The Natural Insight Ultimate Guide to Retail Merchandising is here to offer you information and insights into nearly every aspect of the retail merchandising universe. In every major section, you'll discover information and inspiration designed to help retailers, brands, product companies and merchandisers handle the many pieces that complete the retail merchandising puzzle.
Retail merchandising refers to the way retailers, brands and other product companies make their merchandise available in stores. Retail merchandising includes both execution (i.e., shelving items and installing displays) and strategy, which includes product selection, product placement, display design, and other techniques. The purpose of retail merchandising is to encourage purchases.
Successful retail merchandising requires careful planning, implementation, management, and analysis. Let’s take a look at the facets of a great retail merchandising strategy and some of the tools that help brands, consumer goods and consumer packaged goods companies as well as retailers keep a steady course and an ocean of products in order throughout a merchandising expedition.
In-Store Merchandising Definition: The display setups, shelving layouts, space allotment and other considerations for displaying and selling products in physical retail locations.
While general merchandising can include product design, packaging, online sales and branded promotional items, in-store merchandising refers specifically to product merchandising in stores.
For Inspiration: Looking to elevate your in-store merchandising strategies? Check out these 7 hacks to boost in-store retail sales.
Companies’ merchandising techniques greatly influence brand recognition and perception and significantly contribute to retail brand equity.
Brand equity is the value of a brand from the consumer’s perspective, including its recognition, perceived values, customer loyalty and other factors. Retail brand equity is a brand’s value perceived by consumers based on its representation in retail stores.
Product companies should ensure their merchandising upholds their brand’s image, from color scheme to mission statement, to maintain high retail brand equity. There’s a reason, for example, that there are no green Apple stores or plastic Chipotle bags: Apple’s monochromatic branding and Chipotle’s dedication to sourcing eco-friendly materials permeate through every aspect of their merchandising.
The Takeaway: Retail merchandising that clearly, consistently and memorably represents a brand’s identity helps generate the strong market presence and loyal following that keeps retail brand equity high. In fact, consistent branding increases revenue by an average of 23 percent.
With all this in mind, how do brands develop efficient and manageable retail merchandising systems?
Most companies – especially those working with multiple retail sites and remote management – now use digital merchandising software to manage in-store merchandising. Natural Insight, for example, empowers managers to oversee task assignment, merchandising execution, employee performance and more all within one application. Integrated merchandising management systems like these help companies achieve cohesive, high-quality merchandising, even with remote and large-scale teams.
More Learning: If you're a product company or a retailer, it's wise to compare creating an in-house merchandising system vs. purchasing a complete platform that's ready to go "out of the box." Check out our infographic on "Build vs. Buy" to help learn the costs and wins of both.
Brands and product companies should regularly perform retail audits to ensure stores’ merchandising is compliant with agreed-upon standards. The retail store audit process checks merchandising execution, including:
Retail staff (often store or district managers), brands or third-party labor can perform store audits. These audits help both retailers and product companies hold each other accountable; after agreeing on floor space allotment, signage and other merchandising tactics, retail store audits verify each party upholds their end of the deal.
Retail store audits are critical to assessing and improving compliance and should be performed regularly. Using software that includes inventory management features such as fulfillment information and automated audit-based reordering can further the benefits of audits.
Some Wisdom from Our Clients: One of the key components of the Natural Insight platform is visual verification. If you're working on your own verification system, be sure to find location and time-tracking data on verification images. The demand for this aspect in the verification process came from research indicating employees had recycled previous photos, fibbed about the time of completion, and more.
Whether it's communication, organization or verification, having a plan is key to successful product sales. Grab our retail execution checklist to make sure your products fly off the shelves with minimal wasted time and effort.
In the following sections, you'll discover insights and advice that spans the lifecycle of product merchandising. From launch to recalls to managing everything in between, retailers, merchandisers and product companies can all benefit from building their product merchandising mastery.
Advertising might get award-winning TV shows like Mad Men, but at the core any successful consumer brand company, you'll always find well-oiled product merchandising management organization. It's the silent hero that powers sales. From communicating with field staff to training to task management to product displays, end-caps and beyond, execution is 9/10ths of the sale.
