Window shopping dates back to ancient Rome, when Lucius Annaeus Seneca recommended that Roman merchants fill their windows with merchandise [PDF]. The challenge, both then and now, is to present your wares in a way that entices passersby to come inside and buy.
Here are six tips for creating effective window displays — and turning browsers into customers.
1. Tell a visual story with your products. Noelle Nicks, visual merchandise manager for Cole Fox Hardware Stores in San Francisco, crafts head-turning window displays using only goods sold at the store. For example, she put together a whimsical assortment of flying brooms for Halloween. Rosemary-Duff Florist in Escondido, Calif., embraces the same philosophy. Its elaborate floral window displays have become so popular — and attract so many customers — that the shop doesn’t do any other advertising.
2. Keep the focal point at eye level. Whether decorative items are dangled from the ceiling, stacked in pyramid fashion, or placed upon pedestals, it’s important to maintain the focal point at eye level, says Susan Jamieson, owner of Bridget Beari Designs in Richmond, Va. Merchants can gauge what eye level is by standing outside and looking into the store window. (Note that the store’s floor may not be level with the sidewalk.) Mark the focal point on the window using a piece of tape. This will help you determine where to place display items to maximize their exposure to passersby.
3. Create a single focal point. Patricia Norins, founder and CEO of Pinnacle Publishing Group in Hanover, Mass., advises merchants to think vertically, adding height to the display. For example, suspend some elements from the ceiling and incorporate tall items — such as a step ladder — in the window display.
4. Make a quick impression. Merchants have, on average, only 2.5 seconds to grab a shopper’s attention [PDF], says Scott Day, principal at Urban Development Services of San Antonio, which specializes in revitalizing pedestrian-oriented commercial districts. So it’s important that any display is eye-catching (think attractive and well-lit. Day notes that if interior lights are turned off during the day, items inside the store may not be visible to those passing by the window(s).
5. Change your window displays regularly. Busy shopkeepers may let a window display refresh slip down to the bottom of the to-do list. Yet, even a well-crafted window display will succumb to familiarity if allowed to gather dust. How often should you change the window dressing? Visual merchandising expert Linda Cahan says window displays turn stale in as little as two weeks. Moving merchandise to a different place on the showroom floor often results in repeat customers taking a second look at existing inventory.
6. Turn large storefront windows into billboards. Use attention-grabbing window films to attract passersby. These perforated vinyl films appear to those driving by as large posters, yet the screen-like effect still lets natural light into the store. Businesses with large-paned windows can create eye-catching murals easily seen by those driving by.