I happened across an article from the Kansas City Star tonight, discussing the effects that design can have on shoppers, in a retail capacity, from storefronts and window displays to in-store merchandise displays and even the general store layout. The article brought up parallels between visual marketing (also known as “merchandising”) and branding, or brand marketing. While it seems like a simple concept, I’d never thought of it that way.
Like a Blast from the Past
I’m no stranger to visual marketing. As a matter of fact, I spent about a year working in retail advertising and visual marketing for a major department store chain before going back to non-profit event work, and then my PR firm. The job seemed rather insignificant from a marketing standpoint at the time, but looking back I can say I certainly learned some important lessons that apply to business in general, whether a brick and mortar retail operation, a consulting firm, or an online business or website.
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What the Retailers Can Teach You
- Looks really do matter – Presentation is important no matter what kind of business you’re in, from dressing appropriately around employers and clients to attractive shopping environments to the design of a website.
- Buyers Like Consistency – If you create your logo, name, slogan, color scheme, or any other part of your branding, with a specific effort placed on making your customers “feel” a certain way, then any kind of design work needs to reflect the same.
- Shoppers Want Things Organized – There’s a good reason why most stores have large signage and are organized by departments or aisles… customers don’t want to spend all day just trying to find what they want. The same is true for any business. If you run a service business, you need to lay out information such as services and rates in an easily browseable format. If you run a website, you need to make your navigation structure easy to understand and follow.
- They Love it When You Hold Their Hand – Well maybe not literally…. But customers do like it when you offer “add-ons” or similar products together, IF it’s done in a way that shows it’s for their actual benefit, and not just to get a larger sale. While a clothing retailer might display an entire outfit with accessories on a manequin display, you might see an online book store offering bundles of related titles for a discount, or a service provider could offer a group of services together for a special rate.
Look to established offline business structures for guidance in whatever kind of business you run. They’ve already done the hard part: they found out what works. Learn from them, and adapt their techniques to your business or website. There are always similarities, no matter how subtle they may initially seem.