Keeping your merchandising efforts on track won't stop when the product is on the shelf. It begins at product launch and doesn’t stop until the product is retired. It also includes seasonal merchandising, on-going inventory management, resets, marketing and more.
Product merchandising management also connects vision, employees and execution into one. Getting products into customer hands, however, means tracking time, execution, employees and merchandise on the floor – and in the back room.
Who does this affect? Retailers, consumer packaged goods companies, consumer brands and third-party merchandising companies and remote workers as well as in-store merchandising employees. This subject is expansive, so we recommend getting started on your management strategy with the top reads below. Have more questions? Contact us, we'd love to help!
Evoke happiness with your retail merchandising using warm colors, photos of people or animals. Learn more in our blog on emotion in retail product merchandising to expand on these emotional triggers.
In Natural Insight’s yearly holiday shopping survey, for example, we report insights into anticipated age, gender, purchase timing and dive into exactly what makes them tick. During one of the most competitive retail moments of the year, make your product shine with merchandising that’s laser-focused on your shoppers' wants and needs.
Goodie Bag: Check out the results of the 2018 Shopping Survey, provided by a huge number of our clients!
Brand loyalty, product exposure and a bursting customer base drive the retail product sales that merchandisers promise. Social media offers up a cornucopia of ways to expand them all. Stay on top of trends, the technology that customers are running to and the values that drive them to buy – or not buy – your product.
Get your products in new places. One innovator we’ve spotted? A company that puts retail inside rideshare services and ads for those products on their phone when they purchase. On-the-go snacks in the car and ads that pop into the user’s phone keeps them buying – even when they’re zooming past storefronts and quick-stop locales.
Lisa’s kids just got out of school for the summer. Janet and Mark celebrate each hard week at work with a weekly Friday outing.
Meet them on their feet!
Janet and Mark might have gone to see 29Rooms (and paid to see it). There, they experienced the fun and activity sponsored by brands like Dunkin’ Donuts, Shatterbox and TNT. What might they find? Selfie-friendly, targeted funhouse rooms, a mock game show, and surrealist art that is on-brand and audience-centric (and not just pumping the merch).
Lisa’s kids, however, were positively dying to go to the Coca Cola/FIFA augmented reality event near the local transit station. There, the kids lined up to show off their footwork for their favorite sports star and appeared right next to him, while Lisa signed them up for a chance to attend the World Cup. Do you suppose there was Coke on hand? One thing was certainly in the kids’ hands: a brand new copy of the latest FIFA game.
The Takeaway: Every business is scrambling to make sales online. Meanwhile, consumers are craving more real-life experiences and beginning to curtail their screen time. Experiential marketing means even shopping can contribute to those who crave the tangible world.
This step of the product launch means ensuring communication between the folks on the floor who make the displays light up and everyone involved with stocking, supply chains and distribution. Are products landing at the right retailer? Do retailers and merchandisers have a way to prove field execution and communicate needs?
A unified brand means having a clear and polished brand framework in place. From there, messaging is born. And from that messaging comes the talking points for your brand ambassadors, the punchy and engaging advertisements and
The Bottom Line: Products need to be on shelves. Messaging needs to be unified. Ads need to be flying and product launch exposure at a maximum. Carefully aligning planning and objectives to the right execution tactics is critical. And using the right collaboration tool might make the difference between a successful and failed launch.
Product resets can seem daunting. Heck, they are daunting. The simplest way to approach them is by staging each part of the the reset process. Start by breaking down the process into parts.
Take this list on the go! Download the Seamless Product Reset Checklist PDF here.
No matter what you sell, the picture above is probably your worst nightmare. But don’t let inventory management get to you. There are a million ways to keep stock fresh in any retail environment without losing your mind – or hair. But, it all starts with a strategy supported by solid tactics.
Each season comes with its own store inventory management challenges. Track seasonal trends to make sure they don’t catch you by surprise. Shipping takes longer around the winter holidays, so factor for extra time in that window. Also, certain hot items will tend to sell out – fast. Make extra space for those hyped-up seasonal grabs and make sure you bring in the traffic that makes the holidays carry the dreaded off-season.
Ditching spreadsheets and manual item counts can save hundreds of hours of labor every year. The booming tech trade not only makes retail execution and merchandising easy to manage, it’s spread to help the stock room.
