Simple design work can shift your practice into a legit retail environment.
Create a visual merchandising budget for props, supplies and the cost of extra staff hours or professional help. A great graphic designer can help you create and source custom vinyl decals. Get your staff visual merchandising training via CE courses at your favorite conferences or publications. Buy two of each frame that you want to put in a future display, one for the display and one to stay on your wall or shelf. Most patients won’t “shop” from a display by taking it apart.
Visual merchandising and product displays are a major focus for retailers all over the world. However, in the optical industry this often isn’t the case. Many doctors and practice owners invest in new technology, but the interior of their retail space doesn’t reflect the same level of sophistication or appeal.
The displays you create are far more powerful than you realize. Judy Bell, author of visual merchandising textbook Silent Selling, found that up to 50% of women buy something because they see it on display. This percentage is unheard of in any business; most would assume advertising/marketing might have a powerful number like that, but not visual merchandising. Up to 60-65% of revenue for most optical practice owners comes from the retail side of the business. You need to think about treating your patients more like customers, first off by enticing them in new ways. Draw attention in store to new brands, trends, current promotions and upcoming events.
There are three relatively simple ways that range in both time and dollars spent, to create impactful displays in an optical environment: installing vitrines, jazzing up shelves and maximizing windows; a combination of all three is ideal.
A vitrine is basically a glass box on a wood or metal stand that can range from one to three square feet. In most cases, the base of the cube pulls out like a drawer and you create the display on the base. The great thing about this installation process is that you can use simple supplies such as double-sided tape, hot glue and pins to keep everything in place.
When the display is finished, you push this drawer back in and then lock it if the fixture has that option. Lockable fixtures mean you can position high-end frames with matching fashion accessories without worrying about theft. Think about borrowing or buying a pair of shoes and/or a handbag in the same brand as the frames to really push the lifestyle and brand image.
Vitrines look best when they are created with a theme such as a brand, season, holiday, trend, promotion or event. Don’t forget that glass is a great surface on which to install vinyl decals. You can purchase precut or custom decals from a craft store such as A.C. Moore, JoAnn’s or Michael’s.
JAZZ UP SHELVES
If you have some fixtures with shelves, take advantage of this surface and break up the monotony of endless rows of frames with décor and props (try places such as Pier One, Christmas Tree Stores and Target) that tie into your brand image, interior color scheme or the current season. These displays should have a little negative space between them and the frames so they “breathe.” Visual merchandisers create displays in a triangle/pyramid shape to make them more appealing to the eye.
A great prop attracts attention to what you are selling. If you find yourself looking only at the décor and not the frames, then simplify the display until the frames start to once again pull focus. Ask your staff members for their opinions! Keep in mind that frames look best on risers, acrylic or metal, and in varied heights. Use props to help hide your frame risers and try hanging frames on some of the props. Great items to look for are vases, picture frames (insert brand logos or marketing images) or shadow boxes, holiday/seasonal décor and big 3D letters.
Windows can be a retail practice’s best visual asset. Deep windows can have props, décor and even fashion elements such as mannequins, while narrow windows are perfect for graphics and vinyl decals. The more retail-inspired your displays are, the more your patient will think of corrective eyewear as a fashion accessory, which in turn boosts capture rates. A great window display should be all about one brand or trend. Consider changing your windows monthly (ideal) or quarterly (at the very least). If you are intimidated on where to start, use Pinterest and the trade publication VMSD (Visual Merchandising Store Design) or hire an intern from a local design college.
Travis J. Reed is owner of Creative Visionary Inc., a company that provides visual merchandising, interior design and special event production services for the optical industry.