What Is Visual Merchandising? A Complete Guide to the Field

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 January 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Visual merchandising is the art of using colours, patterns, lighting and signage to attract customers and increase sales. This is usually noticeable in the form of displays, mannequin arrangement, props, images and product placement. A professional visual merchandiser is employed to oversee the overall design of a shop and to find a way to showcase products that might entice customers. In this article, we examine what is visual merchandising and how a virtual merchandiser is instrumental in any retail experience.

What Is Visual Merchandising?

What is visual merchandising, it can be described as a practice in marketing that uses spatial and visual design to attract customers, invoke curiosity and retain their attention. It aims to boost sales and generate repeat business while creating a strong brand image among consumers. Visual merchandising has numerous practical applications and offers several areas for specialisation.

Related: What Is a Merchandiser? Skills, Qualifications and Types of Job Roles

What Is The Role Of A Visual Merchandiser?

A visual merchandiser is a professional in the retail industry, responsible for optimising the presentation of services and products to showcase their features and benefits. The purpose of visual merchandising is to engage, motivate and attract customers toward making a purchase. Merchandisers help companies to improve their productivity and sales through planned customer interaction.

As a crucial member of any retail team, the visual merchandiser creates retail strategies that maximise the aesthetic of products. They play a critical role in the look, feel and identity of a brand. Visual merchandising involves:

  • Creating new layouts and communicating choices to store stakeholders

  • Changing layouts and displays

  • Adjusting lighting

  • Installing and incorporating new display technology

  • Assisting with graphic design

Related: 41 Visual Merchandiser Interview Questions (With Answers)

Skills Of A Visual Merchandiser

If you are interested in a career in visual merchandising, consider developing these skills:


A creative flair is an important part of the visual merchandiser profession. They use the space and layout of a store in innovative ways to attract customers to their services or products. Whether it is selling clothes, accessories, hardware, food or electronics, creating a positive impression and curiosity is the first step toward improving sales.

Communication skills

A good visual merchandiser communicates effectively with customers and retailers to strategise with the best ways to market a product. Seek to understand the specific needs of retail store owners and develop strategies that can deliver store messages to potential customers. Brands with multiple stores may also require a significant degree of consistency in visual merchandising elements. To ensure consistency, visual merchandisers are often required to coordinate and communicate effectively with teams of professionals across the company.

Industry knowledge

It is important for professional visual merchandisers to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in the field. This enables them to help store owners consistently attract new customers and stay relevant. To increase your industry knowledge, find out more about the materials, equipment, design aesthetics and colour schemes that perform well in the market. If you understand common consumer preferences, you can use that knowledge to create effective visual merchandising strategies.

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Brand knowledge

Strategy and innovation are central aspects of a visual merchandiser's practice. Being knowledgeable about brands and their philosophies and agendas can provide better insight into their design. This helps you to effectively promote various products, store brands and services. If you understand a brand, use that knowledge while you work with store managers, marketing teams and retail buyers. This can make it easier to attract customers to the business.

Management and organisation skills

In addition to designing unique displays to appeal to customers, visual merchandisers also work with staff and marketing executives to implement their merchandising plans. You may require good management and organisation skills to coordinate operations and source materials, supplies and props. These skills enable you to effectively guide collective efforts towards a unified goal.

Interpersonal skills

In your role as a visual merchandiser, you may be required to supervise staff and give them instructions on how to use and create visual displays effectively. It is important for a visual merchandiser to build and maintain numerous professional relationships as part of their work. You may require strong interpersonal skills to work with marketing executives, buyers, retail representatives and other merchandisers to enhance store productivity.

Design aptitude and computer literacy

Design is another crucial element of the profession. If you are detail-oriented and have a natural talent for combining colours, patterns, text and company iconography in a pleasing manner, you may find it easier to succeed in this role. Your design aptitude may determine how well you promote services and products, increase sales, enhance store experience and bring in more customers. Familiarising yourself with computer-aided design tools can help you maximise your artistic scope. As you train and develop these talents, you may build a unique style and start earning recognition for your work.

