Brick-and-mortar retailers have just a few seconds to attract—and hold—a buyer’s eye with a window display. In New York City, 10,000 people pass the Macy’s window every hour. That’s nearly 1.7 million people each week!
Your shop doesn’t have to be world famous or located in the middle of busy Manhattan to benefit from a well-designed store window. According to NPD Group research, window displays influence purchases an average of 24% of the time.
The right window display design can engage shoppers enough to cause them to stop, look back, and walk into your store, where your floor staff can help close the sale. Not only do attractive window displays help bring in customers, they also let you display new products, highlight promotions, enhance your brand image, and differentiate your store from the competition.
With increasing competition from ecommerce, and the COVID-19 pandemic keeping shoppers at home, store windows are more valuable than ever. In order for window displays to benefit brick-and-mortar retailers, Mujica says, “it’s important they have a very specific vision for the people they are pandering to.”
So, what’s the secret to turning heads and driving sales? This guide to window displays will reveal that and much more.
Benefits of window displays
Window displays can help your store boost foot traffic and brand awareness, highlight products and promotions, and differentiate itself from the competition.
Increase foot traffic and brand awareness
Research shows that window displays influence a person’s decision to enter a store, thereby increasing foot traffic.
Plus, they’re a great way to show off your brand, according to Nicole Haddad, co-owner and Designer of Philadelphia-based sustainable fashion brand Lobo Mau.
“Window displays are a way to engage the community and the neighborhood. [They’re] also marketing for our brand and for our aesthetic,” Haddad says.
Window displays preview what’s inside your shop. You can use them to entice customers with products they’ll like and to highlight new arrivals, limited-edition products, or even holiday gifts.
Promote offers or sales
Leverage windows to let customers know about sales. If you’ve ever entered a store after seeing a huge “SALE” sign in its window, then you understand how effective this tactic can be. Synchronise in-store offers with online promotions to increase the impact of your displays.
Stand out from the competition
Let’s say there are two shoe stores in your neighborhood that feature the same shoes in their window. Store A displays the shoes in a creative way, while Store B unimaginatively places each pair on top of its box.
Which store do you think attracts more customers? Most likely Store A. Making an effort with your window displays will help you stand out from the local competition.
Types of window displays
Here are the most common types of window displays you’ll encounter and the benefits and challenges of each.
Open window displays
In an open display, there’s nothing separating the window from the rest of the shop.
They’re great for exhibiting clothes on mannequins and body forms and showing off your store’s interior design. However, open window displays are revealing, making it difficult to hide fixture accessories, like wires.
Closed window displays
Closed window displays have a wall or backdrop separating them from the store floor. These displays emphasise the products on view by eliminating distractions from inside the shop. Yet, they block natural light from entering your shop, so you’ll have to compensate with ample lighting on the floor.
Shadowbox window displays
Shadowboxes are small, box-like, and most often used to display petite, detailed items, like jewellery, shoes, or makeup. They’re usually only big enough for one or two people to look at at once.
Corner window displays
As the name implies, you get a corner window display when two windows come together in a corner, creating a large, box-like display. Corners are optimal for attracting shoppers approaching from any direction and showing off products from more than one side. But, it can be difficult to arrange products in these displays, since they need to look attractive from multiple viewpoints.
How to create window displays in 8 steps
Setting up your first retail window display may sound a little daunting. Luckily, you don’t need to have a design background to create a compelling store window display. Even if you don’t have the budget to hire a visual merchandising professional, it’s possible to DIY your own display.
Here, we’ll help you set your fears aside so you can master the art of putting together unforgettable window displays. We’ll guide you through the process of assembling your store window display, as well as offer some window display ideas to get you started.
1. Assemble your retail window display tool box
Before you start brainstorming complex ideas for your first retail window display, let’s start by making sure we've got the necessary tools to set you up for success. In other words, you don’t want to be halfway through the process only to notice you don’t have a tape measure or another essential tool.
So, here are most of the basic components you’ll need to get started:
- Tape measure
- Two-sided tape
- Hammer and nails
- Utility knife
- Glue gun and hot glue sticks
- Screwdriver and screws
- Pen, pencil, marker, and notepad
- Props (any non-merchandise items)
Depending on the design of your store window display, you may need other materials to complete your project. However, these tools will keep the ball rolling and can serve as a skeletal shopping list to start your display design.
2. Start with a story based on a theme
When it comes to conceptualizing a store window display, it’s best to start with a pen and paper. Before sketching out your window display ideas, start with a story based on a theme. Yes, your window display design should tell at least a basic story. After all, it's proven that storytelling can serve as a strategic business tool.
It helps to begin with a theme, then use your storytelling prowess to turn it into something more sophisticated.
- Instead of “Christmas,” think “Nutcracker” (psst: here are some Christmas window display ideas if you’re looking for holiday inspiration!)
- Instead of “Halloween,” think “Sleepy Hollow”
- Instead of “Valentine,” think “Cupid’s Mischievousness”
- Instead of “Thanksgiving,” think “Dressing Up a Turkey”
3. Create a focal point for the store window display
Once you’ve got a rough sketch, including a story based on a theme, take a moment to step out onto the street and give your window a good look.
Doing so will help you determine where your focal point should be. The focal point is where you want your prospective customers to look first and concentrate their focus. The central point of your display should be big enough to catch a shopper's attention, even on the other side of the street.
Start thinking about the arrangement of products based around your focal point. Will you arrange your products on wires or shelves around the focal point? Or maybe set them up in a pyramid? Explore different configurations to see what would work best for your window display.
