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Cultivating Retail Awareness

Blurred Mall Interior

What’s seen cannot be unseen. And it can be seen better.

When you become an expert in a particular field, it’s natural to be more conscious of the quality of expressions in that field. In other words, those of us in the retail display industry are typically more keyed-in to our retail environment, from the look and feel of the displays, to their holding power and shoppability, to other aspects like sightlines and the overall in-store brand vibe. It just comes with the territory.

And while for those of us who live and breathe retail, that awareness may be second nature, there are always opportunities to enhance it in ways that can net us more success as industry professionals.

  • Become aware of the positive, and not just the negative. It’s a cliché that online reviews tend to skew negative. Complaining is easy because it’s more rare that something doesn’t work as intended. The best displays are so easy to be shopped as to make the experience seamless. Another way of putting it is that a poorly-designed display broadcasts its defects, whereas we have to actively apply ourselves to be aware of when a display works well. Still, taking mental note of when something just works, visually or merchandising-wise, can be a worthwhile exercise.

  • Where applicable, use more of your senses. It’s rare that we engage more than 1 or 2 senses when shopping. Sight is a given, and occasionally a display will feature sound. But if the retail environment permits, run your fingers along a shelf surface or side graphic. A lot of time is put into material selection, and getting more in touch with it—literally—can generate awareness of the display manufacturer’s and retailer’s philosophy in making design choices.

  • Develop habits to encourage your team. Cultivating retail awareness is one thing, using it to make better displays is another. Inasmuch as retail display firms are a team, the rising tide of one member’s retail awareness can “lift all the ships” if communicated properly. Practice quickly launching the photo app on your phone so you can snap pictures to share with your team. Schedule regular store visits so that others can see/hear/feel/smell what you experienced at retail. Those habits will encourage others to follow your lead.

Ultimately, for those of us in the industry, retail awareness is a way of life. But if we make the effort to shop more consciously, our displays will benefit, our connections with our clients’ merchandising needs will strengthen, and their customers will have a better in-store experience.


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