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Gone are the days when shopping behaviour was totally based upon 4P’s. Visual Merchandising has become more essential than ever. Considering the constant evolution of the Fashion & Retail industry, Visual Merchandising is the greatest storyteller of fashion and its existence when it comes to brick-and-mortar retail stores spanning from an unorganised sector of fashion to the most organised segment of brands. The purpose of visual merchandising has become more than just enabling the physical environment for products.
Since the advent of fashion retailing, a gradual dynamic shift can be observed in the fashion environment globally and nationally, respectively. Fashion visual merchandising is like a visual directory of any brand decoding its DNA with an immersive presence across the channels. Great visual merchandising possesses the ability to display the vision of any business in the fashion retailing world. It begins with working in sync with teams beginning from design and marketing teams, buyers, retail operations, e-commerce teams, strategists and analysts – all aiming to deliver the right mix of product and experience.
The foundation of visual merchandising remains the same with the experiment of different media, language and storytelling by creating an environment that complements the product and tells a compelling brand story sensitised with brand ethos, and USPs. The interesting part is that visualisation is being practised continuously throughout centuries and its storytelling has been depicted in various ways. Starting from bazaar paintings where we are always lulled by the aesthetic and pleasing visuals of middle eastern cityscapes to the modern-day street hawkers and vegetable sellers who curate the goods every day before the day starts to run the operations in a more transactional manner like any other established brand in fashion retail domain. Due to an ever-evolving technological advancement, now more emphasis is placed on customisation and personalising the story. Most importantly, reaching out to the customer directly in many more relevant ways than a four-walled physical space.
In a highly competitive and cluttered market, brand names are increasing rapidly on the fashion fulcrum and trying to work parallelly with customer pull and retention strategies. Store design and experience have become the tailored talk of retail existence, and way forward expansively. Brand atmospherics have become more inclusive with an understanding of consumer behaviour and shift through sophisticatedly well-curated marketing than the practice of creating and building areas in which products are sold.
Retailing is ready to enter the new era of Visual Merchandising, and it can be seen throughout the fashion retailing and merchandising industry. Following are the top trends that are prevalent across the globe:
#1 Experiential Communication
Due to the global retailing and expansion of the brands across the continents, experiential merchandising is the trend that can be seen dominantly. Not only in apparel but also in jewellery, sports and activewear brands are doing massive experiential merchandising to promote the products and the brand globally. One of the key experiential elements of merchandising is the facade of any store. Brands are aggressively marrying the idea of innovation when it comes to the design language of fashion retailing, and retail design and making it more interesting to deliver the best customer experience.
With brands continuously and gradually moving towards a sustainable future, sustainability is on the list to practice in every aspect of life. And talking about visual merchandising and fashion retailing it cannot be left behind. Most of the brands in fashion across the world are thinking aloud about sustainable practices starting from the sketch to the store. And consumers are demanding the brands to change. There are leading fashion brands that are making fashion retailing stores sustainable with implementation and involvement of thoughtfulness when it comes to carbon emission. Fashion brands have started to build sustainable concepts for retailing by introducing low environmental impact retail where brands are emphasising intensive use of sustainable materials, and state-of-the-art, energy-efficient technologies to bring a revolutionary approach.
#3 Phygital Visual Merchandising
After the pandemic phygital communication and retailing have been more prominent than ever to make it more interactive and approachable. Phygital in-store concept is another great trend that the retailers are implementing to deliver the best experience across the globe. The hybrid concept brings out the best aspects of online retailing and offline experiences for customers. The retailers are adopting this strategy to leave out the drawbacks of both environments. It takes the best parts of the digital experience which includes efficiency, speed, and immersion and it combines them with the best practices of offline experience including human interaction, and the stimulation of all senses. Since we are living in a data-driven world, the brands are integrating artificial intelligence in physical stores to deliver the best-personalised experiences and to dive deeper into product innovation.
Instagram is one of the platforms that define our lives in the modern world the most. Every day we witness zillions of posts that depict the lifestyle of any consumer belonging to any product category. And what can be the best tool to spread word-of-mouth faster than the speed of light in the cluttered sphere of fashion brands? Brands are adopting and implementing the design strategy in fashion retail that serves the best pictures in the stores so that consumers can tell a story of an exquisite journey.
#5 Optimization of Visual Merchandising Elements
Traditional visual merchandising produces a heavy discard that is not only hazardous but also cost involved when it comes to the materials to be used in the communication and prints. Due to the high demand for sustainable practices and sentiments attached to the same, fashion retailing experts are constantly working towards the improvement of the stationery in order to enable the reduction of discard. Many of the leading luxury brands and fashion houses are rethinking their strategy and trying to introduce biodegradable materials. We also can see the trend of craftsmanship of murals, graffiti and communication back to stand true to sustainability.
The owner of Nancy Advertising, Vishal Rastogi shares his views on the changing scenario of Visual Merchandising in Fashion & Retail. Being the part of the industry of fashion retailing for almost 25years, he says, “Brands are trying to implement a uniform communication embedded with the philosophy of sustainability, cost-effectiveness and most importantly consumer stories and their journeys. Those were yesteryears when one could enforce the communication simply by catering it to the market. Now, customers are well informed about the whereabouts of fashion retailing and the practices of the same. Globalisation has brought a revolution in the industry beginning from homegrown brands to the most established players in the market of fashion & retail. We have been indulged in this change consistently. For instance in the Southern part of India, where flex as a print material has been banned, and other sustainable materials are encouraged to use.”
Thus, saying that fashion retail is witnessing an immense change in communication modes and media. And involving these practices will create a disruptive and progressive environment for the fashion industry when it comes to the brick-and-mortar format of businesses.
Usha K, Lecturer Fashion Business Management, IIAD, has been a visual strategist for Apparel & Fashion with an experience of working in Diamond Jewellery (product category). Having worked with CaratLane, KOOVS, Aditya Birla Fashion & Ret ...
ail in the area of Visual Merchandising and Marketing now she brings her unique experience to teaching. Usha has also been a consultant with major brands like Titan, Allen Digital and OPPO for email marketing, content & copywriting along with campaign building and social media.
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