How Small Business Retailers Can Use Visual Merchandising to Inspire Impulse Purchases

Little, unplanned purchases bought on a whim can be game-changing for a small business retailer, since they add up fast, and retailers can have a lot of control over making attractive products as tempting as possible in order to increase conversions. While online shopping has increased during these times due to the global pandemic, a recent retail survey revealed that 32% of impulse purchases occur in-store, and 8 out of 10 of those impulse purchases are directly attributed to the effectiveness of a retailer’s in-store visual merchandising strategy. That means there is a lot of upside to inspiring in-store shoppers to buy on impulse.

It is proven that successful retailers can increase conversions with successful visual merchandising techniques, and one of the most tried-and-true strategies is to trigger an emotional response in customers. Desire, fear of losing out, enchantment, nostalgia—these are all feelings that can push a customer to make an unplanned purchase—and your visual merchandising strategy plays a key role in enabling those impulses to drive more revenues for your small business.

Here are some recommendations on how to be more strategic with your point of sale visual merchandising to attract your customers’ attention, get them thinking emotionally and inspire them to buy more.

How Small Business Retailers Can Use Visual Merchandising to Inspire Impulse Purchases

1. Don’t Overwhelm With Too Many Choices

Simplify your product assortment and focus your buyers’ attention on one item. That’s right, only one. By limiting the choices to a simple yes/no consideration, you will have a greater chance of inspiring an impulse to buy. Overwhelming with too many choices will cause decision-anxiety to take over, and this could force customers to think more about what they should and should not buy. Use your POP displays strategically to simplify the customer’s purchasing decision as much as possible — limit the color options, add-ons, and special feature call-outs as well, so that there is very little thought process required, and instead allow your shoppers to let their emotions take over.

Less is more when it comes to using POP displays effectively to inspire impulse, so keep it simple visually. A cluttered countertop with too many displays will only serve to reduce your products’ perceived value. Focus instead on displaying one item, and make sure the items are small enough to browse easily. That will get customers to make a yes/no decision, and that will serve you well when it comes to inspiring impulse.

In addition, choose retail counter and other display types that reduce clutter and confusion. Racks, shelves, and wood barrels for displaying products are great at effectively decluttering your floor space and enabling customers to browse comfortably. Make sure your retail displays are organized by using elements like display boxes and cases, trays and risers that separate products neatly on counter tops.

2. Inspire With Creative Signage

If used creatively, signage is an important tool you can use to inspire impulse buying. For example, it can be a great way to get shoppers to slow down their pace as they walk through your store—like a speedbump does in a road, and to draw their eyes to specific POP displays that you want them to focus on.

Get the message out about products that you think will inspire an impulse purchase, by directing your shoppers to their location, and use messaging to create a sense of urgency and let shoppers know that the special offer or promotion will not last long. Nobody likes the feeling of losing out, so this can be an effective message to inspire impulse.

Grab attention like a headline does in a newspaper, and get a customer to stop, read the sign and consider the products before moving on. Make sure that when you create your signage the font size is readable by people of all age groups. Too many signs use a font that is either too small or too large, and the font type should complement the other design elements in your store branding. Also, do give the company making your signs adequate time to complete them.

You can advertise product offers with signage that calls out and reminds customers about sales or related products they may have forgotten. Floor standing sign holders, like metal or acrylic poster stands, are ideal for grabbing attention at eye-level. They can be placed with relative ease, and their mobility gives retailers the freedom and flexibility to position them anywhere throughout a store.

3. Cross-merchandise To Boost Sales

A good way to give a boost to your impulse buying strategy is to place complementary products alongside one another within the retail displays you set up in your stores. Put a mix of products in one POP display, and it will make it much easier for shoppers to visualize how products work together. When products that are often bought together are placed close to each other, it tells a story and establishes context. This will help inspire spur-of-the-moment purchases. You can offer shoppers an entire creative solution in one display, which will get them to see connections while also engaging them visually and emotionally.

One of the best ways to do this is to use trays, basket displays, and dump bins to organize and gather related products together in one place while also strategically showcasing how they work together. Dump bins can be very effective in cross merchandising as standalone displays, since they are larger, less organized and typically feature small, individually packaged goods—such as candy, or small electronic items (like pen drives), that can go with the purchase of a higher-priced item.

4. Attract Eyes With Smart Placement

Ensure that inventory on POP displays that is priced to move is within the customer’s direct line of sight, and on the same level, grabbing the customers’ attention so they are curious enough to walk through the rest of the display and look at other items too. The best choice are products with brighter colors, having eye-catching details and, of course, any product that displays a popular brand.

Customers are naturally attracted to the colors they like, so create color schemes on your POP displays. This is a good solution if you don’t have multiple SKUs, because you can entice customers to browse items that are merchandised by color. Also, since people are drawn to bright, bold colors, you can place retail shelving and racks against a painted accent wall to highlight noteworthy merchandise. Another idea, display products on colorful acrylic displays as vivid accents by lining them up against a clean white wall.

Put the best-selling SKUs at opposite ends of your store, and drive conversions effortlessly by forcing shoppers to walk all the way from one side of the store to the other. As they do, they will notice many POP displays along their route, which they will be more likely to stop and look at, encouraging more opportunities to become emotionally engaged with your specially promoted products.

5. Refresh Displays Regularly

You will want to make sure you keep your retail displays as fresh and exciting as possible by completely re-merchandising on a regular basis, at least every 3-4 weeks (and no more than 6!). Especially when staging products on larger displays like tables and larger acrylic or wood fixtures. 

Customers will notice that your larger displays have changed, and they will be encouraged to have a look and browse, thinking that you have brought in new inventory, even if you’ve simply moved merchandise around the store.

Another tactic is to change the location of displays from time to time. This will disrupt the normal shopping pattern of your regular customers, and make them aware that something has changed.


In-store visual merchandising allows you to draw attention to specific merchandise that is most likely to trigger an emotional response. If you implement the strategies in this post, you will succeed in dynamically presenting your products to drive impulse buying.

Create visual appeal, inspire connections with other products and get the emotional juices flowing by employing a combination of display tables, bins, boxes, trays, risers, mannequins, dump bins and more. If you refresh your POP displays often, and flex your creative muscles, your shoppers will reward you with more purchases.

Ray Ko is the Senior Ecommerce Manager at ShopPOPDisplays. With years of experience in the retail space, Ray is an expert in formulating and implementing e-commerce strategies to increase revenue. 

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About Collaborative Post is happy to provide guest posting opportunities for small business owners. This article was created by one of our contributors.

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