Increase footfall with these 9 retail window display ideas

A look at why window displays matter in retail, 9 tips to make better displays, and 6 great examples.

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Mark Allen
13 min read

First impressions matter, especially when it comes to your storefront.

Your retail window display is one of the most powerful - yet most neglected - parts of a retail business.

Sure, excellent customer service, a solid pricing structure and good quality products are essential.

But customers won’t experience any of that until they’ve visited your store.

So, how do you get a customer walking past to come into your store?

That’s where shop window displays earn their keep.

A strong shop window will attract more customers.

And a strong retail shop window display can help you in a wide variety of other ways, too, including increasing sales, improving footfall, and building brand loyalty.

But what can you do if you’re a retailer who wants to update your store window, but you’re at a loss on where (and how!) to begin?

You might also be a retailer who’s struggling with window display ideas and are looking for inspiration.

Or maybe you’re already sold on the range of benefits of shop window displays, and now you’re focussing on providing an unrivalled experience for customers?

If you’re nodding in agreement, then you’ll love today’s guide, where we go through all the best ideas for shop window displays.

We’ll explain what the fundamental principles are of a good shop window display.

We’ll also give you tips on how to design a shop window display.

And most importantly, we’ll advise you on how you can begin your retail window display journey.

After reading this guide, you’ll be armed with all the vital information, and you’ll see some examples of retailers who are excelling with their display windows.

So, let’s get straight to it so you can get cracking on turning that prime real-estate into sales!

What is a shop window display?

A shop window display is the intelligent use of your shop window to display your products and merchandise in a way that catches the attention of and attracts customers to visit your store.

It’s worth remembering that before you or a staff member have had a chance to interact with a potential customer, one of the first things they see will be your display window.

So your shop window design must create a great first impression.

Anthropologie Window Display
Anthropologie Window Display

What are the different types of window displays?

Every retail store is different in terms of size, location and budget.

And shop window dressing ideas come in different guises too.

But the one thing that ties every window display together is much more straightforward: the creative use of space to attract customers.

Generally, the most common types of shop window designs are:

  • Island window display: Located in-store but visible to people walking by who look through the front window.
Island window display idea
Island window display by Easycubes
  • Closed window display: A retail window display with a backboard where customers can’t see the rest of the store behind it.
Closed window display
Closed window display
  • Semi-closed window display: This is a window display with some backing board but doesn’t affect the full view of the store that sits behind it.
semi-closed window display idea
Seasalt semi-closed window display
  • Elevated window display: Always located above ground level, these can be open or closed, and usually, products are sitting on a shelf or plinth.
Elevated window display idea
Elevated window display by De Beers
  • Open-backed window display: This means that there is no backing board behind your window display, allowing customers to see the rest of your retail outlet behind the display.
Open-backed window display
Open-backed window display

Why should you have a good shop window display?

There is a wide range of benefits associated with having a good shop window display.

A creative shop window display has the power to turn a passerby into a customer based solely on what they see and how it makes them feel.

Retail window displays also serve another particular purpose; they act as a visual personification of your company’s personality and create an emotional connection with prospective customers.

Retailers investing time and money in a shop window display will enjoy:

  • Brand awareness: The more people see your brand, the more comfortable they’ll become with it.
  • First point of contact: Your window display is the first thing most customers will see. An eye-catching display will leave a good first impression, while a lousy, mundane one can give off negative vibes.
  • A significant part of your marketing campaign: A coordinated marketing campaign is vital to excelling in the retail industry. Your slick window display will compliment your marketing campaign.
  • Promote specific products: A shop window display can act as a ‘taster’ of your products and showcase why customers should come in-store.

9 tips and tricks to create an amazing shop window display

Creating an excellent shop window display that attracts customers, grabs attention, makes a customer take action and is on-brand doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming.

Here are nine tips for creating a shop window display that has the wow factor.

1. Understand your target audience before you create your shop window design.

Underpinning absolutely everything you do as a retailer, knowing and understanding your target audience is right up there in terms of importance.

Before you begin creating your window display, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What do my customers like and dislike?
  • What age are my customers?
  • Who do I want to attract with this shop window display?
  • What is essential to my target audience?

Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s time to create something magical.

Remember, you’ll want your window display to be adequately targeted to attract the right customers but not so narrow that you alienate other potential customers.

Let’s look at an example of how a company might tailor their messaging to their target audience.

A coffee shop close to a university campus has identified that students aged 18-24 are their primary target audience.

Knowing that students are notoriously strapped for cash, the coffee shop might make an eye-catching window display showcasing their great value meal deals.

