Guide to visual merchandising

How to sell your products—and your brand—in a window display

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds

If you run a business with a brick-and-mortar store, the term “window of opportunity” couldn't be more appropriate. Your window is the number one place to attract passersby, but not all business owners make the most of this.

Your window isn’t just an opportunity to showcase your products, it’s also a space where you can build your brand and make a connection with potential customers. How do you do this? By telling a compelling visual story that appeals to people’s needs, emotions and desires.

We’ve pulled together some tricks of the trade from visual merchandising experts to help you create more effective window displays that bring people through your door.

Before you jump in

In order to create successful window displays every time, there are a few simple but important things to keep in mind.

  • How “visual” are your products?
    If your products are attractive to look at, you’ve got a good starting point. However, if what you sell is more practical than pretty, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an impactful window display. Rather than focusing on beauty, there are effective ways you can draw attention to features and benefits, or to create a scene around the experience your products provide.
  • Who do you need to appeal to?
    Understanding your target customer will influence the types of props you use, whether you need to reflect current trends, or how quickly you need to grab their attention. For example, office workers on their lunch break would probably give themselves less time to peruse your window than people on vacation.
  • What kind of street are you on?
    When preparing a window display, it’s essential to think about people’s line of sight. Are you on a busy street where people will view your window from a few feet away? Or a narrow sidewalk where people walk by very close? Do you also want to be noticed by people driving past? The answers will affect how to best use your window space.

Three ways to tell a story in your window

Visual merchandising, which includes the art of preparing window displays, is all about enticing viewers by telling a story, creating a mood and inviting them in to discover more.

Here are three approaches to consider:

  • Create a scene
    There’s a saying in the marketing industry that people don’t buy products, they buy experiences. One way to tell a compelling visual story is to create a scene around your products that brings to life an experience, provides inspiration and creates desire.

    For example, if you sell food items, you could try placing them on a picnic blanket with a basket and champagne glasses. Then add some pebbles and seashells to provoke a sensation of being in nature. You might be selling jars of pickles, but by using props to create a scene around them, you can inspire customers to come in and perhaps create an experience of their own with products they purchase from your store.
  • Glorify your products
    Another way to tell a story is to focus directly on the heroes themselves: your products. And if you want to create a feeling of quality, less is definitely more. Choose one main product as your key focus and “glorify” it by giving it the most prominent window position (remembering line of sight) and placing complementary products or props around it in a “pyramid” format to help direct the eye toward the main focal point.

    You can also create prestige around your products by using signage to highlight key features and specifications. This is particularly helpful for practical items such as electrical goods. If you want to include price tags, try to keep them subtle to not cheapen the look of your display with overly promotional tactics.
  • Reflect the season
    Tying in the seasons is a simple way to feel relevant and tuned in to your community. Showcasing gift ideas is one way of doing this and can also help drive sales. But if your products don’t make for great gifts, simply adding some festive elements to your display will help create emotional appeal and show goodwill.

Visual merchandising tips from the pros

  • Create a focal point
    Simply presenting a window stuffed full of products is more likely to feel invading than inviting. Identify your focal point—which is likely to be your lead product—and arrange things in a way that guides the eye toward it.
  • Leave room to breathe
    A simple way to make things stand out is to make use of the space around them. As well as giving your products a sense of importance, it’s also less overwhelming for people to take in.
  • Use colour & contrast
    If your products come in vibrant colours, make use of that to draw attention. If not, consider a backdrop to create contrast and help them stand out. Also, use some simple lighting to add emphasis.
  • Surprise and delight
    Using an unusual prop or light humour in your window can be a great way to brighten people’s day and create the expectation of a fun, light-hearted experience to be had by coming into your store.
  • Keep a photo log
    Create a folder or document where you can store photos of all your window displays and keep note of any comments people make, or how successful you felt they were at bringing people in. You may want to replicate them in the future.

Use these simple yet professional techniques to turn your window into a compelling opportunity—for you and your soon-to-be customers.

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