Creating a window display is a lot like creating web content. If you write a formulaic blog post packed with clichés, it won’t resonate with your audience. Similarly, if you plop a standard mannequin dressed in a seasonal outfit in your window display, it won’t persuade anyone to shop at your store.
To engage an audience, you must stick out from the crowd. But what’s the best way to do so?
A powerful way to differentiate your brand is by telling stories. Even though it’s a buzzword as old as the advertising industry, storytelling is a timeless skill. Neuroscience proves that it’s the best way to capture people’s attention, bake information into their memories, and forge close, personal bonds. We’re programmed to pay our undivided attention to a great story — that’ll never change.
And for this very reason, we’ve decided to highlight the window displays that tell some of the most captivating stories in retail and teach you how to tell them through your own window display. By leveraging storytelling, you can pull people into a narrative and evoke warm feelings and emotions they associate with your brand, driving them to not only visit your store but also buy your products.
5 Pro Tips for Creating a Window Display That Sells [+ Examples]
1. Make sure you understand your target customer.
Even if your window display tells an incredibly vivid story, it won’t resonate with your audience if they can’t visualize themselves in that narrative. In other words, you need to make sure your window display is relatable and relevant to your target customers’ lives.
For instance, check out this display window from French fashion house, Isabel Marant.
Image Credit: Pinterest
Connection, especially love, is the ultimate life goal for most adults. We’re biologically hardwired to search for it. And by draping their dresses from pictures of happy couples embracing each other, Isabel Marant is able to sell the feeling of love, along with their clothing, too.
If Isabel Marant’s target customers were teenagers, though, this window display probably wouldn’t resonate with them. Most teens can’t relate to this display’s story.
That said, you don’t want your window display to get so targeted that it alienates people who aren’t exactly best-fit customers but still want to buy your products.
For example, when Sessions Music, an education company, discovered that 75% of their students were under the age of 15, they designed their display windows to grab young students’ attention. But this decision made people think Sessions Music only offered music programs for children, and a bunch of people started asking them if they offered music programs for adults, even though Sessions Music has offered them for their entire existence. Unfortunately, their window display didn’t make that clear.
Sessions Music’s display window mishap teaches us a valuable lesson when using data to understand our customers. Data, in its raw form, is just a bunch of numbers packed into a spreadsheet. The actual value of data are the insights that lie within. But to truly extract those insights, you must think critically about the context your data was generated from.
2. Be refreshingly original.
In a world where countless brands fight for a limited amount of attention, the only way your window display can grab people’s attention is by being original. But that’s easier said than done.
In retail, especially during the holiday season, it can be tempting to leap onto the latest marketing trend that all your competitors have already pounced on. If everyone else is implementing the latest tip or trick, it must work, right? To captivate passersby, though, you must resist this urge.
Cliches repel attention. They sap your window display’s creativity and can’t activate the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for experiencing emotions.
But how exactly do you create an "original" window display? Consider Cole Fox Hardware’s window display during Halloween below.
Image Credit: Jun Belen
Instead of displaying their best-selling products with a standard crew of ghouls and goblins in their window, they cleverly framed one of their products, brooms, as a witch’s broomstick, which helped them tap into people’s Halloween spirit in a refreshing way.
By taking an unexpected approach on a popular theme, Cole Fox Hardware could separate themselves from the pack and appeal to people who were tired of seeing ghosts or jack-o-lanterns in every other window display.
3. Sell a better lifestyle, not a better product.
Most people aspire to transcend their current identity and lives — that’s why everyone loves superheroes. Spiderman and Wonder Woman are normal people during the day, just like us, but when night falls or duty calls, they transform into someone much greater — a powerful being who can fend off the evilest of criminals, protect their city, and save their fellow citizens' lives.
Bertuli, a menswear retailer, understands our desire to transcend our current selves. And by displaying an outfit with a Batman shadow, they’re communicating that wearing their clothes will enable their customers to channel their inner-Batman.
Image Credit: Pinterest
If you want to evoke the same type of emotions in your customers as Bertuli does, start thinking about the ideal lifestyle your customers want and use your window display to convince them that your products can help them live it.
4. Make sure your window display’s focal point is at eye level.
To capture people’s imaginations through your window display, you need to make sure it physically grabs their attention. One of the best ways to do this is by placing the most visually engaging element of your window display at eye level.
The most visually engaging element of your window display is usually the key feature of the product you’re showcasing. For instance, check out this exhibit from Seneca College’s annual fashion show called Redefining Design.
Picture Credit: Pinterest
By hanging this stylish outfit’s key feature, a jacket that resembles a suave professional strolling through the airport, on his way to catch a flight for an important meeting, at eye level, the display can draw people in and plant this exact image in their heads. Eventually, these people will start visualizing themselves as this suave professional, which stimulates their desire to buy the entire outfit.
5. Measure your window display’s performance.
Historically, a huge advantage digital marketing has had over visual merchandising is that you can easily gauge your content’s performance or its impact on website traffic and lead generation. At a brick and mortar store, it can be hard to measure a window display’s performance. You could tie sales back to your display, but, in all honesty, your store experience, sales people, and merchandise influence revenue much more heavily than your window display does.
To really gauge the value of your display, you need to track the metrics that align with its main purpose — getting people in the door. But how do you do that?
In recent years, vendors have released software that can measure your store’s foot traffic and, in turn, help you understand which window displays bring in the most store visitors. Once you collect enough of this data, you can leverage proven window displays to boost foot traffic and even test new ideas and concepts.
Now — who says visual merchandising can’t be data-driven?