6 Ways to Use Visual Merchandising to Drive Social Shares

Instagram has proven to be a boon for many businesses. According to the Instagram, more than 200 million users visit at least one Business Profile daily and a third of the most-viewed stories on the platform are from a business. Those numbers tell us that Instagrammers have an appetite for content posted by businesses, so it’s important that you cultivate an account and keep your content fresh and engaging.

A good way to do this is to use visual merchandising to not only create content but also encourage store visitors to take photos that they can post online. With modern shoppers eager to share interesting visuals and experiences with their friends and followers, it makes a lot of sense to make your store “grammable.”

To help you create Instagram-worthy retail displays, we’ve put together a handful of examples and tips you can implement in your business. Keep these pointers in mind for your next visual merchandising project!

1. Play around with depth and height

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Merchandising displays that lack depth and height tend to make products appear boring and interchangeable, and they won’t encourage people to explore the display. Not to mention, flat visuals tend to fall… well, flat, particularly in photographs, so you’re not doing your Instagram account any favors by creating one-dimensional displays.

What should you do instead? Inject life into your merchandising by playing around with the depth and height of your products and other visual elements. Consumer anthropologists Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender recommend using props and risers to highlight products and keep your displays interesting.

Another helpful tip? Have your phone handy to take photos of your display.

“Carry your cell phone to snap occasional photos of your displays,” adds Bender. “The camera sees things your eyes will miss. You’ll be able to easily spot holes, see where you need to add height or color — and check for Instagrammability!”

Here’s a great example from Valentino:

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 @visualwindows27 on Instagram

The mannequins are positioned at different angles and the bases that support the purses are of different heights. You’ll also see a handful of merchandise behind the mannequins, and this not only adds depth, but it also encourages people to look beyond the foreground.

2. Display your products in unconventional ways

An effective way to get people to take another look at your merchandise (and hopefully snap photos while they’re at it) is to display items unconventionally.

Everyone expects to see clothes hanging from a rack or a pair of shoes neatly placed on a shelf, so shoppers won’t be eager to share photos of them online. Don’t get us wrong;  these merchandising methods are still effective in showcasing your products, but they probably won’t win a lot of likes on Instagram.

If you have the space and resources, consider mixing up your merchandising through displays that show off your products in new and unexpected ways.

Here’s an example: A while back, the Converse store in New York decided to use several pairs of their shoes to form an image of a skull. The display was attention-grabbing, to say the least, and it generated several social media shares.


Chappie Panda on Pinterest

3. Inject humor

Accounts that post memes are some of the fastest-growing ones on Instagram, and for good reason: memes are funny, easily digestible, and highly shareable. These types of content spread like wildfire on social media and some can even endure for years.

Now, this isn’t to say that you should just start posting memes on your account. But you could take their most powerful ingredient — humor — and use it to your advantage. Get creative and try to make people laugh through your merchandising. You’re bound to get a bunch of chuckles in-store, and you’ll increase the likelihood of people sharing your display on social media.

J. Crew really got this right a few years ago, when they created a display featuring a snowman texting a friend. In the SMS exchange, the snowman accidentally told his friend that he would be “melting” his family. He originally meant he would be “meeting” them, but his phone’s autocorrect kicked in.

The display got hundreds of shares and even inspired other retailers to copy the effort.

4. Make it a work of art

For obvious reasons, beautiful, artsy photos are always a hit among Instagrammers. That’s why if you can incorporate works of art into your displays, then, by all means, do so. Here’s an example from Anthropologie, which used a colorful painting as the background for their checkout counter:


@kizerandbender on Instagram

5. Don’t be afraid to go out of this world

When implemented correctly, bold, out-of-this-world displays can bring your followers’ Instagram feeds to life.

Use your imagination to think big and explore new perspectives when designing your displays. You want to create something that people don’t see every day. And don’t forget to have fun with your visual merchandising. Your positive vibes will shine through and drive more views, shares, and likes.


@lionesquegroup on Instagram

6. Don’t forget about seasonality

People will be more likely to share your display on social media if it’s relevant to a particular season or holiday.

Have a think about upcoming events or special occasions (e.g., Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.), and then design a stunning display to match the holiday.

For best results, use the tips we already mentioned in this article to make a bigger impact. Check out this display from Pet Pros, an independent retailer based in Redmond, Washington.


 @kizerandbender on Instagram

For Halloween 2018, Pet Pros added DIY tombstones to accompany their healthy pet food products on display. The tombstones had quips like “R.I.P. Poor Nutrition” and “Here Lies Meat,” effectively using both humor and seasonality to create a winning display.

More ways to improve your visual merchandising standards and boost sales:

Final words: Keep your customers at the heart of your displays

“My advice for retailers who want to create Instagram-worthy merchandising is to always keep the customer in mind,” says Melissa Gonzalez, founder of The Lionesque Group. “It’s great to be inspired by what’s happening in the industry but at the end of the day, your target customer should be at the core of your decision making — and your visual design should inspire and build mindshare.”

Keep this advice in mind whenever you’re creating your merchandising displays. Have a think about what your customers would want to see and share, and bring that concept to life in your store.


Refer to the Merchandising category for checklists, how-tos and best practices for merchandising.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

One thought on “6 Ways to Use Visual Merchandising to Drive Social Shares

  1. Really interesting read! Completely agree with what you’ve written. Another useful factor to consider is color combinations. There’s a lot of research on color psychology, as different colors can evoke different emotions.

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