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Tips & Tricks for Creating a Customer-Catching Storefront Display

by Sabrina Smelko

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They say not to judge a book by its cover, but who are we kidding? It’s undeniable that the cover of a book affects your decision to either read on or put it back on the shelf. In today’s visual culture, this can be even more true for anyone who runs any kind of business, whether online or brick-and-mortar.

With so many visuals coming at us from our computers, phones and various feeds — let alone the world outside our doors — it seems we’re almost expected to have a cool logo and visually-rich branded content in order to even be noticed. And regardless of whether you want to succumb to this fact or not, as exhausting as it can be, it’s hard to deny that a first impression can have a huge impact and influence on your business; which, much like a book cover, can determine the number of customers who open the door.

When used right, your storefront display/window can be one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal to make you stand out from the competition. But if this thought already gives you hives and you’re left thinking “I am sooooo not creative,” don’t fret! We recently teamed up with the fantastic U.S. Small Merchants group at American Express to lend a design hand with their storefront decals, so look for our “Love My Store” series created by Design*Sponge to proudly display on your shop door or window (see them after the jump!). The Amex team developed the the supportive and successful Shop Small® and Small Business Saturday campaigns, and tirelessly work to add tips, tools and resources to their small business website, The Knowledge Center. We were thrilled to have a larger venue to share our Life & Business columns with the masses!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some tips, tricks and advice on crafting a storefront display that serves your business — whether you sell coffee, antiques or apparel, both online or in a physical location. Today I’m sharing plenty of tips for creating an awesome, customer-catching storefront display for brick-and-mortar merchants! —Sabrina

Know Your Customer

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Image above: from Patina Studio’s tour.

We all know that knowing our customers’ demographics is important (such as age, income, and education level), but digging a little deeper into their interests and behaviors can go a long way. Before getting crafty and pulling out the glue gun, think about your customers’ lifestyles: What do they listen to? What hobbies do they have? What are they interested in? If you sell vintage furniture to people who also love DIY, think about placing fabric swatches on the armrest of a couch or think about decorating with (or even selling) upholstery supplies to appeal to them. This can help you establish the tone of your whole store, including your display.

Put Your Second-Best Foot Forward

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Image above: A Kind of Guise‘s Munich store.

Don’t show all of your cards at once by filling the front of your store and window display (or website landing page!) with all of your best pieces. Sure, it’ll attract customers off the top, but you risk letting them down with the rest when they enter (or click through). Lead with some wow-factor pieces in your display, but keep the mystery alive and tuck your gems into your back pocket, peeking out slightly. As customers venture further into your space, it’ll leave room to be impressed. Under-promising and over-delivering fares much better than over-promising and under-delivering.

Take Advantage of Vertical Space

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Whether your space is large or small, using your vertical (wall and ceiling) space adds visual interest, allows for more display room and makes your space feel bigger and fuller while leaving less on the floor. It also helps guide a customer’s eye around and makes it easier to for customers to walk around without bumping into things and breaking the china! On a budget or need some ideas? Use these DIY shelving projects as inspiration!

Maintain Your Brand Story

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Image above: MAN+WEST

Your display (and whole store, for that matter) should reflect your business’s values, aesthetics and manifesto. Being genuine and authentic to your brand will help, not only with narrowing down how to present yourself, but with brand recognition. Visually, this might mean using certain colors and materials can determine how you utilize your space.

Using any existing visual branding you have as a guide, objectively think about how you’d like to present yourself to customers. If you sell secondhand items and champion the old, a display made of salvaged materials might help reflect your ethos; if you sell a service that makes someone’s life easier, a clean, streamlined window display and interior can be a fun way to reflect that!

Already a brand master? Nice — high-five! You can start pushing this further and explore creating a story or theme with your display. If it’s April and you’re a fitness apparel company, displaying your newest pieces around the theme of “Spring Into Action” could be a fun way to make yourself memorable. (Okay, clearly I gave that about five seconds of thought, but it’s a starting point! Imagine where you could get in a day?)

Play in the PARC

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Image above: Playtype‘s concept store.

You don’t have to be a designer or visual merchandising major to be a maker of great vignettes, but knowing a few basic design rules can help add visual interest and excitement, such as PARC: proximity, alignment, repetition and contrast. What might this mean in terms of storefront displays?

  • Proximity: Proximity is all about creating a cohesive whole and creating related meaning among elements: elements that are related should be grouped together, whereas separate design elements should be given enough space to communicate they are different.
  • Alignment: Think about your space and try to imagine it as a grid system of rows and columns, like a spreadsheet. Alignment is all about organization and making things make sense, so rather than plopping all of your items at any height, anywhere, think about stacking your products in a way that they’re connected visually to something else, so that no one looks distinctly alone from the rest.
  • Repetition: If you use a certain color, shape or icon in your branding, repeating it in another area helps tie things together, much like the yellow in the decal on Playtype’s window and the repeating “P” to reinforce the brand. Pairing like with like is a foolproof way to make a great display.
  • Contrast: Think about playing with big vs. small, dark vs. light, busy vs. minimal. There should be a hierarchy in your display in order to make it easier to digest and “read.”

