Visual Merchandising 101: Lifestyle Storytelling

Image by Edgar Chaparro


Storytelling—it’s the buzzword across all categories and industries. Even in retail.

In today's retail climate, unique and memorable storytelling is a critical part of a brand’s expression, online and in-store, and Visual Merchandising is retail’s version of storytelling. It’s the functional and theatrical arrangement of products that only physical retail can do. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that attracts, engages, inspires, and motivates customers to fall in love with your products and your brand, and it can ultimately drive purchase. Equal parts art and science, Visual Merchandising plays to our own instinctive responses and emotional drivers around color, scale, shape, symmetry, repetition, and pattern—all distinctive retail design topics that can be explored further.

Here are a couple tips and tricks of Visual Merchandising:

A sensorial journey

More than visual order and artistry, great visual merchandising requires engaging all the senses—sight, smell, touch, sound, and even taste- to effectively immerse your guests in a branded, one-of-a-kind experience. Fun fact: the part of our brain that processes emotion, is also the part of our brain that links to memories, so the two are intrinsically linked. That means our shoppers remember best when their senses and emotions are fully engaged. Positive, strong memories lead to top-of-mind brand awareness and repeat purchases.

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Image by Mark Steele & FITCH

Invest in great visual merchandising and storytelling where it matters most- at the start of your guests’ experience with your brand and in the final moments, usually around closing the sale.

Managing the enthusiasm and energy flow in your space starts by defining the absolute highest emotional peaks of your shopper’s journey. Psychological theory shows that the beginning and end of your in-store experience are the two most important moments to capture and captivate your guests, so consider these as your key moments for emotive, sensorial-driven storytelling.

Peak interest with curated collections:

  • Invest in great visual merchandising and storytelling where it matters most- at the start of your guests experience with your brand and in the final moments, usually around closing the sale.
  • Stir the emotions of your guest by surprising and delighting them with compelling and relevant product stories. Keep it dynamic, fluid, and ever-changing.
  • Create product stories and in-store experiences that people feel passionate about by allowing them to touch, taste, and play with your brand.
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Peak End Rule Diagram

A Shopper-First Focus

Before you can create meaningful, memorable merchandise displays and product stories you must first consider the audience—your current and future shoppers. Every design and display decision should be grounded in the desires of your shopper, and on how they want to live. Your online sales platform and social channels are great resources for tapping into your shopper’s behaviors and buying habits – use that data! With a customer-focused lens, your visual merchandising and product storytelling can connect to shoppers’ lifestyles. They’ll see that “you get them” and that translates to sales.

Merchandising is a team sport
More than anything, great visual merchandising demands a holistic vision and a strategic partnership between the store design, marketing, digital, brand, and product/merchandising/packaging teams. It cannot be done in isolation. Physical retail is entering a new golden age and compelling visual merchandising is the best (and most forgotten) retail sales tool you have. Harness the power of storytelling and master the techniques of great visual design and display to create a unique, brand-led experience.

Consider these questions as you create a compelling visual merchandising strategy (and see the examples provided below):

  • Does your product display have true ‘stopping power?’ How can we encourage discovery and longer dwell time with activated and interactive displays?
  • Are you creating dialogue with the individual and their unique needs? Is the content and message relevant to their lives and lifestyles?
  • Does the design of your space and merchandising capture emotion and inspire people to make a purchase?
  • Are you doing all you can to really ‘know’ your customer and their behavior, to keep them coming back for more?
  • Is your brand communicating seamlessly across all channels?

Image by Macerich


Image by Macerich


Image by Macerich


Image by Mark Steele and FITCH