Window displays have been around since the earliest days of retail, but the way in which shop owners utilise the front of their stores has changed significantly over the years.
The widespread availability of plate glass in the late 1800s allowed shop owners to build large window displays spanning the full length of their shops. Before this, many retailers used billboards and signs to showcase their goods. In the 1930s, during the heyday of Hollywood, dress forms and mannequins became popular display features.
The pioneering consumer psychologist Walter Dill-Scott developed the theory of appealing to the hidden desires of customers using particular colours, images and formations in advertising layouts which were then applied to window displays, creating the 'selling shop window'.
This is when the notion of window-shopping was born.
Library of Congress
One of the first major holiday window displays was put up by Macy’s New York store in 1874. It featured a collection of porcelain dolls and scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 'Uncle Tom’s Cabin'.
This approach was brought over to England by Gordon Selfridge. His department store on London’s Oxford Street opened in 1909 with the longest window facade ever seen in Britain, achieving instant fame.
Lora Lee, New York 1950 (source: malls of America)
Selfridges, 1910 (source: Selfridges.com)
Harrods 2017 (extravaganzi.com)
Today, it is accepted that a window display, if used effectively, can bring in new customers, enhance the image or brand of your business, help improve customer loyalty and, above all, be an incredibly powerful tool used to increase sales.
A January 2017 survey by CreditCards.com found that 68% of US consumers said their primary location for making impulse buys was “in person, in a store."
In other words, two-thirds of the decisions to buy are made when the consumer is out shopping. Using the power of displays, signage, movement, interactivity, lighting and colour you can undoubtedy help to drive conversions and sales.
So what are some of the most important things to remember, and do, in order to win the battle of the window display?
Success is in the planning
Remember that investing in the right system can have a massive benefit in helping to increase your sales. You may find it helpful to make a list of the objectives you hope to achieve with your window display.
The customers' perception
Before everything, go outside and have a good, hard look at your window from a customer's point of view. Is it well laid out? Is it well lit? Is it inviting? Is there anything to attract your attention? Would it make you want to go inside? Ask one or more of your customers to join you and find out what they really think.
Movement increases sales
Studies by Popai have shown that displays with motion can increase sales by up to 317%! There are many ways of achieving this, such as: animated figures, props or mannequins, items on turntables, moving signs, scrolling banners, lights moving or changing colour, computer displays or video projection.
You may wish to allow your customers to interact with your display from outside: there are many devices available which work through the glass of the shop window. These range from movement detectors that will detect when anyone passes near the window to touch-sensitive systems and speakers.
Think about your angles
Make your displays three dimensional: staggering them or putting them at an angle will make the display more interesting. Also consider angling items towards the left or right. If most people seem to be approaching from a particular direction, this may be extremely important.
Andrew Lake is innovation manager at The Delta Group