Related: Basic Computer Skills: Definition and Examples

Customer support skills

Regularly invite feedback and comments from customers. This helps you in understanding the customer better and would also provide realistic ideas for improvement. Try to identify the customer service strategies and processes that can lure customers into buying products or services from your store.

Related: What Is Customer Service? Definition and Career Advice

How To Become A Visual Merchandiser?

Follow these steps to become a visual merchandiser:

1. Pursue formal education

Consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in art, design or marketing. A B.Des (Bachelor of Design) from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) and NID (National Institute of Design) can give you access to courses that can help enhance your knowledge of the industry. At the post-graduate level, you may consider pursuing an M.Des (Master of Design) degree, which typically takes one to two years to complete. These courses can equip you with knowledge about consumer behaviour, vendor management, lighting, design and material exploration.

Related: 10 Tools for a Visual Resume (With Tips to Create One)

2. Get certified

Having the right certification can ensure that you are aware of the upcoming trends in the market. It can help you advance in your career from a visual merchandiser to higher positions. An accredited diploma in merchandising lets an aspiring visual merchandiser enter the job market with confidence, as it offers the skills necessary to thrive in the industry. You may also pursue certifications for the tools and software you use. Learning some skills that include digital design, colour theory, art, drawing and graphic design can help you succeed as a visual merchandiser.

3. Gain work experience

Gaining work experience is essential in a visual merchandiser's career, as they require a working knowledge of a wide variety of skills and practices. On the job, you may get opportunities to experiment and design unique displays for merchandise. Your experience can help you understand the design process better and evaluate how well different design elements work together. Start building your skills and gain experience in department stores or boutiques as a sales associate, and develop over time to become a successful visual merchandiser.

4. Get to know the craft

Visual merchandisers try to highlight the best aspects of a product's design and use it as a selling point. Merchandise design is often complex and involves many components. Merchandisers are involved at various stages of product development, ranging from early design drafts to final installations. They may require an eye for choosing the best props, fixtures and signage for maximising the impact of visual marketing. Getting to know the craft in detail enables you to effectively design lighting, banners, colour schemes, layouts and other components for stores.

Related: What Is Brand Strategy? (6 Components And Its Importance)

5. Identify an industry

After earning a bachelor's degree, you can choose to work in various positions that require a visual merchandiser. You can seek employment at museums, theme parks, traditional retail stores and with event sponsors. Advancing your education within a specific industry, such as clothing or appliances, may also make new positions available to you.

Related: What Is Fashion Merchandising? A Comprehensive Guide

What Are The 4 Elements Of Visual Merchandising?

Visual merchandising is the intelligent use of space, lighting, colours and signage to make products and services desirable to the buyers. These are the four most important elements of visual merchandising:

1. Colour

Colour is probably the most important element in merchandising. Colour can be used to evoke certain emotions and can be associated with brand ideology. For example, warm, sober colours may be used to invoke a mellow ambience and bright, flashy colours can be contrasted against it to create focus.

2. Light

Light and illumination can be used to highlight certain aspects of the store and the product collection. It can also set the ambience of the store. For example, a well lit retail environment is preferred in electronics and clothes stores where consumers may want to view products in close detail. Lounges, restaurants and bars may prefer dim lighting that creates a cosy, relaxed ambience.

3. Space

Space is an extremely important element in visual marketing. The store layout and placement of products in the store can influence how customers interact with them, and for how long. If a portion of your display requires more time to be fully perceived, you can plan the layout to accommodate that.

4. Signage

Signage is a fundamental tool in branding and helps customers retain a visual memory of the retail experience. It can also be used to engage customers while they wait for assistance from a storekeeper. Brands usually are very specific about their choice of fonts and styles for signage. This specificity helps them maintain consistency across different stores, platforms and locations, which contributes to brand awareness.

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