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Visual merchandising

Visual merchandising

Retailers, like businesses operating in any other commercial sector, are always seeking strategies and techniques to help them secure a competitive advantage in their market place.

One currently hot practice is the concept of achieving more effective brand delivery through instore visual merchandising.

When implemented with precision and consistency, this can improve consumers’ shopping experiences with the brand and, as happy consumers buy more, vastly improve retailers’ performance by increasing sales.

One of the UK and Europe’s leading Visual Merchandising consultants, Karl McKeever, Brand Director of Visual Thinkingexplains just exactly what VM is all about and more importantly – how it can help retailers to improve delivery of their retail brand.

Karl asks, What is Visual Merchandising and how does it contribute to effective brand delivery?

Brand delivery is a well-understood practice which is all about ‘bringing a brand to life’ for consumers, in effect, transforming a conceptual idea into a tangible reality or ‘experience’.

For retailers, successful brand delivery means creating a great shopping experience, through the retail environment, consumer service, store operations and retail marketing activities.

Done well it will present a cohesive and fully integrated ‘retail reality’ that is representative of the brand values, and product proposition and targeted for the market positioning.

As brands are conceptual by nature, the most successful companies invest significant amounts in trying to develop to create a seamless and synergistic realisation of these for consumers.

This in turn can provide consumers with a unique and satisfying retail experience, which can encourage them to develop a relationship with the brand.

The result enables retailers to secure sales opportunities, with the ultimate aim of developing long-term brand loyalty and revenue generation. So far so good.

In consumer brands, the patented Coca Cola bottle is one of the most well worn examples of highly effective brand delivery, and demonstrates the power of establishing strong, and potentially valuable, sensory cues with the consumer.

Its unique shape identifies the product, brand, and quality in a clearly differentiated and patented brand component. There are many other good examples including Apple computers, Jif lemon, Dyson vacuum cleaners etc.

In retail terms, Mark & Spencer’s high profile and immediately recognisable UK advertising campaign, Tesco’s product packaging and Ralph Lauren’s iconic store design are all key parts of successful brand delivery, helping to create a picture in the consumers’ minds of what to expect when shopping with these brands instore.

For the companies that do achieve effective brand delivery, they can expect an increase in brand equity, with the potential to boost commercial performance and corporate brand value.

The part of brand delivery that specifically involves store presentation, is known as Visual Merchandising or VM. This involves functions such as space management, presentation and display, promotional activity and seasonal events.

Companies use VM to carefully manage ‘the look and feel’ of the brand instore and for presenting products in the most effective ways. It means investing in expertise and resources for the use of ‘best practice’ VM techniques to gain maximum control of the selling process.

It is a complementary function to the buying strategy and when used together, can have dramatic effects on sales, profits and product performance.

As a retail industry practice, VM has been recognised for almost 20 years, with the USA being the first country to pioneer and perfect its application.

Since then, the Asian, European and UK markets have been strong supporters. Now the race is on to export this valuable VM knowledge, skills and activities into India and the Middle East, with their thirst for VM improvement being one of the biggest strategic brand delivery goals in these lucrative and fast developing markets.

And in increasingly competitive times with ever more demanding consumers, getting instore VM right is regarded as critical to success, making all the difference between retail success or failure.

As such, CEO’s from all kinds of major retail organisations can now be regularly heard to say that improving store presentation through better VM, is a key objective in their retail turnaround plans.

It is surely the strongest indicator of how VM has gained serious importance within the Institutions that affect the Corporate Retail world, and correspondingly, its increasingly meteoric rise up the marketing agenda.
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