Visual Merchandising: From buying to staging

Shopping, shopping, shopping – surprising your customer with an emotional shopping experience calls for exciting merchandise. First things first: go shopping yourself.

In the age of e-tailing, not only have over-the-counter sales changed, but the purchase of goods as well. As always, retailers cover the standard range through sales representatives visiting them at their stores, through regional wholesalers, by catalogue, online at suppliers’ dealer shops or at trade fairs. Nothing very different there. But if you would also like to surprise your customers with special presentations, you must go beyond thinking just about product range and depth, and also consider product display when ordering.

Quantity is on the Internet – quality at the specialty store

The Internet stands for never-ending consumer worlds – for quantities that, irrespective of industry, no brick-and-mortar retailer can hold ready. They also do not need to, since retailers focus primarily on good product preselection. Ultimately, over-the-counter sales are moving further and further in the direction of “curated shopping,” a customized and target-group oriented combination of products, already trending for several years in the fashion trade. 

The icing on the point of sale cake

Compared to online sales, in purchasing the retailer must already think about product display for selected items to be staged in the store. This means combining products so as to create individual and emotional customer buying experiences. Hardly any retailer is still in the position to offer products exclusively, but they can help their products on the road to exclusivity through presentation. For that, the buyer creates appealing staging, using products from different manufacturers and different product groups.

An example: On the topic of “The Art of Writing,” the staging focuses on writing implements, stationery, notebooks, high-grade paper sheets, gift items with letters or texts, and books on the subject of hand lettering. If the structural design is limited to the black and white colour spectrum, products in black and white such as folders, binders, boxes, sheets of wrapping paper, staplers, hole punchers, etc. complement the structure. Strips of wallpaper with hand-written texts or the outline of a pen holder can be hung over the staging and create imagery out of the subject of writing. Notwithstanding the use of eyecatchers: The main element of POS design is the merchandise. A conceptual presentation of goods arises from the visual interplay of the individual items in colouring and styling. Coordinated with the environment of the relevant target group, it forms an important in-store eyecatcher. 


Product presentation instead of decoration

Upon ordering, the decision is taken as to how the products will be set up and staged and what quantities are needed to generate the desired effect and the best-possible sale. 

An important point in purchasing for a certain product arrangement is also always the question of packaging or display: 

  • Does the packaging fit visually into the planned structure? To stay with the example just mentioned: If the packaging for a calligraphy pen is red, it no longer fits the overall image of a black and white colour scheme. It should either not be bought or it should be placed in a different store display. 
  • Is the product packaged in such a way that it can be stacked? Different stacking heights contribute visual tension to table assembly and should be included in purchasing planning. 
  • Do the packaging and display underscore the value of the merchandise? 
  • Can the items be hung over the table, thereby also serving as eyecatchers? 

If it is possible to supplement the product display with non-core products, the structure becomes more surprising for customers and tempts them into making additional purchases. The topic of “The Art of Writing” lends itself well to adding pillows, cups, napkins and serving trays that are lettered or that feature related graphic motifs. In order for the concept of the visual story to add up, for larger staging a mood board is used. Colours, materials, product examples and some key motifs for the selected topics are assembled either on PC or on a sheet of paper and serve as purchasing guidelines. 
The design is derived from the merchandise and can do without additional deco elements if individual products are used as eyecatchers (e.g., hung in groups with brightly-coloured ribbons and S-hooks over the table); other merchandise on pedestals creates presentation height, and all together tell a visual story. 

Idea portal trade fair

Even if visiting a trade fair involves a certain time investment, the investment always pays off. Besides purchasing, exploring the fair halls is its own inspiration and idea portal for staging in one’s own store. Anyone who keeps their eyes open when examining the structure, design and goods presentation at the fair stands will garner a wealth of ideas for the purchasing and presentation of goods. Special attention should be paid to details, to creative presentations of individual products, and to exciting visual solutions. Which fair stand attracts attention and why? Can a certain design idea be used for staging at one’s own POS? If the fair has additional trend shows, exhibitions or presentations, one absolutely needs to take enough time. Because only those who think outside the box and recognize trends early on can act in a timely manner in their own business. 

The staging and the three-dimensional merchandise experience are the most compelling selling points of brick-and-mortar retailers. Conceptual product arrangements are advantageous in that they not only display products (as when merchandise is placed on a shelf), but they feature the merchandise in the way of a lifestyle world. The POS presentation can communicate with several customers at once, in contrast to talks in the shop which are mostly conducted with just one customer. It entertainingly bridges the waiting time until the next shop assistant is available to take questions. This visual communication, however, presupposes the right merchandise and thus buyer creativity for the sale to be truly successful. 

About the author

Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual marketing in the retail sector. Since 1986, she has been designing and arranging sales-promoting product presentations for various industries and redesigning the ambience of retail spaces. Together with Hans Schmidt, she founded the visual marketing consultancy, Arte Perfectum, in 2002. Since then, she has been holding seminars and workshops and offering in-house consultancy services.

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