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Creating the Shopper Journey this Holiday Season

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Fans of A Christmas Story remember the scene quite well. Ralphie and his brother, along with numerous other kids, standing in awe against the Higbee’s display window. And when finally ushered into the store by their parents, they encounter a winter wonderland, complete with Santa sitting atop a snowy mountain.

The sense of wonder and whimsy experienced by Ralphie remains the goal for all brick-and-mortar retailers each holiday season. But amidst an over-stored retail environment, along with the growing influence of online retail options, retailers are finding it increasingly harder to recreate a magical experience that will make shoppers stop and stare in awe.

So how can retailers break through the noise of the competition to create an intangible, magical customer experience this holiday season? In my opinion, we should be like Ralphie and create our own holiday story.

Use Your Window Display to Set the Stage

For retailers, the story begins with the window display. It must be eye-catching, unique and bold enough to stand apart from the clutter of messages that are all vying for the shopper’s attention. Remember, as Time Magazine famously reported in 2015, human attention spans have dropped below that of goldfish. In addition to this short attention span, as shoppers are passing your display, they’re often distracted – by friends, technology, or both. Catching their gaze means that retailers should do more than just frost some glass. They must set the stage for the customer’s shopping story.

The first step to planning a memorable window display is to start with a specific story, not just a theme. An example of this is creating a tableau of children waiting for Santa instead of planning a general “Christmas theme.” Once your story is planned, always have a focal point. What do you want viewers to see most? Take steps back and view from a distance to evaluate where the eyeline is, how color draws the eye certain places and what space you haven’t taken advantage of. Lastly, don’t forget to maintain balance. It’s important to be bold but still keep things simple, marrying simplicity with striking imagery.

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When creating your display, also be sure to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. During the holiday season, people venture into new stores to purchase gifts or try something new. Keep things true to your brand identity and play up brand strengths without only catering to returning customers. Try and take yourself out of the context of your retail brand and see the store with fresh eyes. Would you be drawn to enter your store and learn more?

Continue the Story Through the In-Store Experience

After engaging shoppers with your stunning window displays, it is imperative to continue the experience within the store layout. When customers are expecting more holiday-centric magic to greet them inside your doors, don’t let them down.

You can extend the experience by bringing heightened visuals into your store. Enhance your story through pop-up displays, décor and signage. Keep the color palette and story of your windows in mind and make sure the display plays a part in the larger story instead of being flashy without a greater purpose. When using signs, keep things simple and to the point, and be sure to always use a call to action so viewers know what next step to take, whether that’s guiding them to another section of the store or pointing them to a website or app that furthers your holiday story experience.

When setting up these internal displays, don’t make descriptions the priority. Instead, incorporate visuals that show the benefit of your inventory. This means you shouldn’t tell people what a product will do for them, instead let them see for themselves, imagining the item in both their own lives and in the context of your story. Finally, remember the bottom line and make sure that any props or decorations you use to complement your holiday story don’t distract from your real goal: selling that featured product.  

Crafting a story that encapsulates the magic of Christmas doesn’t have to be a puzzle. Dazzle your customers and create a meaningful experience that will never be forgotten. Everyone should experience their own “Christmas Story” moment like Ralphie, and by focusing on incorporating visuals into every aspect of the layout, both external and internal, retailers will set themselves up for success and delight their shoppers during the peak holiday season.

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