5 Retail Store Display Ideas

retail displays

retail store display ideas

Retail display ideas that truly engage shoppers – that surprise, delight and inspire them – are more important than ever in the age of eCommerce. Today’s visual merchandisers and store designers are striving to appeal to customers on a personal, even emotional, level by creating bricks-and-mortar shopping experiences that cannot be replicated on a computer screen or smartphone.

As the competition grows more intense (online sales topped $340 billion in 2015 and have grown at least 14% each year since 2009), here are some of the ways that creative retailers are meeting the challenge.

1. Interactive Digital Displays

Technology is revolutionizing our ability to create immersive retail displays that connect with bricks-and-mortar shoppers at a deeply personal level. One larger-than-life example of interactive, experiential shopping involves a promotion by apparel brand Forever 21, which wowed shoppers with a 61-foot-wide digital LED billboard outside its New York flagship in Times Square.

The project combined live streaming footage of crowds gathered below the billboard with augmented reality to create the effect that 40-foot-tall fashion models wearing Forever 21 apparel were interacting with shoppers – literally stopping shoppers in their tracks to participate in the unique experience.

Another example involves a booth at a London expo where, instead of a human representative, visitors were greeted by a digital monkey. One visitor – VMSD Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Acevedo – said she had not expected to spend any time at the exhibit but was fascinated by the monkey’s ability to use artificial intelligence to carry on a conversation.

The interactive display sparked her curiosity, engaged her, then delighted her once more when she apologized for cutting their visit short. The monkey expressed appreciation but reminded her that no apology was necessary because, after all, he was a digital creation and not an actual living creature. The experience convinced her that we can expect to see more displays that invite human-digital interactions.

One of the keys to “going digital” is to have a clear strategy for creating meaningful content that drives personal engagement with your shoppers and enhances the overall customer experience. Such displays can be effective for boosting sales and building brand affection.

2. Evolution of the Mannequin

Of course, retail displays with human-like features are not new. It is believed that retailers first began using “the silent salesperson” to entice shoppers into stores and to showcase clothing and accessories around the mid-1800s.

As with human fashion fads, mannequin trends change with the times. So it’s not surprising to see the rise of a new generation of high-tech mannequins — some digitally equipped to share information with shoppers and gather data about them.

In terms of more traditional mannequins, for a while the trend was toward aloof, often faceless characters gazing off into the distance. For some brands, futuristic mannequins with faces detailed by metal studs or bright neon are still effective at getting shoppers to stop and take a look.

More recently, retailers are shifting to favor mannequin displays that are more down to earth, more accessible, more reflective of our lifestyles; in short, more like us. Picture mannequins interacting with shoppers and with each other – taking imaginary selfies or piling into a vehicle
for an adventure.

Mannequins today are more likely to be seen having fun, as designers seek new ways to create displays that capture a moment. Man’s best friend is also getting in on the fun as many retailers are enlivening display scenes by positioning dog mannequins next to their “human” counterparts.

Retailers understand the unique power of these silent salespeople to tell the story, and to create an aspirational appeal that is part of what makes them a time-tested tool for connecting with shoppers.

3. Evoking the Environment

Using plant life, wood and stone surfaces, and other natural shapes and textures are some of the ways store designers are inspired by nature to create displays that bring an outdoor feel to an indoor space. One reason for this is the belief that immersing shoppers in a soothing environment with natural elements encourages them to relax and linger.

Discover the Warmth and Charm of Our Natural Elements Collection >


This philosophy has definitely taken root at The North Face. The outdoor gear and apparel brand’s London flagship was designed to offer an immersive sensory experience, using such special touches as live moss and overhead “sky windows” – digital screens that react to changing weather patterns. But the much-talked-about centerpiece is a grove of faux tree trunks rising from the basement up through the stairwell to the ceiling of the two-story space, creating a mini forest intended to appeal to each shopper’s inner explorer.

Inviting the outdoors inside through glass walls or oversized windows is another technique for bringing nature into every aspect of the shopping experience. Nods to textures and patterns found in nature are also seen in flooring and wall treatments, and in the use of fluid lines that evoke the earth’s natural curves.

4. Green Retailing

With a majority of consumers reporting that concern for the natural world influences their purchasing decisions, more retailers are seeking to enhance customer engagement by putting passion for the environment at the heart of their brand identity.

Of course, this means offering products made with natural ingredients and recycled and low-impact materials, while creating retail environments that emphasize that shared concern for the planet. Effective in-store displays can be designed around such initiatives as a brand’s commitment to renewable energy or support for a clean-water campaign.

In addition to engaging in such green practices as LEED certification and eco-friendly product transportation and packaging, environmentally and socially conscious retailers (Patagonia, IKEA and Whole Foods to name but a few) must be adept at visually communicating their green-friendly ethos to customers.

5. Color Temperature

High-tech advancements in the world of visual merchandising have also led to a better understanding of lighting as a technology. While there are many options for creative retail-lighting design, more retailers are now paying closer attention to the concept of color temperature and tunable white lighting.

Bright lights at night can be jarring to customers. Dim or insufficient lighting, day or night, can be just as frustrating. Fortunately, there are new options that allow retailers to fine-tune the amount of light depending on time of day, section of the store or particular application.

Today’s tunable white lighting products enable retailers to adjust the light source’s color temperature from a warm 2000 kelvin (or below) to a cool 6000 kelvin (or above) to enhance the shopping experience. This creates the ability to switch from brighter lighting needed to showcase merchandise during business hours to more subdued illumination that is better suited for, say, an after-hours event in the same space.

Most notable is the ability of retailers to use tunable white LED lighting to control the shoppers’ journey through the store environment — using it to create the atmosphere, guide shoppers and highlight particular merchandise.

These are just a few of the retail display trends that visual merchandisers are using to create the ultimate experience for customers. What are some store displays or trends that have made an impression on you?

At Visual Creations, Inc. we excel at bringing your retail vision to life. We work collaboratively with retailers to design functional and stylish fixtures and displays. Our signware division, Rose Displays, has options for enhanced visual merchandising elements that can be incorporated into a design, or utilized as a complimentary aspect to an interior display program. Visual Creations, Inc. is dedicated to the success of our partners. Contact us to help you discover how we can turn your ideas into Visual Creations.

Ready to get started on your next store display project?

Let's Talk