The future of visual merchandising looks full of possibilities. Marketing to connected consumers gives creative, graphics, signage and installations companies more opportunities to experiment than ever before. Here are the visual merchandising trends likely to hit stores in 2019.

Experiential merchandising

Although brick-and-mortar stores are battling against the instant gratification of online shopping, they do have a very distinct edge which works in their favour: the opportunity for experiential displays.

In April 2018, clothing retailer, Zara, opted to swap mannequins and window displays for an augmented reality catwalk. The initiative was rolled out across 120 UK flagship stores and allowed shoppers to experience products in a new way by holding their phones up to sensors on various displays. They could then click to buy based on the physical demonstration.

In October 2018, outdoor wear brand, Timberland, created an ‘Instagrammable’ experience in a New York-based pop-up store. The experience featured a rain room, a snow room and over 2,000 live plants (including full-sized birch trees), all native to Timberland’s New England home turf.

These experiential displays increase footfall, encourage social shares and give brands a new creative outlet to express their core values in a way that the customer can actively engage with.

Making signage work harder

In-store signage has always had a tough job vying for the consumers’ attention among a sea of messaging. This year, experts agree that signage may be taking a different approach to consumer interaction.

Trends for signage now suggest that in-store product recommendations, descriptive product use case examples and call to action messaging might be a more effective approach. Instead of aiming to grab attention, informational signage will drive product interactions.

Much like the related or recommended items used in online shopping, signs are now being repurposed in brick-and-mortar stores to recommend related or similar products to shoppers. The rise in first-person call to action signage, (such as ‘try me’) encourages engagement and informational signage acts as a source of inspiration.

Localisation and community

Could the end of nationwide generic display roll outs be approaching? Retailers are noticing and acknowledging the localised splits in their customer base and beginning to use data to merchandise the products each local market is most likely to buy.

An excellent example of localised merchandising in action is the Nike By You Store in Melrose, LA. Using insights from NikePlus members, they’ve created a ‘experimental digital-meets-physical retail pilot’, in which they serve products which cater directly to the local consumer demographic.

Data profiling can give stores the tools they need to combine both the physical and the digital aspects of retail and turn them into tailormade consumer experiences.

Relationship building

In today’s market, consumers are wise to the hard sell, and few things put them off more. In an effort to forge more meaningful, long-lasting relationships with customers, brands are beginning to see brick-and-mortar stores as venues and experiential spaces, as well as retail outlets.

Based on the understanding that consumers typically shop online, stores are becoming a touchpoint for brand interaction. Retailers like Lululemon increase footfall by designing their retail spaces to facilitate yoga lessons. Makeup and beauty brands are jumping on the trend, using exclusive pop-up stores as events spaces for influencer meet and greets, masterclasses and Q&A sessions.

This softer approach to retail will ultimately demand smarter, more functional store design and portable, multi-use merchandising installations.  

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