Inventory systems come in all shapes and sizes. From our tip in #2, scope of product is really going to matter. Those store inventory management systems we mentioned might work for you – but what if you are running an online business? What if it’s designed for clothing and apparel only? Keep an eye on factors like those before committing. Also – read on in our next section to find some help deciding!
Stock Room Management Tip: Monster businesses could benefit by trying out QuickBooks Enterprise, while smaller shops will likely benefit from a streamlined, lower-cost solution like Boxstorm.
Retail Inventory Management from Small Business to Enterprise
Let’s not kid ourselves. Even if your business is through the nightmarish first two years, sifting through operational stacks is an ongoing chore as you grow. Here are a few systems we thought fared well in the retail inventory management reviews.
Further Reading: Here’s a link to retail inventory management reviews on Capterra to help you on your way. Are you wondering if a program isn’t the only way to optimize your stock management? Check out Shopify’s blog on the inventory management principles that stop cash hemorrhaging.
Product recalls are a major headache for retailers and CPGs. While we won’t touch on the reputational and financial fallout, we will try to help you with logistical handling that minimizes work and frees up resources.
When recalls come, retailers can find themselves reacting to the negative outcomes through contract changes. Some may be tempted shield themselves from liability by wording their contracts with manufacturers to put all liability onto the maker. While we aren’t taking a stance in either direction, these contractual actions can put the entire legal onus directly onto one party. Pay special attention to work out an agreement that is equitable to merchandisers but safeguards manufacturing from late and overlooked product recall product distribution.
The great relationships you’ve worked out with manufacturers and suppliers should make sure the onus of a recall doesn’t fall squarely on you. While this is rare, contracts matter. Bad timeline expectations, unreasonable cost of shipping and lack of timely replacements can cost time and money. Examine contracts with care!
Some basic product recall steps include:
Numerous high-quality product recall software providers can handle all of the above logistical elements without cumbersome paper trails and too much back-and-forth. With a combination of retail merchandising software and the recall software to manage unforeseen events, CPGs, retailers and merchandisers can rest assured that stock is attractive, safe, fresh and properly displayed.
The Takeaway: In the end, planning is the best medicine for managing a recall. Without one, displays, sales, stocking, staffing and costs are likely to spiral quickly out of control. To make your life easier, take this product recall cheat sheet on the go with you.
Whether you’re a retailer, a product company or a merchandiser, few things are quite as challenging as retail execution. From small shops with big displays to sprawling regional responsibilities, organizing and managing accountable retail execution is finally within reach on a single platform.
Here we’ll discuss how using Natural Insight’s retail execution and merchandising platform creates visibility, accountability and the insights you need to keep productivity, displays and stores at their best – without having to chase down critical information.
Mobile Merchandising Platforms Make for Rapid, Complete Adoption
Natural Insight is designed with mobility and ease of adoption at the forefront. Made to work on tablet, computers and smartphones, the platform connects employees to managers all the way to regional and corporate – in real time.
Cloud Platform for Hassle-Free Operation
Building an in-house retail execution program costs time, money and manpower. It may seem like a cost cutting choice, since there might be no recurring fees. This is, in part, true. However, much is lost in designing such a program or application from scratch, internally. Natural Insight is built on years of experience in streamlining and perfecting retail execution with feedback from its numerous clients. Integrating devices? Done. Rolling out updates? Managed. Time lost? Zero.
Leverage Mobile and Cloud
Natural Insight is on the forefront of visual merchandising apps, making scheduling and execution management fit the modern workplace.
Execution Tracking Native Features:
Enhanced media handling.
Integrated Workforce Management Tools:
The Bottom Line
Improved communication between teams and corporate office. Real-time visibility into store activities and field team productivity visible to all levels of management. Easy job and task assignment, scheduling, billing and tracking. Mobile merchandising has become painless at last.
Nothing moves a product like a compelling, unique visual merchandising display, whether it comes from splashes of color, haute designs for luxurious tastes or ingenious attention-getters.
In this section of the guide, we’ll explore visual merchandising displays and strategy and their place in the arc of product sales, including a special focus on:
These topics are designed to benefit the entire range of players that operate with one goal:
Fill that shopping cart!
So if you’re designing your latest product, planning out your store’s latest new retail execution strategy or plotting your next grand scheme to ignite the world with legendary (yet efficient) merchandising – we’ve got something to offer you, right here, right now.
We’ll also sprinkle in a dash of psychological strategy, add a dollop of layout and store design, and create a sturdy base of practical tips, tools and insights along the way.
Get Started with a Quick Read: The Good, Bad and Ugly in Retail Product Displays
Brands, merchandisers and retailers put massive time, thought, energy and negotiation to ensure everyone benefits from their symbiotic – sometimes contentious – relationship with one another.
Meanwhile, customers are bombarded with options that can pull their attention from the delightful experience of seeing, feeling, touching the product in real life – a proven (and enjoyable) process that leads to a better bottom line for all involved.
Don’t let the competition distract your market. Keep customers interacting with products, entering stores and filling baskets by getting your product placement fundamentals right.
Necessities: Whether a store focuses on specific categories of products or they run a one-stop shop for every need, carefully placed necessity items will draw shoppers to the areas where your highest-profit impulse items will jump into their baskets.
For instance, game stores can attract shoppers with essentials like controller batteries, cables and cleaning kits that emphasize an uninterrupted entertaining experience. Home improvement stores can keep a stock of high-replacement items like disposable gloves and masks. Home décor stores can stock well-placed consumables like air-freshener replacements, clean-up gear and Swiffer pads – people still love that handy little broom… Or is it a mop? Is it a duster? We don’t know what a Swiffer is – but it’s awesome.
Whatever you choose, the science behind layout mandates that you make these magnets visible from flow points and doorways, so that customers commit to a journey through your money-making impulse items as they meet their everyday needs.
Tip: Window signage product marketing that advertises discounts for these oft-replaced items will help get them in the door.
Impulse Buys: Visual product placement marketing allows some flexibility for impulse items, but it usually boils down to what kind of placement is possible – more than one company will be vying for certain spaces.
Since you’re forced to rank your options, the counter and checkout zones are top priority, always. End caps along necessity zones or a spot along the main thoroughfare make a great second.
Sale Items: You can’t go wrong with sale items that deliver high-volume profit. But which product placement will market them the most successfully? Forced pathway layouts will give an advantage if you take care to position displays that “bump” customers along their journey. Eye-catching visuals for your products will be more important than physically impeding their progress.
Execution Is Key: All of this planning won’t mean much if your product placement marketing strategy never comes to life. Digital product marketing tools can help bring order to the chaos of product merchandising execution. How? Through visual confirmation on execution, easily managed merchandiser scheduling, and more. Read more about bringing order to the chaos of product marketing in our free guide.
Entryway Tip: One might think that the entrance area is a great spot for a fun grab, but experience tells us that the first 30 seconds or 10 steps through the door, upon entering, are more of an orientation and acclimatization zone: a great tip here is to ensure this area is inviting and has signage that encourages exploration or directs to a necessity.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to build an engine from a schematic?
Better question: how do you think you’d fare building that beautiful back yard shed with only a blueprint to guide you?
In both of these scenarios, you’re left holding the bag – literally – and have no guideposts to help you. With outdated strategies to instruct your merchandisers, these examples might just trigger annoying memories for field reps who used old-school planograms.
Worse still, these clunky old planograms jeopardize planogram compliance, turning execution into an all-or-nothing situation in the field.
Here’s a few ways next-gen product merchandising planograms turn that antiquated process on its head. How?
Next-gen planograms isolate steps in execution and make them easy-to-follow, helping improve compliance, speed execution and break down the process into digestible chunks for hard-working field reps.
More Advantages for Retail Merchandising and Product Companies
Tip: Check out our blog post for more ideas on how to beat out competing retail displays.
What’s the best way to design and manage a retail product display? Planning ahead and ensuring execution is flawless. Here we’ll be exploring some principles of retail store display designs and the strategies that make them competitive and effective.
Retailers and the product companies all win when great displays work. When they don’t work, however, the pain is felt on all sides. The first step to avoiding this fate and delivering a cash-box-brimming success is ensuring any display, be it storefront, free-standing or wall-mounted, is built with these three principles.
Visual Research Advantage: Research by the University of Sydney noted that unexpected motion, changes in direction, visual jitter and changes in brightness all have a reliable effect on capturing attention. Here’s a quick list of display features that make use of neurological attention:
Emotion and necessity are two of the driving factors behind sales in any display. We’ve covered a great deal on the aspects that turn heads from these angles, but what about a competition-based approach?
There’s a way to make that happen. Start by gathering competitor information on displays and upkeep schedules to keep your own setups moving and get a solid idea of the replenishment regimes that work for each local area or store. Natural Insight empowers your field staff to do just that. Field reps can easily collect, report and monitor information that can help you make your own competition-informed strategic display choices. The platform helps you monitor:
Retail display designs operate on some very straightforward principles. Generally, you’ll want to always ensure customers can approach displays from every angle. That means that special attention needs to be paid to the proximity of nearby displays, walls and architecture – customers can’t buy what they can’t reach (let alone see).
Also, make sure that displays don’t obstruct walkways to and from the main thoroughfares. It can be tempting to use a huge display along these routes, but customers are focused on their needs, not a single product. If you cut off the route to something they need along the flow pathways, they will not only be unable to touch, hold and inspect the product (critical to sales in many cases), they won’t even come close enough to see the display, no matter how awesome it might be.
You can ensure that this doesn’t happen with any size display by having field reps take photos or submit reports on the general floor layout. Also, with the right tool, they can easily ensure displays are up to date, well stocked and looking perfect with the right field quality control tools.
Retail displays constantly need fresh ideas and new twists. Below, you’ll find some research-based insights for displays that pop.
There is such a thing as too dark, even for luxury brands! A sultry, spooky or somber mood can fit a multitude of different products and store types. That being said, huge indoor shopping centers and outdoor storefronts will usually be flooded with light. Dark retail displays and entryways will absorb this light and necessary illumination for important parts of a display.
Take a look at this compressed footage of a journey through the Mall at Millenia in Orlando, Florida. In the first minute, this YouTuber passes multiple storefronts which are poorly lit, uninviting and – in places – struggle to properly illuminate their brand names, store names and interior.
Shoppers can’t buy what they can’t see!
An example of the right way to “do dark” lives at 1:55 in the video. This is the Abercrombie storefront. It captures their white-on-black brand with heavy, dark windows – but passers-by can clearly see their trending merchandise without struggling to see inside the store. You can see another imitable example of an on-brand dark storefront with Gucci, at 3:25 – it’s right after Michael Kors. Instead of white in the background, they use red as their highlighting layer. Red seems darker emotionally, but actually carries long distances due to its long wavelength and low dispersion – a little red goes a long way, in other words.
Tip: Don’t let your products go unnoticed. Have field teams conduct field quality control checks of storefronts or submit feedback forms that assess areas of improvement like lighting, setup compliance, and more.
Walled-off or line-of-sight interrupting storefronts have both drawbacks and advantages. Boxing in the window display area can make for some very impactful, eye-catching displays. However, if you take this tactic, you’d better showcase your hot sellers.
With many stores having limited doorway views of the interior of the store, there’s a risk of losing the magnetizing power that comes from open, browsable and experiential internal design. Balance your storefront display by knowing when and where you want to showcase a shopping experience versus driving sales of a particular product.
Ideal retail shelving optimization means high product velocity off the shelf. There’s a little more to it than a tidy arrangement, however. Here you’ll learn a few strategies that have made waves stores around the world.
Use shelf positioning to create the billboard effect.
What is the billboard effect? Simply put, it’s using the packaging across several individual units to create a larger, on-brand visual message – a billboard. But why try this approach?
For brand-loyal shoppers, it will help find the products they came to the store to buy. The billboard effect helps to identify product category and brand simultaneously, attracting customers directly to that aisle, shelf or display.
Think of the billboard effect as great marketing. You wouldn’t use off-brand colors to promote your storefront – and on the shelf in retail spaces, your only storefront is the shelf.
Coca-Cola, for instance, has no shortage of product innovation and new flavor launches. However, they found that their shelf space was lacking in brand recognition – Coke Lime with its green packaging, Coke Zero, all black – but the signature circular red logo commanded little of the visual real estate when stacked in a group.
Don’t stress about your packaging design – this can be achieved with great retail shelving execution. You could start by framing new products with on-brand, on-color product. Also, one of our researchers has seen soda and snack displays where new products were used within stacked items to spell the brand name. Try a twist on that by creating a display pattern that recreates the logo.
Starter gaps are exactly what they sound like – a gap in the merchandise that gets people started in picking your display clean.
This is a bolder move, too, so grab the safety bar as we click, click, click! up the rollercoaster of ideas.
Is knocking a hole in your display maybe the ultimate sin in display execution? The perfectionist in us says yes. Our inner accountant, however, knows a starter gap can kickstart product sales velocity.
Why does it work?
Well, people come in many shapes and sizes. Some are “wait and see” shoppers, which means an untouched shelf could reflect a flawed or overpriced product. Other shoppers may see a flawless display, walk up to it, and reach for the messy shelf next to it, because… Who wants to make a mess?
Don’t mistake our meaning – displays must always be at their best. A little psychology, however, can kick off that fresh display’s path to a restock.
Experimentation, innovation, brand-adherence and aesthetics all play critical roles in your shelf optimization. However, none of these insights could exist without solid, data-based refinement based on research.
Try in-store shelving optimization through data capture that includes images, qualitative information and customized surveys that capture real-time data about your retail locations.
With this strategy, you can continue to play with your field execution tactics to discover which arrangement, height, displays, packaging, pricing and sales work for your merchandise.
Shoppers are pressed for time, and most would consider themselves equally pressed for cash.
If you fail to give them a compelling reason to come inside, they’re going to follow their plan and emotional motivations past your doorway and on to their next stop.
That’s why, when it comes to your exterior retail signage, it pays to know your market and connect with shoppers on an emotional level.
We’ve already pointed out (above) that one of the top pulls into any store is a financial motivation and necessity – that’s right: give them a sale. Why is that, though? Well, for most, they are thinking in terms of their financial motivations while shopping.
There are always more motivations to tap into, however. Here’s a quick list of strong motivations to get your retail signage attracting more customers than ever:
Rest and Relief: Shoppers get tired and sick of chores, so offer them something that promises free time in the future. For instance, a huge pack of batteries on sale means less trips to market at inconvenient times.
Act on Caring: Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries – these events fill people with an urge to express their caring for others. Offer them a way to make that tangible! Or play with the dark side and remind them that it’s been a while since they spoiled the ones they love. In any case, signs which remind shoppers of the role of seasonal and annual gifts in any relationship will work to draw them in and around your store.
Make an Impression: Today’s shoppers love being seen as much as they love shopping. Entice them with retail signs that show the impression they’ll make with your latest product. Images should use wish fulfillment with items featured prominently – try vacations, social events or life milestones to make a big impact and get them moving.
Accessorize the Trip: Signs suggesting a useful cross sell or offering a sale on an accessory to a more profitable item work. Think about your biggest draws and how you can enhance their purchase.
Regardless of whether you’re enticing customers through the door or magnetizing your high-profit merchandise, flawless retail execution mean getting it done right – and on time. The Natural Insight platform gives you immediate visibility and accountability in your retail execution. Try out one of our most popular check-up forms, today.
The retail apocalypse is here!
Well, maybe not. But try to tell that to shareholders watching 10% of sales disappear to the internet.
Rather than resign the battle for the shopping basket, product companies, retailers and merchandisers are turning to experiential merchandising. The prevalence of this trend has spread from luxury stores to fashion, CPGs and everyone in between.
Explore this section to learn:
Dive in to dial up your sales through experiential events, create displays that dabble with experiential design, and learn demo ideas to help move products fresh off the production line.
Natural Insight provides the most robust workforce management solution, the most flexibility in their modules and it has the best user interface
Karen Mendoza Retail Operations Manager, Nintendo of America
We are incredibly excited to be partnering with Natural Insight to support our field teams in stores. Natural Insight will allow us to empower our field teams with all the information they need in one central place, and collect reliable in-store data in an extremely efficient way.
Steve Oakes Panasonic U.K., Head of Brand Development