Will prospects walk on by or walk right in?
A New Look for Windows Can Drive Store Traffic
Suppose you were offered a free billboard on a heavily traveled thoroughfare.
Would you ignore the marketing opportunity?
Of course you wouldn’t! But far too many overlook the power of the retail storefront for promoting their business. When you own a retail store, your storefront windows are the first chance you have to make an impression on your customers. They can draw shoppers in — or drive them away.
While you cannot communicate everything about your business on your storefront, a well-designed window display can shout to onlookers that something is happening inside and why it is good for the consumer. And since consumer surveys of financial service centers customers indicate that half of all new customers first learned about a business by its storefront signage, these windows play an incredibly effective role in attracting new business.
In retailing, window displays connect with customers and prospects. Think of the crowds that throng to New York City during the holidays to partake of opulent window dressings at retailers. Certain retailers have whole departments devoted to visual merchandising. Bergdorf Goodman windows are a must see for the fashion conscious. Barneys, with a more irreverent approach, is also an ongoing draw.
In financial services, think of the windows as an advertising canvas. A blank page that can utilize photos, graphics, text and other visual devices – sometimes in a 3D fashion – to let the public know who you are and what you have to offer. The best window merchandising visually impacts the viewer and connects a product with the individual’s personal situation.
Even in the retail cacophony of New York City, bold window graphics can break through. Consider RiteCheck Cashing. Its storefronts use a three dimensional system to accommodate hanging graphics panels along with vinyl graphics applied to the window glass to grab the attention of those traveling by car or on foot. Larger-scale banners, vinyl and clings added punch to the marketing mix, as did dramatic night lighting, which further enhanced the 24-hour operation of this 12 store chain. The new campaign literally drew prospects into the store, increased foot traffic and inspired staff.
An effective windows program might take one of several approaches. The first approach is to transform a building into a billboard. The billboard approach works best for high-profile buildings in urban areas. This treatment employs mega-sized, custom-fitted graphics designed specifically for the individual building’s architecture. The impact is an immediate “wow” for onlookers. Even treating a handful of stores in your network with this format can dramatically heighten awareness of your brand.
The second approach is more modular and easier to roll out. The smaller scale graphics, which employ fixture systems with lights and banners, evoke storefront atmosphere. This approach is also effective, but doesn’t have the scale and impact of the billboard-like applications.
Grafico has found great effectiveness with a combination of these two approaches. A few billboard treatments create the marketing buzz and are then backed up with smaller-scale windows strategies in other locations. After all, not all sites lend themselves to the larger-scale billboard application. The trick is deciding which ones will work best for your network.
Regardless of which window program is selected, execution is key. The challenge is to effectively convey your brand’s message while also creating an impactful visual statement. The design process should be very collaborative between the operator and provider and take the overall scope of the project into consideration. Ultimately the design must be flexible, due to the complex nature of numerous buildings that may vary dramatically in size and shape in a given program. The most effective window displays take full advantage of the given architecture and let simple large images do the talking.
What Works For Windows
What are the keys to successful window merchandising?
1. Develop and assess your retail communications strategy.
How would windows messaging support or enhance your current sales and brand initiatives? It’s important not to isolate your windows initiatives. Window merchandising should be part of a larger communications platform and should tie into direct marketing, advertising campaign, and online and in-store merchandising.
2. Consider whether the marketing need is product or brand focused.
Most of the time, window merchandising works best to promote new product introductions, underselling products or enhance a promotional campaign. Are there specific products that could benefit from an added boost with a new, “outside” audience?
3. Conduct a strategic site analysis.
Look at the entire store and its surroundings. Be careful of potential visual obstructions, both exterior and interior. Take into account there are two viewing levels – pedestrian and then further away (either across the street or from a vehicle).
4. Then, determine which stores warrant the investment based on foot traffic and visibility.
Identify which windows have primary and secondary visibility. Not all stores or windows should be treated the same. And, consider if the goal is portability, or the ability to use a similar windows display throughout the network. Start with the primary window locations. Corner locations are often ideal. A pilot with only a few sites could be sufficient to determine effectiveness.
5. Window selection should complement the store architecture.
Some stores already have signature brand elements as part of the building. For others, a brand color block or other identifier might need to be incorporated into the window graphic design. The types of windows may influence the selection. Effective merchandising can be done with Colonial-style and smaller panel windows, but the most effective window merchandising is executed on large-pane glass.
6. In selecting sites, go outside and look at the window, and through it, just as a customer or prospect would.
Is clutter inside the store visible from the window display? First impressions count. Some FSCs have located an ATM or flat screen display monitors close to their windows. Make sure you maintain visibility for these areas when planning the location of window merchandising.
7. Employ a vendor who is experienced at dealing with the logistical challenges.
Installation usually takes only a day or so for a store, but it needs to be done by certified vinyl installers. These experts know how to achieve an end result that looks professional. If windows are extremely large, a lift, crane or ladder may be needed. Installation also hinges on the weather, as vinyl is difficult to install on outside surfaces in colder weather.
8. Many factors need to be considered, including signage codes and lease restrictions.
Since signage codes vary in every community, consider using the window displays as a temporary marketing product with a shelf life of less than 60 days. This can often side step the need for a timely variance approval process.
9. Use of the interior side of the glass, or second surface, helps avoid issues with codes and landlords.
In addition, the display is also protected from street traffic. On the other hand, use of outside glass provides a punchier graphic by avoiding reflections, especially with highly tinted windows. The use of both inside and outside surfaces usually creates the most interesting display.
10. Creative should be all about color, shape and texture.
Think big and bold. Avoid wordiness. Consider what attracts the eye. Text should be concise and action oriented. Less copy is better, but can be challenging in the financial industry where disclaimers are often required.
11. Select display elements based on desired impact and budget parameters.
Simple window displays can be created with clings or heavy vinyl attached to glass – a perfect solution for smaller, suburban stores. Effective window merchandising doesn’t have to be elaborate, just to the point and visually attractive.
12. Change-outs should be planned to keep the display fresh.
Frequent change-outs provide the opportunity to communicate with customers about more products and keep the messages from becoming background wallpaper for customers that regularly visit your store. Ideally, the goal would be to rotate displays five to six times a year.
13. Day and night lighting dramatically influences the view of the passersby.
For example, flat screen monitors might be dynamite with night lighting but become invisible during the day. One solution is to install a product to help with daytime reflections. Since tinted windows can reduce display effectiveness, place vinyl graphics on the outside of these windows.
14. For prime locations, more in-depth window graphics can be assembled based on the cost versus return on investment.
To give the display depth, some elements can hang from a ceiling fixture inside the window in front of a backdrop. Other graphics might be put right on the window. A layered look can also be created by using vinyl on both the inside and outside of the glass. Also, in many jurisdictions, graphics displayed inside the windows are not considered signage and therefore may not be subjected to zoning restrictions or permits.
15. Take advantage of cost efficiencies through partial change-outs.
To make the investment pay off, the backdrop might stay the same for a certain period, say six months. The front display, however, might change every month or so to promote new products or services. Be careful, however, to not just change the message. Having a similar visual over a period of months can soon turn a once eye-catching display into wallpaper.
With creative window merchandising, even something as dull as financial services can be made exciting. Effective window merchandising can drive impulse traffic to the store. A halo effect is often seen in more than just the store with the prominent window merchandising. Such displays create more brand loyalty and also heighten awareness and receptivity. Windows can impact not just individual promotions but also boost other dimensions of the brand. Such an effect is hard to measure, as windows merchandising works very much like other outdoor advertising. Except in this case, you already own the space and don’t have to pay hundreds or thousands per month for the use of the medium.
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