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By Jessica Elliott Updated on October 15, 2021

Creative Retail Display Ideas: 15 Ways to Engage Customers

People crave in-person experiences, from running their fingers along a soft blanket to sampling a gourmet treat. With creative retail display ideas, you can draw attention and engage shoppers. 

Product displays showcase items by telling a story, offering an experience or even solving a problem. Use these visual merchandising ideas to create product displays that wow customers, delight the senses and make your retail store stand out.

1. Turn a Retail Display Into an Experience

You can turn any space and nearly any product grouping into an experience. A spot for guests to dream. A place where, with just a couple of steps, customers feel as though they’ve entered a special world. 

Think about your customers and what types of experiences they spend money on. Your shoppers may love live music, crave the thrill of mountain biking or prefer books over video games. 

Tailor their experience by invoking these memories or feelings with your visual merchandise displays.

2. Leverage Sensory Branding

Visual aesthetics aren’t always enough to pull shopper’s eyes away from their cell phones. That’s where sensory branding comes into play. 

When brainstorming creative retail display ideas, consider ways to draw on the 5 senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. 

Examine your products and how they’re used. What do those moments look, smell or sound like? Try adding:

  • A fire-safe wax warmer with a delicate fragrance matching your display
  • Motion-activated low-volume music to fit the mood
  • A pop of color behind your focal point
  • Individual-packaged food or beauty product samples
  • Signs encouraging shoppers to pick up or touch items

3. Tell a Story

Retailers have long used visual storytelling as a retail marketing strategy. This concept goes back to the fantastic and expensive window displays with mannequin families celebrating the holidays or camping under the stars. 

You also can use your products and imagery to highlight your brand origin story. Perhaps, you shine a light on the production process or invite shoppers to discover your brand’s values. In short, personal details get shoppers emotionally invested.

A doughnut shop displays an array of doughnuts as someone takes a photo with a smartphone.

4. Create Instagrammable Visual Displays

Unless you’re hosting an Instagram contest, shoppers don’t care too much about snapping a selfie with your product. However, add a sign with a witty phrase or show off a unique piece of art, and Instagrammers will document their experience. 

Start with the right lighting. If you don’t have natural light, try amber-colored lighting. Next, leave enough white space so shoppers can take an uncluttered picture. 

Add elements such as:

  • Signs with phrases or a hashtag
  • A selfie backdrop or eye-catching wall art
  • Interesting floor appliques
  • Brand or location-specific decor
  • A branded photo booth

5. Solve a Problem

Although shopping shouldn’t be stressful, using a retail display to agitate a problem can increase sales. Simply seeing decorative baskets doesn’t make people want to buy them. But, a before and after presentation just might do the trick. 

When people can visualize how to use your products to solve a problem, it’s a lot easier to get them to buy. 

Show customers a messy kitchen cabinet with 27 different snack items and cereals. Now, display the same things in your nifty baskets. You’ll likely get quite a few more sales by showing rather than telling. 

6. Experiment With Visual Aesthetics

If you sell a diverse list of products, it can be tough to decide how to present different items in your store. While it’s important to stay true to your brand, there are times where you may want to go in another direction. 

For instance, if your items or branding feature neutral colors, select a complementary yet unique shade for your display background or signage. Other ideas include:

  • Go bold with a stark black or dark gray design 
  • Add textures with fabrics or display baskets 
  • Play with signs of various sizes or change up your font
  • Bring in light or mute lighting with a shade

Before settling on one design, test out your product display. Walk through your doors (or ask a friend for help). What do you notice first? Is there something visually you could tweak to attract more attention?

7. Showcase Community and Customers

Promoting your business locally is an excellent way to bring shoppers into your store. Retail store owners can take advantage of this by tying their business to a community and customers. 

Come up with visual merchandising ideas based on events or historical figures in your town. You also can use a product display to say thank you to loyal customers, essential workers or a local charity.

