Whether you have a fashion boutique or are considering opening your first pop-up or retail store, visual merchandising should be at the top of your to-do list. As customers become more time and cost-sensitive, creating an experience becomes even more essential. According to Coresight Research, more than 7,150 U.S. based retailers have closed their doors in 2019, mostly attributed to the rise in online shopping.
So what can you do to make a personalized and unparalleled retail experience? Here are the 7 things you need to know about visual merchandising.
1. Brand Your Boutique
When we think of in-store branding, it’s common to think of exterior signage, signage near or behind the POS counter, or standard branded price tags. Additional in-store branding opportunities include custom garment hangers, adding your social media handles to the fitting room mirrors, and adding Instagram-worthy signage. However, you don’t want to overdo it with visual stimulation. Keep things minimal, so the attention of your shoppers is where it needs to be—on your products!
2. Go Mobile
Research has found that Americans will abandon a checkout line and leave the store without purchasing after eight minutes of waiting in a line. So, when it comes to POS solutions for your fashion boutique, creating a seamless process is more important than ever. Sales associates no longer need to be locked behind a counter, removing the psychological barrier that separated the associate from the customer. Instead, associates should move freely throughout the sales floor with mobile POS systems allowing for a frictionless experience.
In addition to “freeing” your associates, POS technology also allows for the associates (now commonly seen as brand ambassadors and personal stylists) to have product and customer information at their fingertips at all times. Such information includes loyalty information, lifetime sales totals, transaction history, and even in some cases, a virtual view into their customer’s closet.
3. Create Fitting Rooms of the Future
Fitting rooms can be a soul-sucking experience for anyone. Many mirrors are unflattering, and lighting can distort clothing colors and skin tones. Think about the last time you walked into the perfect fitting room. It takes a unique combination to make a customer feel comfortable and a touch of magic to get them to love how the item looks and feels. Diving into creating that perfect experience has been known to increase a fashion boutique’s bottom line.
Thanks to modern technology, smart mirrors can help alleviate these pain points. H&M’s megastore recently launched a “try and buy” option that lets customers pay for items from inside the changing room to speed up the purchasing process. Shoppers also have the opportunity to leave the store wearing the times they purchase, making it perfect for last-minute party invites.
Additional technology options allow shoppers to use touch-screens installed in each dressing room so they can scan items, look up product information, request other sizes, and calculate costs before checkout. Sales associates receive notifications via mobile when a product is requested and can indicate when it has been fulfilled, thereby streamlining in-store logistics.
Aerie has a unique way of connecting the customer to the product without incorporating technology by allowing the customer to feel how that product fits on their skin and see how it feels emotionally before seeing what it looks like in the mirror. They do this by having a curtain over the mirror. When the customer is ready, they draw back the curtains to reveal themselves, just like an unveiling.
4. Make Instagram-Worthy Experiences
One of the most important things (and only a few have been able to do this successfully) is creating Instagram-heavy retail environments. Companies like Glossier have done a fantastic job of adding branded stickers, details, and Instagram-worthy props to their stores, causing a social impact ripple effect.
Adding technology can also create Instagram worthy moments. Tiffany recently released a vending machine that dispenses their perfumes. The device quickly went viral, and storms of people came to order from it. Other health-conscious stores are offering CBD vending machines that scan a user’s ID before dispensing, so store associates don’t have to be responsible for age verification.
5. Turn to Technology
Incorporating technology into your fashion boutique can also help increase sales and bring customers back through the door faster. Top retailers such as Macy’s, Target, Urban Outfitters, and CVS use beacon technology for proximity marketing to attract shoppers that are physically near their locations.
A 2014 consumer study found that over 70% of shoppers who received beacon-triggered content and offers on their smartphone said it increased their likelihood to purchase during a store visit.
Wi-fi services are also popular and allow users to connect to the internet after entering their email addresses or engaging on social media. Once they log in, the system tracks each time they enter the store along with if they’ve seen any advertisements on social media. Based on actions, or lack-there-of, automated email and SMS campaigns with special offers tailored to that individual shopper can be sent to drive them back into the store.
6. Transform Associates into Stylists
Thanks to modern technology and mobile POS systems, associates can expand into a role that aligns with the brand—brand ambassadors! Think of all the yogis at Lululemon and avid outdoor enthusiasts at REI.
Small retail fashion boutiques are becoming more like the big brands we know and love. When an associate greets you with the phrase “think of me as your very own personal stylist,” it turns the experience into something more personable. Personable experiences that can’t be emulated online will drive revenue back through your doors.
7. Spark the Senses
When it comes to creating a high-converting physical retail store or pop-up shop, there’s a lot that small businesses can learn from big-name retail brands.
Memories of what we feel, hear, see, smell, and touch, can last a lifetime. As humans, we are neurologically oriented to find the sight, feel, scent, and even the sound of things like wood, grass, leaves, and water—senses that are familiar, comfortable, and inviting.
Think about the last time you walked into Abercrombie and Fitch. Did the loud music, aroma, and the dark, intimate lighting make you feel like you teleported out of the mall? That unique experience targets the senses and will drive customers back through the doors rather than purchasing online.
So how does a brand spark the senses to turn your store into a custom world?
Research by Nobel Peace Prize winners Richard Axel and Linda Buck reveals that our sense of smell is widely considered to be our “most emotional” sense. And studies have shown that shoppers make irrational purchase decisions when they are emotional. Does your brand have a custom perfume or in-store scent? If not, think about your brand and what you stand for. Associate yourself with that particular scent and stick with it. Large international casinos are known for doing this as well, and most offer the scent in the form of a candle or scent sticks in their gift shops.
In a Psychology Today article, Emily Anthes writes, “Shoppers make more impulsive purchases when they’re overstimulated. Loud volume leads to sensory overload, which weakens self-control.” On the other side of the spectrum, soft and gentle music is commonly used in grocery stores to keep customers shopping longer. If you’re using a service like Spotify or Pandora, just make sure that your music is not interrupted by advertisements—no one wants to hear that while shopping!
It’s a great way to be greeted, and an even better excuse to stay a while. Offering your customers a glass of wine or hot coffee can make a great impression. Retail brands such as 7 For All Mankind offer wine or whiskey to their customers as they enter the store. While people appreciate this gesture for multiple reasons, studies have also shown that it makes customers feel comfortable.
Lighting can—and will—instantly transform the feel of your shop. Whether you want an intimate, zen, funky, or upscale feel, your in-store lighting creates that feeling the moment the customer walks through the door. In addition to impacting mood, light can also be used to guide shoppers to critical areas and provide a backdrop for the overall customer experience.
Staging and re-staging your store is also a large part of playing to the senses. Need a little inspiration? The Line and Apartment by The Line have done a fantastic job curating that at-home, atelier experience where you feel like you’re shopping in your apartment.
One of the more apparent scenes to stimulate is the sense of touch. Touch shouldn’t be an afterthought; touch should be the focus of the items you want the shopper to pick up and experience leading to the purchase.
These visual merchandising tips should have sparked some new ideas— make sure to implement them in your new or existing fashion boutique to start seeing results!
At Scaling Retail, we’ve launched brick-and-mortar and e-commerce businesses all over the world. If you’re looking for guidance with creating a merchandising strategy for your business, we would love to speak with you. Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation.