Window Dressing

5 Ways to Wow Customers With Your Windows

Shop windows are where customers’ dreams start.

I’m not just talking about stores’ traffic stopping Christmas windows. While The Gap transformed the traditional four seasons to twelve months of style changes to encourage more frequent buying, most stores don’t change their windows frequently enough for foot traffic.

Do your windows lure prospects in to find out more about your products? For many stores, this may seem obvious. Attractive store windows can improve a bad small business location.

But take a walk down your main shopping thoroughfare or local mall and ask yourself how many of these shops would you want to go into if you didn’t live here?

Even the expensive, highly trafficked retail strip of lower Fifth Avenue, steps from my front door, can miss the mark in terms of maximizing the effectiveness of their store windows.

Here are some findings from my local shop windows.  They’re worth pointing out for the lessons they provide.

  • Duane Reade, the ubiquitous New York drugstore, known for low prices, where shoppers can’t buy just one item. Beneath its rebranded purple and green typeface banner, Duane Reade promotes flu shots and its pharmacy, higher margin products.
  • Eileen Fisher, a woman’s clothing store. Regardless of the season, the colors are deeper and richer than other women’s clothing retailers.  The spare looking windows are changed regularly to highlight the clean lines of Eileen Fisher’s clothes to advantage.
  • Kate Spade, the pocketbook designer, has whimsical windows filled with intense color that varies with the season and product. The windows truly showcase the brand and its story that can extend beyond the windows’ physical boundary. Earlier this year, Kate Spade fastened colorful pinwheels on the outside of the windows which they replaced as people took them. Another time, they used tape across the sidewalk to create rainbows of  color leading to the entrance.
  • Lion Brand Studio, the physical showcase and shop of an old yarn brand that’s readily available at Michaels and other discount retailers. Its monthly windows are always frivolous and imaginative creations from (you guessed it) Lion Brand Yarn. They’re worth stopping by if you’re in the neighborhood. In July, they ran a fun contest around their Coney Island themed window where even non-knitters could win cash. Currently, they have a not-for-profit tie-in with Keep America Warm to gather knit and crocheted squares for afghans.
  • Ann Taylor. Like its clothing cousins, this store shows its seasonal merchandise on a regular basis. This month, it’s making a tie-in for Breast Cancer. Tie-ins with non-profits can be a useful way to entice buyers in, especially in a low buying season.
  • Town Shop. This one location purveyor of women’s foundations, aka lingerie, is the go-to place for women who want a good fit, have special challenges and/or are getting married. Under its classic Pink and Blue sign, the Town Shop’s windows change infrequently and tend to be mundane compared to its sexier competitor, Victoria’s Secret. For example, they will show flannel nightgowns. This is the example that proves that you can’t tell a book by its cover (if you still own any) because, based on my experience, the average purchase is probably significantly higher than Victoria’s Secret.
  • Zabars, an upper Westside food emporium, known for good prices on specialty foods and cookware. In the windows, current sales are promoted using inexpensive plain signs. Last summer, Zabars had a tie-in with the cooking-oriented movie, Julia and Julie.

Based on this review, here are five suggestions for your shop windows:

  1. Step into style. Show prospective customers what’s in this season. Give them a reason to regularly check out your merchandise. Of course, this means your staff can’t give them dirty looks for daring to come in. Take a lesson from Pretty Baby, you can never tell how much someone’s willing to spend by what they’re wearing.
  2. Create a party. Give passersby a reason to smile and want to linger at your window like Lion Brand Studio does whether they’re prospects or not. You never know when someone will ask for a recommendation.
  3. Support a cause. Use a not-for-profit tie-in to help others while giving your customers a reason to feel good about shopping at your establishment as Lion Brand Studio did with their Warm Up America campaign. There’s a pile of squares in the window that tracks the donations.
  4. Tap into current culture. Think about how you can use things that are receiving lots of hype as a hook to get prospects and customers lured into your store. Zabars did this with Julia and Julie.
  5. Tell them a story. Make your window the backdrop for drama. Stories are at the heart of marketing. Use your window to elevate yours.  Kate Spade does this with a lot of their windows.

As you’re planning your windows, bear in mind the following three factors to maximize the impact of your showcase.

  1. Be true to your brand. It’s important that your window reflect elements of your brand in terms of color, presentation and story. Further, consider your neighborhood and how residents feel.
  2. Merchandise, merchandise, merchandise. This is your big opportunity to strut your stuff and show it off to advantage. As Tim Gunn says on Project Runway, “Make it work!”
  3. Extend your window delight. Continue the theme of your window throughout your shop. Make it easy for customers to find the items showcased in your window. Of course, it’s okay to make them wander through the store, like delis do by putting the milk in the back of the store.

Remember that your store window is an important marketing asset that can attract people when they’re ready to buy. Make sure that you make the most of it.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: ©2010 Heidi Cohen – All rights reserved via Creative Commons

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