Running a retail store takes a lot of hard work. Along with retail store inventory management, keeping up with your business accounting functions, and all the recordkeeping that comes with maintaining a storefront, you need to focus on customer experience, by keeping your buyers engaged or by piquing interest in your products while they are shopping at your establishment. The competition from online stores and outlets like Amazon and eBay does not help your sales prospects. However, great merchandising will.

Even though online sales are growing — 21% of retail items were purchased online in 2020 compared to just 5.1% in 2009 — the vast majority of purchases in the U.S. are still made up close and personal through the in-store shopping experience. If done properly, you can boost sales through retail merchandising and keep your brick-and-mortar store profits high even as e-commerce continues to gain retail market share.

This article covers ways retailers can guide their in-store customers' behaviors through retail merchandising, so buyers shop longer in your store, their attention is directed to your highest-profit items, and they are enticed to purchase add-ons and other items they were not initially seeking.

The Art and Science of Retail Merchandising

Retail merchandising involves the art of displaying merchandise in a way that bolsters retail sales by encouraging customers to linger in your store and spend more money. Taking the time to create an appealing storefront and product displays, for example, is a visual merchandising strategy that can make the difference between attracting a new customer into your store or losing that customer to a competitor.

Successful merchandising strategies, when executed thoughtfully and well, entice customers to purchase more items — and spend more money — than they had initially planned when they entered your store.

Consider the following merchandising tips when creating your own merchandising strategy:

  • Create a great retail planogram
  • Keep your store clean and organized
  • Focus on uniformity
  • Encourage sales with color
  • Solicit sales with samples
  • Use outside space to advantage
  • Keep it interesting

Create a Great Planogram for Your Store

Not everyone who enters a store is there to browse. Some shoppers prefer to make a beeline for the item they are seeking, easily locate that item, make their selection, and leave. Your job, as the store's merchandiser, is to make it easy for them to find what they are looking for while also inviting them to add to their purchase with related or additional items. A planogram — a visual merchandising tool consisting of detailed drawings of your store design and layout — is key to achieving your objectives.

Planograms are schematic renderings of how aisles are set up, where displays are placed, how products appear on shelving, and locations of point-of-sale stations. Planograms drill down to the practical details, often specifying the distance between aisles, the height, width, and depth of displays, and the exact shelf each item is displayed on.

While every planogram will be different — and each store's product merchandising priorities will change periodically as new products are placed on the sales floor — there are planogram best practices that should be considered when designing your own retail store layout.

  • Use eye-level space strategically. Shelves at eye level receive the most attention from shoppers.
  • Challenge shoppers to go outside of their natural Z gaze patterns. Shoppers tend to move their eyes around a store and/or a display in a Z pattern, so you want to find a way to entice them to look beyond their intuitive site patterns. You can do this by placing your most popular and sought-after products outside this natural vision stream, so you draw your patrons' eyes to other parts of the store and shelves.
  • Leverage the Z for products requiring high visibility. If you need items to move quickly, place them at the center of the shopper's Z-gaze.
  • Remember that right (turns) bring selling might. People tend to look and move right. Place displays and items that you want to draw the customer's attention to on the right side of where your most popular items are placed. This will encourage shoppers to notice new and interesting items.
  • Stack products vertically. Vertical blocking attracts more attention than horizontal product placement. When possible, stack products vertically on shelves.
  • Consider signage placement. Where you place your signage can negatively or positively impact product selection. Be sure your signs do not create barriers to product sight or selection.

Keep Your Store Clean and Organized

Nothing will turn shoppers off more than dirty and dusty retail displays, cluttered and disorganized aisles, and sticky floors or soiled carpeting. If your customers can't see beyond the mess to find the merchandise, your sales will suffer.

Every retail merchandiser should set up a system for inspecting the shop floor before opening each morning, several times throughout operating hours, and at the end of the day. Dust those shelves, straighten out the window displays, and mop and vacuum the floors, paying particular attention to the entranceway as that is where your customers will form their first impressions of your store.

Focus on Uniformity

Whether you run a small business retail shop, a high-end luxe establishment, or several retail locations, you need to create a retail merchandising strategy that provides your customers with a uniform and predictable shopping experience. If you sell clothing, for example, fold your garments or hang them in the same way throughout the store. If you manage several grocery stores, keep your store displays consistent and findable so they have a reliable shopping experience regardless of which grocery store they go to. Keep your brand's messaging consistent with all of your marketing strategies by using the same logo, color scheme, and fonts for display and direction signs, price tags, and receipts.

Encourage Sales With Color

Color plays an important role in encouraging customers to purchase. Turn to the psychology of color when designing your retail store merchandising strategy in order to optimize your store for sales. Consider the following when designing your store's color themes and choosing displays:

  • Blue conveys trust, dependability, and peace
  • Green invites feelings of quality, abundance, and nature
  • Yellow is used for optimism and energy
  • Purple taps into feelings of wisdom and spirituality
  • Pink connotes youth, romance, and the feminine
  • White invites calm, balance, and purity

Solicit Sales With Samples

A tried-and-true merchandising mechanism that is hard to replicate in the e-commerce world is the sensory-rich experience of actually sampling your merchandise. Samples draw customers in through taste or texture or just the promise of getting something for free. Shoppers are given the opportunity to have direct contact with your products and, hopefully, purchase something they had not previously considered.

Encourage your suppliers to offer their merchandising services to help with cross-merchandising products throughout your store. Demonstrating products and providing samples encourages impulse buying. On average, people in the U.S. make 12 impulse purchases a year, spending $276 per month on items they didn't plan to buy. Offering samples increases the likelihood that shoppers will impulse buy with you.

Make Your Outside Match Your Inside

The area in front of your store gives customers a real-time sneak peek into what delights you can offer them once they step inside. If possible, make strategic use of this space through merchandising. You might consider:

  • Playing music that attracts your target customer. Think of the age and demographics of your best customers and try to cater to their tastes.
  • Place racks or table displays of sale merchandise or on-trend items. Let your customers know there are more items with equally favorable pricing inside the store.
  • Use lighting and signage to highlight your brand. Make sure your logo and color scheme are used to best advantage to entice customers to see what is going on inside your store.

Perform Regular Retail Merchandising Audits

Regardless of whether you are new to retailing or have years of experience in the retail industry, you need to perform regular retail merchandising audits to ensure that your store's merchandising standards — particularly in following floor plans and merchandising display protocols — are being met.

Not only will regular retail store audits help with compliance, but you will also be able to gauge the effectiveness of your merchandising on both a storewide and product level. The retail store audit process assesses merchandising execution and efficacy, including:

  • Whether products are being placed correctly throughout the store
  • Which SKUs are selling well and how you can increase sales of low performers
  • How effective your signage is in moving traffic according to plan and how and where adjustments can be made
  • Whether point-of-sale merchandising is effective and where you can streamline the process if necessary

Skynova Can Help Your Retail Store Run Better

To be successful with your merchandising, you have to put a lot of time and effort into developing planograms, executing display protocols, and attending to the entire look and feel of your store. Keeping up with the recordkeeping and other accounting and business functions of running your retail operation is time-consuming and can take you away from activities that actually drive sales. That is where Skynova's business software and templates can help.

Sign up today to see just how much time and money Skynova products can save you.

Notice to the Reader

The content within this article is general guidance and may not apply to your specific situation. Always consult with an accountant to make sure you are meeting accounting standards and with marketing and merchandising professionals to ensure your merchandising efforts are on track.