8. Jump on a TikTok Challenge

Walmart scored big with its #SavingsShuffle TikTok challenge, with tagged videos getting 1.8 billion views as of January 2021. 

You can turn your creative retail display idea into a marketing event with a branded hashtag challenge on TikTok.

Design a themed retail display and create a hashtag. Then ask employees and loyal customers to start the challenge off with a video of their own.

9. Maximize Your Retail Display Space

Changing up your store’s layout is expensive. Get more from your space by getting creative with your displays. 

Consider using different types of displays, such as:

  • Endcap displays: Add end-of-aisle or endcap displays using slim shelving units or brackets
  • Point-of-sale displays: Place a multilevel basket with last-minute items near your cash register
  • Pegboards: Hang items from hooks or small shelves on a piece of pegboard attached to a wall or furniture
  • Ceiling hangers: Draw attention with a sign or decorative art hanging above your display area

10. Offer a Seat

Nearly everyone needs a rest at some point. An inviting chair is a perfect way to satisfy a customer’s desire for comfort. But, once seated, you can direct their attention to a focal point. 

Hang a sign at seated eye-level near your focal point. It can remind your shopper why their feet are sore and offer a solution. You also may use this space to showcase a product brochure or catalog, so shoppers can still browse while they rest. 

Since you already have a chair, go ahead and add something unique. It could be a sign on the back of the chair or a pillow made from fabric you sell. Your seat also can double as an Instagrammable space, a for-sale item or an example of a finished product.  

A doughnut shop offers free samples for customers.

11. Design Interactive Displays for Stores

Think about ways your customers could interact with your display. It can be something simple such as adding a mirror for trying on jewelry or sunglasses. 

Some retailers use tablets or kiosks to help shoppers pick the best products. Others provide scannable quick response (QR) codes to jump online and see more product details. 

Of course, virtual reality or in-store promotions connected to a mobile app experience also encourage store visitors to experience your products in new ways.

12. Use Visual Displays to Motivate and Inspire

People aren’t buying items because they care about the product. Instead, it’s about what they get from owning the item. For some, a product increases their social status. Others want to snag that promotion or get in shape before a big trip. 

With a motivational or inspirational display, you become a partner in the customer journey. Create merchandise displays that:

  • Place your high-value item at the center
  • Include related products that support your customer’s goal
  • Share inspirational messages or testimonials
  • Offer a helpful freebie such as a tear-off tip sheet or downloadable checklist

13. Deliver Social Proof

Did your brand or products win an award? Maybe it has thousands of reviews online, or perhaps you received a wonderful thank-you note from a loyal customer. 

Use your display to show how your brand or products affected other people’s lives. Frame that cute thank-you card, share a quote from a testimonial or include a scannable link so shoppers can use their cell phones to read reviews while in your store. 

14. Add a Human Touch

Even the best visual merchandising ideas benefit from a human touch. Make your storefront customer-centric by:

  • Educating your staff about the products, benefits and target market
  • Giving employees suggestions for cross-selling or upselling opportunities
  • Encouraging your team to interact or offer a sample to people near displays
  • Providing staff with tablets to better assist shoppers 

15. Take Advantage of Technology in Retail Displays

Even small retail stores can take advantage of retail technology trends to increase foot traffic. For example, small flat screens displaying user-generated content or showing your product in action are great ways to attract attention. 

In most cases, you can do it yourself using a photo and video editing program. Add captions and keep your monitor muted. But, if it’s a touchscreen, tell your customers to click the volume button to get the full experience. 

Amplify Your Brand With Creative Retail Display Ideas

Make these ideas work for you by carefully selecting the right products for your displays and understanding your target audience. In doing so, you can personalize the experience and keep it consistent with your overall brand marketing. 

Moreover, check out your displays from every angle. For success, displays need to look great and deliver excellent customer experiences.

Jessica is a business-to-business content strategist and consultant with 24 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. She writes about technology, marketing and finance.
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