If this is confusing the socks off of you, then no worries! Following the rule of three’s and pairing like with like is an easy solution. And using good lighting is always a successful trick!

Think About Your Needs

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Image above: Window decals from Attik27.

Think about what you sell or offer: If you’re a cafe, you’re selling your environment just as much as your cup of joe, so keeping your windows clear so people can peek inside at the tables and get a sense of the environment is a great idea. On the other hand, if you’re selling products, the opposite might be true. You may want people to be able to see a good selection of your product in the window or even display some outside your door so customers notice you right away from the sidewalk.

Work With What You’ve Got

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(Image above: Rayen Vegan Restaurant in Madrid, installation by fos)

A lot of your display is dictated by what you have to work with. Much like an empty room with an awkward ledge or pesky corner fireplace, your space dictates what you can and can’t do, and embracing these flaws or “problems” can lead to a thing of beauty, like Rayen Vegan Restaurant did. Rayen is in a concrete building with no windows other than the glass door and surrounding panel. But fos saw this as an opportunity to make them stand out: in an otherwise concrete jungle of cool greys, they used an existing element (the light) and ran with it to create this unique and eye-catching storefront, which has been blogged and pinned by countless people around the world. Embrace your flaws and work with what you’ve got!

 


 

All in all, your display window should be a fun experience to put together, so if it’s becoming daunting or feels like a job, shake it up, take a break, and try attacking it at a new angle. If you’re still stuck, check out this window display how-to post with plenty of pointers, or find inspiration by digging through our studio tours and Pinterest. And check in later for more tips over the next few weeks!

Oh, and as promised, here’s a sneak peek of the decals we designed for American Express to help share small business values front and center to people passing by the shop. Let them inspire you, too. You can download your very own (for free) right here.

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This post is presented by American Express, committed to helping make merchants like you be even more successful with the latest in business trends, insights and tools. Learn more here.

Enter for a chance to win $10,000 towards redesigning your store by uploading a photo of your storefront window displaying any of our window decals (including the new decal series by Design*Sponge) to Twitter and/or Instagram with the #LoveMyStoreAmexContest hashtag. 20 runners up will receive a $100 American Express gift card. Get your decal now to get started! For full contest rules, click here.

No purchase necessary. Open to American Express® Card accepting merchants with brick and mortar locations in the 50 U.S., DC, PR & other U.S. territories & possessions (“Territory”), who have $3,000,000 or less in annual American Express charge volume and who have 25 or fewer locations (“Qualified Retailers”). Franchisees are not eligible to participate in this Contest. Industry exclusions apply. Only owners or authorized representatives of Qualified Retailers who are at least 18, or the legal age of majority in their jurisdiction of residence, whichever is older, and legal residents of the Territory, may enter on behalf of Qualified Retailer. Contest ends 11:59 p.m. ET 7/31/15. Void where prohibited. See Official Rules here for complete details.

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Comments

  • Rare Devices in San Francisco always has great storefronts too. They tend to do great things with craft paper and glitter.

  • This definitely sparks my creativity! We don’t have a retail space, but we sell our soy candles at markets and I definitely feel motivated to add more of a special touch to our displays! Thanks :)

  • I’ve just started a six weeks course to help me start my webshop, so these tips are just what I need to have some extra ideas! Thank you!!

  • There’a a store in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn that does amazing things with their small front window. Plus, everything they sell is manufactured locally in the borough! Worth checking out, for sure…

  • As you said, while the saying still goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” society has become so trained to judge things visually. Your acronym PARC is a great way to remember what factors will help make your storefront more appealing and eye-catching. When something sparks your interest, such as a unique store window, a customer is far more likely to want to enter.

  • Having a really cool design on your window is a great idea! It is the firs thing your customers will see. Might as well set a great first impression! Awesome ideas!

  • Hey thanks for the really helpful post. Not only that, but I absolutely love some of these ideas in these pictures. Placement of the design and overall composition is key in catching the eye of a customer. Thanks again these were great ideas!

  • I am trying to apply your ideas but hard to for a jewelry store. We have large window front about 12ft across. We have rented out back of store so we’ll be sharing window. So hard to do any suggestions?

  • I hadn’t thought about the advantages of not putting your best products in the storefront display! However, like you said, if your best products are shown right away, then customers may end up underwhelmed with the rest of the store. Now I’m curious about how many stores follow that practice; I’ll have to look around and see. Thanks for the article!

  • I love your advice to add a decal to the window to spice things up a little bit! I really love decals; however, I am not steady enough to apply them myself. I alwaya make my wife do it because she has steady hands. I never knew that it is important to lightly place it first just in case. Thanks again!

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