16 Window Display Tips to Captivate Shoppers and Drive in-Store Traffic

While great products and excellent customer service can keep customers coming back, your visuals and branding are going to be the elements that get people to walk into your shop in the first place. Your store’s window display plays a big part in this, which is why you should take the steps to make it as fresh and attention-grabbing as possible.

Need tips on how you can accomplish this? Here’s a dozen to get you started:

1. Be aware of who your target audience is

Before you bring out your craft supplies, fixtures, and whatnot, take some time to think about your target audience. Who do you want to attract? What types of people would benefit most from your products and services? Let the answers to these questions guide your decisions.

Your window display needs to be targeted enough to entice the right shoppers, but not too specific that it’ll alienate potential customers. This is something that Sessions Music, a music education company learned.

According to its marketing director Adam Williamson, since 75% of their students were under the age of 15, they initially stuck with “child-centric” imagery in their displays. They soon realized, however, that this alienated and misled potential customers into thinking that Session Music was just for kids.

“Even after we changed this, we still constantly had people saying ‘Do you have programs for adults?’ Of course, we do but our window displays did not properly showcase that,” Adam said.

“And after our change in imagery, we noticed that as long as our imagery didn’t contain anything offensive or adult-themed, nothing in our more broad imagery alienated our younger students either. In fact, it made many of our students feel our business was ‘hipper’ (from a recent student survey) than before.”

2. Place key items at eye level

Aside from considering your target audience, you also need to think about their perspective, advised Sophie Darling, the community manager at WeddingDresses.com and a former bridal shop owner.

“What do you want them to look at? Where do you want them to look first? How can you draw them in closer? Usually, this means putting your prime item right at eye level,” she added.

Check out this window display from Christian Louboutin, and notice how they elevated certain products (i.e., the purse and shoes) so that they’re either at or close to eye level.

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Do the same thing with your windows. Identify the key products or elements of your display and position them at eye level to draw people’s attention.

You also want to make sure that the products are big enough to catch shoppers’ eyes.

“Putting merchandise that’s too small to be seen easily isn’t a good idea,” says Sophie. “You want to draw people’s attention with an amazing centerpiece that turns people’s heads for a second glance.”

3. Consider your environment

On top of thinking about who your target customers are, also be sure to consider their mindset, actions, and behavior when they’re in the vicinity.

Is your store in a shopping center where people can leisurely walk around, or are you in a fast-paced environment? Will they be with their kids or shopping alone? Will people be on foot when they see your displays or will they be in their cars?

Think about how much time people have when they stroll, stride, or drive by your store, then design your window displays accordingly.

For instance, at Sessions Music, they make it a point to limit the use of text in their displays because they know that a lot of their customers only have a few seconds to look at their window.

“We realized that many people who see our window displays were in their car. If our message was not clear to someone who has 1-3 seconds to view it (not nearly enough time to read anything), then we would not run with it,” said Williamson.

4. Use your window not just to showcase products, but to tell stories

Stories, whether they’re read, heard, or in this case, seen, are far more effective in grabbing and keeping people’s attention. In other words, stories stick. This is true for speeches, articles, and yes, even window displays.

Your displays should go beyond showing off your products; they should tell tales that pique shoppers’ interest and encourage them to come inside. You can do this by selecting a theme, and finding stories in line with it.

Check out what Anthropologie is doing. The apparel retailer changes the window displays of its stores depending on certain seasons or events. What makes their window displays great though, is that Anthropologie always finds a unique angle or story within its chosen season theme.

For instance, for Earth Day 2013, the retailer decided to “pay homage to the gifts of gardening with a variety of handcrafted fruits and veggies, and containers made from recycled cans, tires, bottles and more.”

5. Stay away from clichés

We just have one caveat when it comes to storytelling based on themes: Don’t to fall into the trap of using clichés.

For instance, when Halloween rolls around, it might be tempting to fill your display with pumpkins or ghouls. This might be a bit superficial. Find ways to go a bit off the beaten path and come up with something unique.

Image credit: Jun Belen

Consider what Cole Hardware in San Francisco did. Instead of going for the cliched “Happy Halloween” route that’s filled with ghosts and Jack-o-Lanterns, it used the holiday to show off its broom selection and cleaning products while telling a Halloween tale at the same time.

6. Avoid clutter

Keep your designs clean and avoid including too many items in it. Your window display should provide a peek at what you have to offer, not give everything away. In addition, a cluttered window display can devalue your brand and merchandise. As display consultant Linda Cahan of Cahan & Co. told Entrepreneur, “in retailing, space equals luxury… if you cram items together in a window, they’ll look cheap.

Sophie echoed this advice, saying that cluttering up a window display is one of the biggest mistakes that retailers can make.

“Cluttering your window will dilute the impact that your best merchandise would otherwise have on passersby, and simply make your shop easier to ignore.”

The following display from Hugo Boss illustrates this tip quite well. Notice the clutter-free environment of the window, which allows the brand’s products to stand out in their own right.

7. Invest in key materials

You’ll be changing your window display regularly, so devote ample resources on the materials and equipment that you’ll be re-using. This could include frames, fixtures, lights, mannequins, and more.

8. Store your materials properly

Also be sure to invest in the storage materials for your fixtures and window display equipment.

