visual communication & product information

Visual communication in its many shapes and forms has always been an important element in retail stores, however the advent of the 24-7 consumer, the evolution of social media channels as major marketing avenues and the emergence of e-commerce and more latterly m-commerce with their 2-dimensional graphic interfaces has created both the blessing and the curse of the necessity for a completely integrated visual communication strategy delivered across all channels in a dynamic and continuous stream of brand and product information.

 

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The easy, and it has to be said lazy, graphic process of beginning with visually attractive POS and then working back into the rhyme and reason, the justification for each piece of communication, has mercifully, and not before time, been turned on its head.

Firstly must come the visual communication strategy, then the means to physically deliver the communication in stores and across channels, then the calendar, then the content, the tone of voice and finally the graphic design. When it comes to visual communication don’t plan, design and build the proverbial barn with its apocrathol door, after the graphic horse has already bolted.

Any visual communication strategy must be built on the need for visual communication. Relevance is the all essential word. Graphic messages which are relevant and appropriate in place and time to a customer are useful, helpful and will lead to increased sales and loyalty. Irrelevant messages become clutter and visual pollution – at best a waste of money and at worst a reason for frustrated customer to shop elsewhere.

To appreciate relevance it is essential to understand the customer journey and for visual communication there are several types of journey which encapsulate and encompass the myriad of individual journeys that take place inside stores. The most important journeys, demanding very different communication are the functional and the emotional journeys.

The functional journey is there to help the seeker, the customer on a mission to find, select and buy a specific product. The retailer must deliver a clear hierarchy of visual communication to help them locate the department, the category, the range and then understand the product itself. Here the parallels between the physical store journey and required graphics and the digital journey with architecture and tabs are the same in principle if somewhat edited and adapted to the physical store situation.

The two most important and interesting levels in the hierarchy are the explanation of the assortment structure and the delivery of individual product information. The explanation of the assortment structure, the range breakdown, segmentation and adjacencies are an often overlooked level giving way to a perplexity of individual product information without logic or order. The definition of difficult to shop can equally come from a blanket of democratic communication as much as no communication at all.

The best communication of ranges, with segmentation, focal points and the criteria for choice must come from the integration of the buying and merchandising teams, customer intelligence resources, both working closely with the creative graphic designers. The data gathered from online journeys and sales can also help considerably in the communication of the physical store hierarchy.

Individual product information and communication is where physical and online come closest together and where online reviews and comments can be hugely valuable to defining the correct messages and words. If anything the digital experience must teach us to be concise, ultra-relevant and to speak about the attributes most important to a customer in a way that is understandable to the customer.

Online communication has forced every retailer to develop and enhance its brand “tone of voice.”

 

Putting the customers’ head on is an essential requirement for all channels of communication, and also helps to define the parameters of both the functional journey and the emotional journey. Sometimes facts and figures sell a product but equally and increasingly emotional statements and imagery are more powerful. We live in a world of emotion, and no longer necessity, where virtually all buying decisions involve choice and as a result some degree of emotional leverage.

Essential to the emotional journey and its hierarchy in stores is to understand and deliver the emotional triggers at the important touchpoints in the customer journey. What will trigger a sale? Exciting imagery, lifestyle situations, brand logos, range authority, price and promotional excitement? Separate from the functional journey these messages should also find their place into the carefully designed store hierarchy.

With so much to say it is important to always build dynamics into the visual communication strategy through the employment of a communication calendar as part of the retail calendar. It is simply not possible to say everything at the same time – effectively – but to say “the right thing, at the right time, and in the right place!

For communication – be selective and be strict. Physical mechanics must dictate to the message, not messages to the mechanic. Cast out the presence of sticky tape and improvised signs to the memory of the recyclable graphic scrapheap.

Digital technology has, of course, added a whole new dimension to the opportunities and possibilities of visual communication in stores, not least because of the dynamic that can now be cost-effectively delivered without the need to fell whole forests at a time for the paper equivalent. However the true dynamic value is the coordination and integration between external and social communication and the physical store environment, where brand, product, seasonal and lifestyle content can be planned and delivered with strategic synchronicity.

 

However learn from the lessons of traditional POS. Digital communication needs more than ever a precise strategy, defined delivery in terms of space and time and above all content. In a strange reversal of trend it is not unusual for a retailer to move from delivering too many messages with physical papers to the situation of blank and repetitive screens devoid of content. The key parameter is time.

Don’t let the luxury of time be the death of your communication strategy.

New technology or old, and each have their place for some retailers, the starting point is strategy, what does the customer require from visual communication in your stores and beyond. Which messages will help in the act of shopping, if any, which will inspire the customer to browse, if any, and what communication will directly lead to a sale.

Visual communication is a hugely powerful opportunity today and whilst facilitated by new technology and skills it is still largely reliant of the further integration of some traditional retail functions – buying and merchandising, assortment planning, visual merchandising and marketing. That is an important message to communicate!

 

Our expert workshops:
Visual communication & product information workshops:

VM-Unleashed’s 1-day workshop discusses all areas in the delivery of attractive & profitable stores through best practice visual communication practices and the integration between retail functions.

