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Window displays done right: 7 expert tips to get shoppers to come in

By Marjorie van Elven


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Window displays serve for much more than just informing passers-by about the products on offer, the price range to be expected and whether the store is or isn’t holding a sale. When done right, window displays intrigue consumers not only about the products, but the entire ambient inside the store. Take the aesthetics of a shop window as an invitation to enter the brand’s world, the first cue about what the brand is and what it stands for.

While promotional signage and the store’s layout and atmosphere also play a significant role in driving sales, creative window displays were found to be the most important factor leading to impulse buying in a 2003 study titled “Visual Merchandising Impact on Impulse Buying Behavior”, published by the Journal of Business Research.

Given window displays are such a key factor in whether a potential customer enters the shop or keeps on walking, the task to create an effective shop window may seem daunting for smaller retailers, especially when their budget is tight. FashionUnited asked two visual merchandising experts to share their tips on how to create a shop window that converts, without breaking the bank.

Picture: courtesy of Omar Munie

Less is more

Department stores such as Harrods (UK), Bergdorf Goodman (US) or De Bijenkorf (Holland) may lead us to believe the more, the better. But to Lyn Falk, President of US-based branding, design and consulting firm RetailWorks Inc., “an effective window display is simple”. She says “it should attract attention quickly, within 3 seconds, and hold one’s interest long enough to move the person to action, to enter the store”. A busy window display may even cause passers-by to stop in awe, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will come in, much less buy anything.

Picture: Miguel Jimenez

Change displays regularly, but not too often

Similarly, many retailers believe they have to change their windows once a month to remain attractive. “This limits your budget and they will lack impact”, warns Gemma Bidauville, Head of Creative Retail at Millington Associates, a retail and event design agency in London which has worked with Harrods, Mulberry and Jil Sander. “Choose key seasons if needed, include a rotation like adding a prop or a different pop of color to mix it up, but you don’t have to change everything”. To Falk, the frequency with which to change the window display depends on how busy the street is.

Picture: courtesy Maison Alaïa

Picture: Alexander Sporre Photography

Lighting is key

Even the most creative window in the world will fall flat if it’s not properly illuminated. “It can make or break a window, consider this in your budget”, advises Bidauville. Falk recommends using positionable high lumen LED lamps to direct the light exactly where you want it to be.

Picture: Millington Associates

Tell a cohesive story

“Effective window displays incorporate a theme, whether it’s a color, shape, style or category of product”, says Falk. “They should tell a story, communicate an idea”. Therefore, fashion retailers shouldn’t restrict themselves to displaying only the clothes they sell: props that support the display’s story or the brand image are welcome.

Picture: courtesy of Chasin’

Image: Pexels

Add an element of surprise

Speaking of props, both experts advise retailers to put something unexpected in the window -- as long, of course, as it fits the story or theme. “Consumers typically take photos of the unexpected, so don’t just display products on plinths, incorporate them into the entire design”, says Bidauville. “Placing a bed on a wall will get people looking and talking, for instance”, adds Falk.

Picture: courtesy of Hunter

It’s all about layers

Layering the look is a great tactic to make the window visually appealing. “You can start with a vinyl graphic on the window, then place your props, mannequins and products in the window. Then finish with a tall backdrop behind the window display for the third layer. Each layer will attract attention from a different distance: across the street, from the car, and on the sidewalk in front of the window”, explains Falk. “Layering print is a clever budget friendly way to fill your windows but invest in a good graphic designer to make those graphics pop!”, warns Bidauville. Displaying items in odd numbers (three, five or seven) is another trick retailers can use to create active eye movement throughout the display.

Image: Pexels

Repetition, design and movement

Last but not least, Falk advises retailers to keep the three basic principles of design in mind: repetition, contrast and movement. “Repeating an item, using multiples of one product or prop, always makes a strong visual statement”, she explains. As for contrast, it helps to create a strong focal point. Contrast can be achieved in different ways: color, sizing or lighting. If your budget allows, try to add some movement to the window as well. “Our eyes always go to something that moves, which is why so many retailers are putting large flat screens in their windows and running videos”, says Falk.

Homepage image credit: Pexels

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Visual Merchandising
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