Visual Merchandising: What is it and what are its functions?

25 May 2023

What is visual merchandising?

According to Masson and Wellhoff, merchandising is “the marketing of the product at the point of sale”. This definition provides two key facts. Firstly, it gives an active vision of products, and secondly, it limits its field of action to physical points of sale. Merchandising, for example, will never be spoken of in the online sales environment. Therefore, it can be said that merchandising is made up of all those actions that are carried out in physical shops to promote products and achieve objectives.

But what are the objectives of merchandising? We tell you in this article, where we also inform you about the Master in Retail Design and the course of Visual Merchandising and Window Dressing of Elisava.

The main objective of merchandising is to help to achieve sales results, but more than that, it aims to:

  • Launch a uniform brand message in all shops.
  • Make products attractive.
  • Enhance customer self-service.
  • Facilitate the decision and the purchasing process.

In order to achieve these objectives, different agents intervene and actions are carried out in various disciplines. In this way, we can speak of different types of merchandising.

  • Management Merchandising: consists of making points of sale profitable and optimising them through market research, space and assortment management or communication.
  • Visual Merchandising: aims to correctly display products by determining their appropriate place and the quantity required. This will take into account the external layout of the point of sale (shop window, awning, sign, façade, entrance, etc.), the setting (visibility, spaciousness, colour, decoration, music, order, cleanliness, conservation, etc.), the interior layout (internal organisation, location of sections, hot and cold spots, distribution of space, etc.) or the organisation and layout of the merchandise (choice and arrangement of furniture, display levels or areas, types of display, etc.). These tasks will be carried out by different professionals such as architects, designers or visual merchandisers.

How to get the most out of it?

The best way to make the most of the potential of this discipline is to find a balance between profitability (management merchandising) and image (visual merchandising), taking into account the positioning of the brand. This is the starting point for this course.

Visual Merchandising Strategy

In order to define the image of the shop, it will be necessary to carry out a good visual merchandising strategy in which its global image is tackled from the outside in. The design of façades, shop windows, interior design, furniture, lighting and product placement will be taken into account in order to achieve a strong and coherent image.

Visual Merchandising Course

As we were saying before, at Elisava we offer the Master in Retail Design, a master’s programme that allows students to acquire a broad vision of the Design of the Commercial Space. However, if what you are looking for is a first glance at this field, our course in Visual Merchandising and Window Dressing provides an interesting strategic proposal.

The aesthetic decisions (visual merchandising) that are taken will be the result of a previous study. Throughout the sessions, different aspects will be studied in depth, which will lead to progress in the projects from the general to the particular, and where each decision will be justified by what has been seen previously. The starting point will be the positioning of the brand in the market in order to define the visual merchandising strategy. This will be complemented with a good seasonal merchandising strategy and an analysis of the results of the actions carried out. Examples of the main players in the sector will be analysed. Finally, the Merchandising 4.0 module will address the current challenges facing retail outlets.

The course is therefore aimed at professionals who want to learn how to design a commercial space based on the reality of a particular brand. They are thus able to define a correct visual merchandising strategy, understanding this term in its broadest sense.

To acquire a much broader vision of Retail Space Design, we recommend you consult our Master in Retail Space Design: Retail Design.