At Sessions Music, for example, Williamson says that they “invested in quality storage materials (such as hard poster tubes for our window graphics) and reserved a clean, dry area to store them in for future displays.”

Doing so enables them to re-use their materials, saving them money and planning time.

9. Showcase your product range

If you sell a variety of products, use your window display to show off your range. Incorporate pieces from multiple departments and categories and use them to form a cohesive display.

Kolkid, a children’s boutique that sells apparel, toys, and decor, did just that for its back to school display. Notice how the store’s window contains merchandise from various categories, thus showing the different items offered by Kolkid.

10. Keep your displays well-lit

It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of retail stores with poorly-lit displays. You’ve put a lot of work in crafting a great looking window, so you need to ensure that everyone can see your handiwork, especially at night.

In some instances, your store’s overhead and built-in lighting are enough to keep your displays well-lit. However, this isn’t always the case. There may be instances the call for lights made specifically for your windows.

To find out, step outside your store at night and view your window from a pedestrian’s perspective. Are your products highly visible? Can people appreciate your display even at night time? The answers to these questions should guide your lighting efforts.

11. Always be on the lookout for inspiration

Inspiration is everywhere — just ask Laura Watkins, the owner of Pink Pointes Dancewear, a UK-based dance shop. “I get inspiration from a range of sources, the season, a film or song, a product we want to showcase or if I’m feeling really stuck Pinterest boards are helpful too,” says.

As an example, Laura shared how she once used autumn to inspire her display.

“When I first took over running our shop the new Bloch Militare boot has just come out. It’s a split sole dance shoe but looks like a boot. It happened to be September and the leaves were beginning to change so I made a display with hundreds of leaves in beautiful autumnal colors and this pair of boots on top as they looked like Dr. Matens and great for stomping in piles of leaves.”

“To go beside this we had a really elegant ballet tutu in browns and greens with leaves on it and I finished the display off with leaves on fishing line so they looked like they were falling.”

Laura said the display was such a hit that shoppers came in the store just to compliment it.

12. Change your displays frequently

Williamson also advises retailers to keep their window displays up-to-date and relevant.

“It may seem quite burdensome and expensive to constantly be changing window displays but their effectiveness is directly correlated to their relevance to your current promotions, the season, the weather, and so on,” he says.

At their store, he shares that they change their window displays at least once a month; and during busy seasons such as the holidays, they do so every week.

As a brick and mortar location, we often have repeat walk-by traffic. The same, tired displays eventually get ignored but a constantly changing array will keep people’s attention peaked until they are ready to purchase (or enroll as in our case).”

Laura also changes her store’s diaplays montly. She cooks up ideas “twice a year for the next 6 months and change the window every month.”

“For me, that’s long enough that I have time to research how I am going to do something and buy extra props I’ll need,” she added.

13. Follow the right websites and accounts

Need ideas for your next window display? The web is full of design resources that you can draw inspiration from. Here are a few to get you started:

Instagram – This social networking app is a goldmine for retail ideas. Searching for hashtags like #windowdisplay, #shopfront, and  #retaildesign will bring up photos of what other retailers are doing and inspire your efforts. And don’t forget to follow the retail-centric Instagram accounts dedicated to storefront design.

Pinterest – As Laura mentioned, Pinterest is another great source. A quick search for “window displays” will return tons of pins and boards that you can peruse for ideas. Be sure to pin, like, or follow the good ones (such as Vend’s Beautiful Window Displays board) so you can always come back to them when you need to.

Retail Design Blog – This is a site that aims to assist retailers and visual merchandisers by providing news about the latest design trends and by presenting interesting projects and designs.

design:retail – Another great source for inspiration, design:retail covers retail design news and trends, and showcases layouts, designs, and displays from other retail stores.

14. Balance aesthetics with analytics

Having a great-looking window, is great but you want to balance your aesthetic with an analytics strategy so you can keep creating winning displays.

“Retail is both an art and a science,” says Marc Gingras, CEO of Foko Retail. “Those who focus solely on aesthetics risk missing the full picture. Because creating show-stopping displays that stand out from the competition is one thing, but being able to replicate the results at scale is another.”

According to Marc, you need “to think of window displays as not just opportunities for stunning artistic achievement that boost brand awareness, but as a way to increase profits through systematic analysis, refinement, and execution across multiple locations.”

To do that, analyze your customer data. Measure your foot traffic to see which displays are drawing in visitors then figure out if they’re converting. If they are, says Marcm then drill down on what makes a display effective.

Once you’ve gathered your insights, share them with your staff in other stores and districts so they can implement your findings.

15. Add text if necessary

If it makes sense for the display, having some text on your window could help promote your products and store.

If you’re running a sale, for example, then incorporating some promotional messaging is a good idea.

You could also use text to call out the things that make your store unique. For example, Boston General Store has a decal on its window announcing that it was given the “Best of Boston” award by Boston Magazine.

16. Snap a photo of your window display

An excellent way to gauge the attractiveness of your display is to take a photo of it.

Step outside your store and snap a picture of your entire window to see what it looks like. The camera can capture aspects of the display that may seem off and it can shed light on components that you may need to reposition or adjust.

These things aren’t always obvious, especially if you’re too close to the display, so viewing your work through a photo helps you see it through a fresh perspective.

Bottom Line

Your window is basically a big free billboard that you have full control over. Be sure to do something really cool with it, and make it count.

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.