Any good merchandiser knows that his/her job is not done in isolation and goes far beyond creating effective displays or store organization. In fact, one of the most exciting things about visual work, for me, is the psychology of customers and how to weave that into whatever merchandising project I am working on.

When I first began my work at REI, many of my co-workers would talk about how I made things ‘pretty.’ And, of course, since good visual work involves clean and creative displays, walls, and fixtures, etc. the end result is appealing. Harder to explain can be the fact that merchandising also provides customer service, albeit in an indirect and harder to measure way.

Make believe you are a customer: What do you need to have a pleasant shopping experience wherever you shop? Would it involve no signage, chaotic store layout, inaccurate or nonexistent pricing and security tagging that makes it impossible to explore the product you want to buy or fixtures so overstuffed with merchandise that you can’t find what you are looking for?

All visual merchandising must take into consideration how a customer shops to be effective. This is where the ‘should’s’ have to be left at the door, i.e. “Well they should look at the sign,” or “they should plow through that overstuffed fixture if they really want deals.” If your customer doesn’t see what you want them to see, it’s time to try something else.

I like Max Israel’s Customerville blog for additional perspectives on measuring customer satisfaction. It’s not a merchandising site, but it offers insights that are valuable for anyone in retail, including visual merchandisers. Check it out at