How important are merchandising activities for members

Communication of the brand: The important role that visual merchandising has played in the course of time

By Eric Feigenbaum, expert in visual merchandizing and editing at VMSD magazine


Brands and retailers are increasingly investing in their online activities. In doing so, they must not lose sight of the value that the traditional store has for the customer experience and the broader brand identity.

More than ever, a store needs to be viewed as a place that sells more than just goods. Today's consumers, especially the Millennium generation, expect special experiences.

Visual merchandising has changed since the first promotional items appeared in department stores in the early 1900s; they are no longer the brand's only mouthpiece. Most marketing and advertising strategies now reflect desirable lifestyles. The modern art of visual merchandising has to pick up and highlight these - the shop window can only be the beginning.

Visual merchandising must be incorporated into the business strategy in the early stages of marketing and product development. It is the first tangible representation of the new marketing measures for the brand. In order to communicate the intended messages correctly, uniform sales promotion must take place in the sales outlets. This requires both time and resources.

While having a strong online presence is essential these days, retailers must remember to invest in the heart and soul of their business - the traditional physical store.

Communication of the brand: the important role that visual merchandising has played in the course of time

The distinctive feature of a successful retail business has always been the ability to adapt to change while using modern technology. The speed of change in modern retail is exponential. Driven by the relentless advancement of e-commerce technology, retail is now changing faster than ever before. The question often arises: Will e-commerce lead to the end of traditional retail stores? The answer is a clear no"! The future of retail is not either brick and mortar OR digital presence; but made of brick and mortar AND digital presence. Both must unite spiritually; both have to work together. An informed retailer knows that the store is their greatest asset. The store itself is the embodiment of the brand. The art and science of visual merchandising focus on it as a core element in order to build and maintain long-lasting customer relationships. The store is the foundation of the retail trade that is present in every distribution channel.

The store won't go away. 91.9% of all retail sales continue to be generated in traditional stores. That's why retailers need to raise the bar.

The store doesn't go away. 91.9% [1] of all retail sales continue to be made in traditional stores. As a result, retailers need a balanced investment in technology for both their physical stores and their e-commerce businesses. Your investments must give customers a reason to visit their stores. It's important to understand that the store is a communication tool - the best place to get relevant messages across to the target audience. Retail stores are of course the arena for new ideas, new concepts and new products. This turns the shop into a sales platform for these new products. New products, the latest fashions, current trends - all of this is incredibly exciting. Retailers need to pick up on this excitement and translate it into the language of visual merchandising.

Communication must take place in both the traditional and the digital world. While retailers should integrate technology into their business strategies in the best possible way, they also need to remember that e-commerce is not the only way to get their message across. Instead, the function of technology is to get the message across across all sales channels. The focus of traditional retail stores today must continue to be on the beauty of the store and the presentation of the goods. It is therefore imperative that retailers incorporate visual merchandising into their corporate culture and DNA.

The role of visual merchandising has changed dramatically since it was first introduced in department stores in the early 20th century. Back then, every major retailer had “creative” promotional items tucked away in the farthest corner of the store's basement. This extravagant dealer had a studio full of birds and flowers, colored paper and glass, crystal chandeliers, wine coolers, exotic fabrics and other selected items and curiosities. They were all decoration to highlight individual goods. He was prone to showmanship and all too often his goods were pushed into the background by these theatrical decorations.

Visual merchandising today is more about reflecting our time, our values, and our goals. Today the attentive retailer who adapts to our changing times sits next to the visual merchandiser in the boardroom. Visual merchandising has changed from birds and flowers in the basement studio to decision-making in the company office. It has become an integral part of any retail strategy and needs to be considered in business decisions in the early stages of development.

Visual merchandising today is more about reflecting our time, our values, and our goals.