Or take a fashion retailer as another example. They know their prime customers are women in their late teens and early twenties.

Summer is approaching, and that means it’s concert season for their customers.

Their window display is right on the pulse, showcasing some of their concert fashion.

2. Place key items of your store window displays at eye level and consider lighting.

Chances are, your retail store is located on a busy high street or shopping centre.

And while that means you benefit from passing footfall, it also, unfortunately, means you’re competing against every other store in the area for attention.

Gaining an advantage over all those competitors means thinking outside the box.

So, what does that look like in practice?

Firstly, you should create a focal point at eye level to attract customers.

Your focal point could be your product or products or an explosion of colour and vibrancy that can’t help but be noticed by those walking past your store.

Ask yourself, “What do I want people walking past my store to see first?”

If that’s a product, place it at eye level and let it be the focal point for your whole shop window display.

If you’ve more than one product, place them at eye level too.

If you’re unsure about the positioning of your products, go outside and walk past your store several times until you find the perfect place for your products.

After you’ve honed in on your vocal point, it’s worth considering lighting.

A well-lit, bright display can be the difference in someone buying or walking past.

Again, go outside, walk past your window display, and make sure you can clearly see your products.

3. When you’re creating a store window display, firstly consider your environment.

Environmental factors can play a significant role in whether your shop window displays are a success.

That’s because the location of your store and how people access it can have a significant bearing on the best shop window display for you.

Let’s take an example.

A sports shop is located on a busy high street with lots of footfall.

That shop window display might show various sporting equipment and even include some text, for example ‘25% off sale now on.

Contrast that with a sports shop in a busy retail park, which at times can be less accessible by foot.

People are more likely to be driving past that sports shop, and their attention span is milliseconds, so they won’t have time to read a text-heavy shop window display.

4. Use your shop window design to tell stories.

Marketing Expert Jay Baer hit the nail on the head when he reasoned, “Every business has a story to tell.”

So, what story are you going to tell?

Think about the world’s biggest companies and how they use storytelling to their advantage.

Most people remember Apple’s epic 1984 Apple’s Macintosh Commercial that captured the spirit of the moment.

And we all sang along to Elvis hit song ‘A little less conversation’ as we watched Nike’s iconic 2002 advert.

You see, storytelling is in our DNA.

And a shop window display that uses storytelling enjoys a considerable advantage over competitors.

Yes, showcasing your products is important, but weaving them into a story that captures a customer’s attention is when something special happens.

For example, if you’re a small fashion retailer and about to launch your Autumn collection, why not have an autumnal themed shop window display?

You could have lots of colourful leaves on the ground, trees in the background and some of your seasonal lines as the focal point.

5. Avoid clichés.

Cliches are the bane of our existence.

And the thing about cliches is that they’ve been done before. So many times before.

A big red heart-shaped display for Valentine’s Day? Check.

A green Christmas tree shop window display in December? Check.

A BBQ kit as the focal point at the start of Summer? Check.

Don’t fall into the trap of using old, cliched displays that not only won’t attract new customers but will show a lack of creativity.

So, what can you do instead?

Pick a theme.

Instead of pumpkins and witches, zero in on a theme within the season.

For Halloween, that might mean focussing on a story around a famous creepy character like Freddy Krueger, serial killer doll Chucky or even Michael Myers.

For Christmas, you could focus on the storytelling of enjoying Christmas dinner with family or the excitement of opening a present on Christmas morning.

6. Avoid clutter.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” says Apple founded Steve Jobs.

And for you, simplicity means avoiding clutter with your shop window display.

Yes, we know it’s tempting to add all of your products to your display.

But lots of products divide attention, and your display will be less appealing.

Indeed, it’s one of the most common mistakes a retailer makes.

Instead, focus on one or two items that offer someone walking by a glimpse at what you have to offer.

On this occasion, less really is more.

7. Be bold and creative with your shop window displays

With the advent of smartphones, our attention span has fallen dramatically in the modern era.

As a result, it’s more challenging to grab the attention of a prospective customer.

The best examples of shop window displays are those that stand out for all the right reasons.

They’re the ones that you can’t help but stop and appreciate.

Try and create a display that evokes emotion or nostalgia in people walking past.

Use a range of colours and shapes and use lighting to your advantage to create intrigue.

Make use of props to add to the story of your window display.

8. Be inspired by other company’s shop window dressing ideas.

In our hyper-connected world, you won’t find it hard to find inspiration.

With Instagram, Pinterest, and so many other platforms available, you’ll be able to have a look at what others are doing in the retail world.

