visual styling.

The principles of visual merchandising are based entirely on human psychology and habits. By understanding how the modern shopper approaches the buying process, retailers can increase the chances of landing a sale.

Let’s take a look at some of the visual merchandising basics every retailer can implement within their stores right now.

Display Windows

Display windows are often the first part of your store that your customers will come across. The display window plays a critical role in helping a shopper decide whether they want to enter your store in the first place.

If you cannot grab the consumer’s attention from the street, it doesn’t matter how you brand the interior of your store. They will never get to see it.

The most obvious way of encouraging a customer to enter your store is to slap a big ‘SALE’ sign in the window next to some discounted products.

But what about shifting full-price merchandise?

A great idea to experiment with is the “pig in the window.” What is the pig in the window?

This is an item completely unrelated to your display. It could be a literal stuffed pig or just a prop that catches the eye.

This technique is so powerful because customers naturally stop and want to know why the item is there.

The pig in the window doesn’t need to be part of every display in your store, but it’s highly recommended as a brand hook within your window display.

Store Interior

Visual merchandising displays are not necessary to push every product you have. Use them sparingly throughout the interior of your store.

The goal is to create natural focal points in your store for the products you want to sell the most.

The interior of your store needs to be designed in a way that draws customers to certain hotspots.

Your store interior must be easy to navigate through clear signage. It should be well-organized and easy on the eye. Clever use of brand colors and lighting plays a massive role in encouraging customers to stick their heads through the door and explore every aisle.

Above all, display merchandising in an interior setting must lend itself to creating a positive, memorable customer experience.

Don’t just think of your store as a market stall. Think of your store as a story waiting to unfold.


Major retailers spend millions on perfecting store design. There’s a reason why your favorite store constantly changes things up. They’re experimenting to find out what works.

Clever retail design is such an all-encompassing concept that it could fill an entire book. Here are just some of the basics of incorporating smart elements of visual merchandising into your in-store design.


A significant part of the experience is the layout. This includes everything from the natural route customers take to the position and layout of your cash wrap.

White Space

Reduce clutter by leaving natural white space. Intelligent use of white space can highlight specific areas of your store and give your customers room to breathe.


Make your displays pop by adding contrasting elements. Consider different contrasting color combinations to help your store’s displays stand out from everything else.


Symmetrical balance can add consistency and order to any retail setting. Consider how you create symmetrical balance throughout your store. Alternatively, consider how asymmetrical balance can be used to add an additional element to some of your displays.


A cohesive shopping experience prevents shoppers from feeling overwhelmed. Unity in design, decoration, and branding maintains a consistent flow throughout your store.

Visual Merchandising Tips

You don’t need to invest vast amounts of money in visual merchandising. The visual merchandising techniques that yield the most results are extremely simple. All that is required is some insightful reflection.

Follow these tips to improve the visual styling in your store.

Understand Your Customer

Retailers often talk about their ideal customers. Understanding your target customer is vital, but you need to dig deeper than demographics when it comes to retail merchandising.

Digging into what drives their decisions and the type of lifestyles they live will define how you design your displays.

This is about understanding who your target customer is on a deeper level.

Become Inspired

Retail merchandising can be intimidating if you’re learning about the concept for the first time. Thankfully, the internet offers an unlimited amount of inspiration.

There are several dedicated platforms in which you can get inspired. We recommend looking at Smart Retailer and Design Retail Online.

Don’t just observe what your competitors are doing. Look at how major retailers design their stores. Take the time to walk around different stores in your local area and see how they design their displays.

Consider the Five Senses

Retailers often focus exclusively on the “visual” without considering the other five senses. The key to a great customer experience is to provide a multisensory retail experience.


Encourage customers to browse with a curated in-store playlist. The right sounds can be tailored to your target customer.


Let your customers feel and try out your products. Open displays are a fantastic addition to any store.


Experiment with scent marketing. The scent within your store can create positive memories and feelings, which can go a long way to creating regular customers.


Taste is harder to address if you don’t sell consumables. However, offering some free candies or cookies can play a role in adding to this sense.


The heart of your visual displays. Colors, lighting, balance, contrast, and symmetry all go into addressing this sense.

Tell a Story

Tell your customers why they should buy a product. The right signage explaining the benefits of a product can spell out why a shopper should take the time to consider a specific product.

Keep things short and sweet. Limit your signage to bullet points. Avoid writing an essay. Powerful bullet points focusing on the unique selling points of an item can enable customers to make a buying decision.

An alternative to the bullet point method is the lifestyle graphic. These graphics say the same things but with images instead of words.

Focus on Maximum Merchandise Exposure

Big retailers concentrate on exposing shoppers to the maximum amount of merchandise to give themselves more opportunities to land a sale.

Ikea is a master of this technique through its circular store layout. Their store design naturally draws customers to lots of different possibilities during their retail experience.

This doesn’t mean cramming as many different products into your displays as possible. Intelligent retail design still requires you to create organized, well-designed displays. You don’t want to risk overwhelming your customers.

Regularly Rotate Displays

Retailers generate the bulk of their revenue from a minority of regular customers. Customers want to know that they’re going to experience something new every time they enter your store.

At the same time, don’t make the mistake of confusing your regulars. Avoid changing your store’s layout too often. Regulars who already know your store want to go straight to a specific part of your store to see what’s new. They don’t want to have to explore the whole store every time.

The key is to rotate displays without rotating fixtures. As new products enter the store, gradually move older products from the front to the back.

Add Motion to Your Displays

Motion can add a new dynamic to your store. It’s one of the most powerful visual merchandising techniques because it naturally catches the eye.

Consider adding a fan to blow a summer dress gently. Add a moving toy to a display during the holiday season. Anything that creates motion will draw customers attention. Combine the motion with sounds to craft a multi-sensory retail experience.

Final Thoughts

No two stores will address visual merchandising in the same fashion. Every retailer needs to focus on crafting an experience that fits the individual customer.

The chances are you already know about drilling down into your target demographic, but do you know how your customers think? Do you know how they live? Do you know what’s important to them?

The first step to understanding your customers is to gather data through intelligent retail point of sale (POS) platforms like Revel.

Contact Revel to learn more about our cutting-edge cloud-based POS. Find out more about how we provide a tailored POS platform that actively helps you to design your retail experience from the ground up.