In the future, retail strategists will have to recognize the importance of the store as an important point of contact with the brand. Every promotional activity a retailer takes, from the sign above the door to the doormat underneath - from the behavior of the salespeople to the texture of the walls; from the stationery he uses to the marketing standards and practices he uses - all of these have to be aligned with the branding he wants to achieve. It must be noted that visual merchandising is not only the brand's mediator, but also its guardian. Through visual merchandising, retailers can clearly communicate who they are, what they have to say and how they say it. A store needs to be seen more than ever as a place that sells more than just goods. It is the liaison between retailers and consumers. When it comes to store design, retailers are faced with the task of designing more than just a simple point of sale. Instead, they have to create an experience. The cornerstones of experiential retail are based on effective visual merchandising. The modern customer wants to have an experience. Visual merchandising is the most effective tool to deliver this experience.

Visual merchandising is the moment of truth. It is keeping the promise and fulfilling the expectation. It is, in fact, the final link in the marketing chain. Everything that has ever been said in the marketing campaign is magnified when the customer walks into the store. Visual merchandising is the first three-dimensional representation of marketing efforts and the first tangible impression of everything that has ever been promised. Today, a firm stance and solid standards in visual merchandising are essential for success.

Precise, uniform standards ensure that the branding and nuances of the product offering are accurately presented in every store. Success in retail depends on effective communication. The role of the modern visual merchandiser is to set presentation standards and develop meaningful brand messages. The person responsible for visual merchandising must work with every department within the company, from store design, planning and procurement to marketing and operations, in order to develop these concepts and then give clear instructions to each branch of the umbrella company. These standards and messages must be conveyed precisely and consistently in every business. Every retail store is a brand ambassador. Thus, all branches have to communicate the same message, as they all leave a lasting, indelible impression.

Visual merchandising is that mediator - the driver that continues to create a holistic dialogue with everyone who interacts with the brand.

As retail continues to evolve, it is interesting to see that leading e-commerce retailers Amazon, Warby Parker, and Bonobos all view traditional physical stores as an integral part of their ongoing strategies. Warby Parker's directors are planning a potential 800 to 1,000 stores, while Bonobos plans to open 100 outlets by 2020. Amazon has already opened two bookstores. Three more are planned. All three online giants are well aware that traditional physical stores support online sales.

The path to success in today's changing times is clear. As retailers develop strategies for future growth, and in some cases for their survival, they need to realize that the foundation of success rests on the foundation on which they have built their business. Even if we interact in a retail structure that takes place in all sales channels, the traditional physical store remains the most important step on the way to selling. Any master plan designed to drive retail growth must leverage existing and new technology not only as a portal for customer interaction, but also as a key requirement for optimizing the customer experience in store. Paving the way for sale requires allocating the appropriate resources to improve the customer experience in the store. And while investing in a strong online presence is necessary, retailers need to invest equally in the heart and soul of their business: the traditional physical store.

To be successful, retailers need to establish clear, consistent channels of communication between themselves and their target audience. E-commerce does offer an efficient means of communication. However, a significant amount of sensory information is lost. Traditional stores receive this information and create a much more tangible form of communication between the brand and the customer. Visual merchandising is that mediator - the driver that continues to create a holistic dialogue with everyone who interacts with the brand.

[1] U.S. Census Bureau News, Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C. August, 2016

Information on Eric Feigenbaum

Eric Feigenbaum is an industry leader in visual merchandising and store design and has experience designing outlets both domestically and abroad. From 1986 to 1995 he was responsible for visual merchandising for Stern's Department Store, a division of the Federated Department Stores. After working at Stern's, he took on the position of head of visual merchandising at WalkerGroup / CNI, an architectural design agency in New York City. Feigenbaum was also honorary professor of shop design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and from 2000 to 2015 he was head of the visual merchandising department at LIM College (New York). In addition to his role as editorial consultant / New York editor for VMSD magazine, Eric is also a founding member of PAVE (A Partnership for Planning and Visual Education). He is also currently the President and Director of Creative Services for his own company, Embrace Design, which specializes in store design.

Visit Eric's official website

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