As the old saying goes, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so you can put your creative slant to shop window displays that impress you.

Here are two of the best places to get inspiration for shop window displays:

  • Pinterest: A quick search for ‘window display ideas’ returns nearly one thousand ideas - enough to keep you going for a while! Remember to pin, follow and like the ones you’d like to replicate so that you can refer back to them at a later date.
  • Instagram: Instagram is a treasure trove of incredible examples of window displays that are creative, eye-catching and attention-grabbing. A quick search for the hashtag #windowdisplay returns nearly one million high-quality examples of shop window displays that will get your creative juices flowing.

9. Change your shop window displays regularly.

Unsurprisingly, a Halloween-themed shop window display won’t have the desired effect in July.

Nor will a Christmas-themed shop window display be a success over Easter.

As a result, it’s vital that you change your shop window displays regularly.

Your display should be relevant to the customer and, most importantly, appropriate to the time of year.

We recommend changing your displays monthly so that people walking past regularly are greeted with something new and interesting.

As a baseline, think about all the major public holidays and prioritise your planning around them first.

Here are seven major themes, but you could add more: January sales, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Black Friday, and Christmas.

10. Analytics + aesthetics = success.

Creating eye-catching shop window displays can be physically and creatively challenging.

Coming up with a successful display every month or two is tough when you’re under pressure, and your joints mightn’t thank you either.

But you can lighten the load by analysing what works, why it works and what you can do to improve.

If you have a POS system like AirPOS, thankfully, the job will be much easier.

That’s because, with AirPOS, you’ll enjoy easy-to-digest, actionable business reporting.

Our business reporting dashboard allows you to spot patterns and put those insights to good use.

For example, if you’re a fashion retailer and an AirPOS user, you might spot that a pair of black boots always seem to be bought alongside a denim skirt.

That’s where the real magic happens.

Now that you know what items work well together, you’ve got the foundation for your window display, an outfit that’s already popular with customers.

6 examples of impressive retail shop window displays

As we’ve discussed in today’s guide, a great shop window display has a few key ingredients: eye-catching, funny, seasonal and evoke emotions.

Here are five incredible examples of retailers who have created impressive shop window displays that are as Instagrammable as they are customer-attracting.

You can use these retail display ideas but with your own creative slant.

1. Hermès.

French fashion boutique Hermès has a reputation for creating colourful, attention-grabbing shop window displays that compel anyone walking by to look at them.

Hermes window display
Hermes window display

Here’s one of their closed-back shop display windows in India.

2. Dolce & Gabbana

Luxury Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana like their clothes to stand out.

Dolce & Gabbana window display
Dolce & Gabbana

And judging from the above example - one of their window displays in fashion capital Milan - they’re adept at making their displays grab attention too.

3. Selfridges shop window display.

Selfridges went for the relatability factor with this tongue-in-cheek display.

Selfridges window display
Selfridges window display

Featuring sunshine and... errr... clouds and lightning, the display gave an accurate depiction of how unpredictable British weather can be.

4. Tiffany & Co.

Luxury jewellery retailer Tiffany & Co created a Christmas-themed window display that hit all the right notes.

Tiffany & co. window display
Tiffany & co. window display

Notice how the focus is right in the middle, with Christmas themed cookies donning their jewellery, it’s a sure way to catch peoples attention.

5. Cole Hardware.

You don’t have to be a fashion giant or a multinational retailer to have a great shop window display.

Cole Hardware window display
Cole Hardware window display

This slick window display by hardware store Cole Hardware was a creative way of capturing the Halloween theme by showing off their products as broomsticks.

6. Boschen Lingerie

Boschen lingerie updates its store window each season, they use lighting to catch your eye. They launched this vibrant display coming into spring to represent fun and sunshine.

Boschen Lingerie window display

Conclusion

The benefits of a successful shop window display are unequivocal; increased footfall, a profit increase, brand loyalty, brand awareness and attracting new customers.

Think about your shop window as the best billboard available; when you get it right, you’ll attract customers and create brand awareness that money can’t buy.

The beauty about your shop window display is that you have complete creative control over it.

You can let your imagination run wild and try different things.

And the beauty of it all is that when it’s done right, you’ll notice an increase in footfall and sales.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try outlandish things; you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve with just a little imagination, planning and action.

Ask colleagues and customers what they think, and carefully note down any common themes which will help you improve or slightly adjust your display.

In contrast, if you’re lacking, ahem, a little creativity, you’ll soon figure out you need to adjust your window display.

The reason you spot a window display when walking down a high street or through your local shopping centre is simply that it’s a tried and tested method.

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