4. Be bold in every way
Let’s be honest: society’s attention span is shrinking to about less than a millisecond, and your buyers are no exception. You can bet that most people walking by your store will either be engaged in conversation with friends, texting, or walking their dogs. So, you’ll need to pull out all the stops to make sure you catch their attention. At the very least, you can create a store window display they’ll want to take photos of with their smartphone and share them with the world.
So, when creating your retail window display, don’t be bland. Be bold with colours, shapes, and props. Think outside of any cookie-cutter colours and opt for more eye-catching hues like fuchsia, orange, or electric blue. Just remember to exercise your best judgment and keep everything consistent with your brand.
Props are also a great way to think unconventionally, especially given that your local art store will be stocked with many different art materials. Think about cutting up foam boards, creating papier-mâché props, or anything else you think would be appropriate for your brand and store.
5. Keep your retail window displays simple
With all the window display ideas available for you to use as inspiration, it’s easy to get carried away and create an overly complicated display. However, too much clutter is likely to repel and overwhelm potential passersby, rather than draw their attention. Don’t try to do too much or you’ll just end up with a busy, unfocused display.
Always keep your goal in mind: ultimately, you want to draw attention to your products and help customers quickly understand why certain products are grouped with others. That also means keeping your display clutter-free and being able to justify why each component of your display is included.
6. Balance is key
When you’re creating a display, you’re going to have small and large objects, dark and light colours, lights and shadows, and so on. It’s important to balance the different elements you’ll be deploying in order to create a pleasing aesthetic.
Typically, you’ll want to place larger, darker items near the bottom, and items that are lighter and more colourful at the top. This arrangement will prevent your display from looking top heavy. Similarly, if you place all the large items to one side and all the small ones on the side, you’ve got an unbalanced window display. Imagine you’re balancing items on a scale, which means doing things like balancing a large item on one side with lots of smaller items on the other.
Trust your judgment and get a sense of what emotion your display is evoking. With a balanced display, you’re more likely to create feelings of happiness, excitement, and joy, whereas an unbalanced display may signal anxiety or instability.
7. Pay attention to lighting
When it comes to creating an effective window display, lighting is often an afterthought, or something to consider if you’ve got the budget for “extra costs.” But lighting can be a crucial component in getting people to stop and notice your display.
Lighting can create moods, highlight certain products over others, and establish a dramatic setting for your store window display. Being strategic with lighting can pay dividends in helping you get your focal point right on and directing onlooker’s eyes to where you want them.
We don’t recommend lighting displays directly from the top, as this can lead to unattractive, harsh shadows. Instead, consider lighting displays from the sides and front. This technique will bring out the 3D quality of the display. Plus, you can really have some fun when you have light coming at it from different angles.
8. Take a final look at your retail window display
Once you’ve got all the pieces where you want them, make sure to take a look at your window display from every possible angle. Very rarely is a person going to only notice a display when they’re standing right in front of it. Walk up to it from different directions and check things like your focal point, how visible your signage or calls to action are, and if it all appears balanced.
If you’re satisfied with the results, congratulations, your store window display is ready to go!
Window display tips
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your display, here are several tips for taking it to the next level.
Define your target audience
Your audience will impact the products you choose to display, colors you use in it, and the stories you tell in your windows. Keep your ideal customer at the forefront of your strategy.
When you design your windows with a target audience in mind, you’ll draw those people in and make them excited to shop with you. If you try to create a display that appeals to everyone, you’ll end up watering down your design and appealing to no one.
Consider eyelines and vantage points
It’s a well known fact that grocery stores display cereals for kids on lower shelves and cereals for adults on higher shelves. Why? Because this is where these customers’ eyelines land, and therefore, where their attention will be.
Keep window shoppers’ eyelines in mind while building external-facing displays. If you own a children’s clothing boutique, for example, you could display products that would appeal to kids, like toys, low enough for children to see, and more practical products at parents’ eye level.
Beyond considering eyelines, it’s important to remember that you’re designing a 3D display and not a flat one. Make sure that products and props can easily be seen—and look good—from various angles.
Keep window displays fresh
Change your displays often to signal to customers who pass by regularly that it’s time for them to stop in again.
According to McKinsey, technology will help retail double its profitability. Interactive technologies like augmented reality, touchscreens, and QR codes help give a new meaning to the term “window shopping.” Embrace them to engage passersby and influence purchasing decisions.
Augmented reality (AR) technology enhances real-world objects and settings by placing virtual objects over them. AR lets shoppers try on products, like makeup and jewelry, virtually. This technology helps customers make purchasing decisions, even when your store is closed.
When placed within a window, touchscreens help customers learn more about the products on and off display. They also make it easy to entice window shoppers with coupons in exchange for contact information, which opts them into your email marketing efforts.
Touchscreens are best for stores that sell valuable, high-consideration items (i.e., electronics, furniture, or vehicles) since they can be used to share product specifications and details. They’re also commonly used in the real estate industry to show listings that aren’t featured in the main display.
Quick response (QR) codes are bar codes that open up a link, share a phone number, send an SMS, or share a plain text message when people scan them with a smartphone. Follow the example of Rose City Goods and put them in your window display to link to your ecommerce website, product pages, and more.
QR codes make it easy for window shoppers to make purchases even when your store isn’t open. They’re also cheap and easy to implement through a QR code generator.
Window displays are a powerful sales tool. They draw customers in, keep them engaged, and help initiate sales. By getting creative with your displays, and enhancing them with technology, you’ll convert passersby into customers.
First published in Shopify Blog