Visual Merchandising 101: What You Need to Know to Drive Sales and Boost Traffic


When it comes to driving sales in store, visual merchandising is a key component in making customers feel welcome, engaged and comfortable with your products. Many store holders forget the potential visual merchandising has to ‘set the tone’ for new customers to enter the store and then convert to buying. Certainly, marketing works alongside visual merchandising to drive engagement around a brand, but the feeling of your shop front and/or store presentation goes along way in actually making the sale. Plus, why miss out on a great opportunity to boost conversions when it’s sitting right in front of your nose?

There are many different factors to consider when planning visual merchandising. Some of these include the store’s appearance, exterior signage, internal lighting, staff uniforms, branded menus, product packaging and point of sale equipment. Not to mention the use of colours, shapes and textures in the store itself. Between all these elements, it’s clear there’s definitely more to visual merchandising than just dressing-up the shop’s window.

Theming your visual merchandising is a sure way to add a real ‘wow’ factor to your store and its products. While you may like a variety of colours and styles, your customers won’t. A theme is a good way to keep the tone and style of the store consistent, and can be used across many platforms within a business, for example signage, menus, business cards, websites, etc. But, with so much potential, and so many options, where do you start?


Before embarking upon any type of branding or visual merchandising, it is essential to consider the customer – who are you looking to cater to and attract? Understanding who your customer is and what their needs are can be essential in creating the best look to your business and its merchandising. Key factors to uncover include your customer’s age, income, education and gender. Once you have a good idea of your target demographic, you should delve deeper and look at the psychographics and behaviours of the intended customer. This information can be discerned using data captured through emails or just general conversation in store.


If creativity isn’t your strong suit, or perhaps you’re feeling very uninspired, it’s a good idea to source your visual merchandising inspiration from experts in the field. These days, it’s easy to find ideas and examples of successful designs online. You can check out sites such as Pinterest and create an inspiration board for your work. Other, more specific, sites include Retail Design Blog and Creativity Window. You can also check out painting and decorating stores, home improvement stores and even competitors to see what’s working and what’s not.


When you think of visual merchandising, it’s common to only think of the “visuals”. However, your customers have five senses and all of these should be addressed in successful visual merchandising.

  • Sight: Obviously sight pertains to what your customers can see. Think about different colours, contrasts and lighting that might provide visual stimulation and engagement.
  • Sound: Music is a great way to create ambience and atmosphere in your store, but be sure to play music that is targeted to your main customer demographic.
  • Touch: This is probably the easiest sense to work with, as it simply involves providing your customers a way to touch and feel your products, or try them on in-store.
  • Smell: Believe it or not, many customers can be attracted to the way a store smells (and there’s actually a whole process called “scent marketing”!). You don’t have to go this far, but allowing a pleasant smell to exude around the store will benefit your customers (and hopefully your sales) greatly.
  • Taste: This can be a great way to build excitement in your store and around your brand. If you’re in the food industry, this can be as easy as providing a taste test of your goods to entice customers and make them feel welcome. If it’s tasty, your sample treats are more likely to boost conversion rates.

As well as considering all of the above, there are a few basic, failsafe visual merchandising principles you can follow so you don’t go wrong.


Keep your displays simple and your store uncluttered. It’s best to use only a handful of themed items, as you don’t want to create a busy or cluttered atmosphere. Remember, ‘less is more’ and it can be detrimental to try and display too many products or design concepts at once.


The Pyramid Principle is an easy, timeless and effective way to organise your displays. Having your display in the form of a pyramid shape, either vertically or depth-wise, can channel attention to the the ‘top’ product and tick all the design boxes in the process.


When organising your display, odd numbers are often better than even numbers when it comes to item placement. As well as this, an asymmetrical arrangement, that is slightly off-balance, is more interesting for the viewer compared to a symmetrical arrangement, which can be boring to look at.


While you may have just created a beautiful visual display in your store, this cannot be the only display you’ll ever have. The display should be rearranged and changed every so often to keep current customers engaged, and to attract new customers with fresh concepts and ideas. You can change your display when new items arrive in-store, if the season has changed, at the start of a new month or to celebrate certain occasions like Christmas or Easter.