It is personalised to the audience, to the sector and to the job function and objectives of the retailer team present, however most benefit is achieved from an attendance from across retail departments and essentially buying & merchandising, visual merchandising, marketing, space planning, commercial, sales and store operations teams.

The workshop process can also include a day of client store visits and discussions leading to a review in the workshop of the client’s stores, as well as reviews and reference to competitors and current international best practice stores. The workshop itself is a combination of visual stimulation and process insights.

Every workshop is written and delivered to be as relevant and productive for each client as possible including both individual and team exercises and discussions.

The typical agenda is as below, waiting your personal additions and requirements:

    • Creating a graphics hierarchy
    • The functional journey and the promotional journey
    • Communication hierarchy
    • Colour, fonts and elements of visual communication
    • Do’s and Don’t's of graphics and POS delivery
    • Rules on different use of graphics by store grade and location
    • Rules on the dynamic of graphics – when to change them
    • Appropriate use of different graphic elements
    • Environmental graphics to create atmosphere
    • Brand graphics, logos
    • Product information & pricing
    • Service messages – online, returns etc…

Different modules can be combined to create personalised workshops.

For more information:
tim.radley@vm-unleashed.com
+44 (0)7967 609849

 

Our specialist services:
Store Dynamics Audits & Analytics

“How do I assess whether and how to change the dynamics of my store proposition to stimulate rates of sale, through re-merchandising, space layout and events & promotions?”

Overview:

Detailed analysis of client store dynamics, within the wider omni-channel retail calendar, to assess the current weaknesses and opportunities to increase store performance KPIS through improved store changes.

    • Assessment of the relationship between dynamic store actions and KPI patterns in several client stores
    • Assessment of window and front 1/3rd store dynamics and KPI patterns
    • Assessment of the relationship spatially between store changes and directly related sales KPIs
    • Assessment of the dynamic relationship between the wider retail calendar and client store changes
    • Assessment of the consistency of timings/frequencies within a selection of client stores
    • Assessment on the quality of delivery and visual impact of dynamic store changes
    • Comparison of dynamics/frequencies with competitors/best practice stores

Benefits:

    • Identify the direct relationships between dynamic activities and KPI increase patterns
    • Identify the optimum dynamics and relationships of windows, first 1/3rd store, store interiors and web/social activity
    • Identify the best delivery elements/touchpoints for in-store dynamic changes
    • Identify the optimum timings/frequencies and duration of store dynamics
    • Plan the optimum retail calendar for maximum ROI with appropriate analysis

Process:

  • Selected client store visits and competitor visits
  • Audit and analysis of client/competitor website and key social dynamics
  • Interviews with HQ stakeholders including marketing, sales, store operations, VM and merchandising
  • Analysis of retail calendar with relevant stakeholders – marketing
  • Interviews with store staff and “snap-shots” of customer comments/reactions
  • Detailed analysis of store performance KPIs by product spatial grouping
  • Detailed KPI analysis of KPIs related to specific promotions and events
  • Client presentation workshop 

For more information click the link
Store dynamics audits & analytics

tim.radley@vm-unleashed.com
+44 (0)7967 609849

 

Our specialist services:
Store Proposition & Customer Perception Audits

“How can I assess if the visual elements and customer touchpoints of my store are effectively communicating my desired proposition?”

Overview:

Detailed measurement and assessment of the client stores’ visual elements and touchpoints, cross-referenced against their individual impact on the customer perception of the store proposition

    • Definition of the desired perception of the proposition, from… ◦ease of shop
    • assortment authority
    • product inspiration
    • fashionability & freshness
    • femininity & warmth
    • product & promotional dynamism
    • trust & customer centricity
    • assortment value & price
    • omni-channel credibility
    • retail professionalism
    • development of the “Proposition index” for individual and families of visual elements  and touchpoints
    • calculation of the strength and focus of the proposition perception based on the actual  contribution of the different visual elements & touchpoints from across a number of client stores
    • assessment of the success in delivering the desired perception
    • assessment of the strengths/weaknesses of the different elements and touchpoints  and the opportunities to communicate the desired proposition perception more accurately
    • the option to measure and compare the strength and focus of competitors’ perceptions
    • the option to compare how competitors communicate their proposition through the touchpoints they use, and how they deliver them

Benefits:

    • Identifies how well the stores are communicating to the customer the required & desired brand & product proposition
    • identifies the “delivery gap” between proposition and perception
    • identifies which store visual elements and touchpoints should be used to change and strengthen perceptions
    • identifies focus of investment on store visual elements and touchpoints

Process:

    • Selected client store visits and best practice competitor stores
    • Interviews with HQ stakeholders including marketing
    • Interviews with store staff and “snap-shots” of customer comments/reactions
    • Available customer research on store feedback & brand perception
    • analysis, answers and action plan

For more information click the link
Store Proposition & Customer Perception Audits

tim.radley@vm-unleashed.com
+44 (0)7967 609849

Whether you are an established player, or a new kid on the retail block, we can probably help improve your efficiency, your expertise, your store delivery and of course your sales performance and profitability.

I look forward to hearing your questions, whether large or small.

Always expert and easily accessible.

Thank you.

tim.radley@vm-unleashed.com
+44 (0)7967 609849

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