Beyond the unknown: The power of a well-designed shopping window.

COLUMN /
Lieven engelen

In a world where it’s all about bricks and clicks you should not underestimate the power of a well-designed shop window and the role it plays in luring in potentially new customers or attracting existing ones. It is no coincidence that major brands - especially fashion brands - invest heavily in shop windows at some of their top locations. And artists like Tokujin Yoshioka - through the work he has done for Issey Miyake - have become star designers in their own right. Equally, Galeries Lafayette in Paris invited film director, painter, musician, actor, photographer and larger-than-life David Lynch to design 11 of their shop windows. Describing these windows in typical Lynch-speak as ‘a transparent door on the unknown’. 

As a mix of art, fashion, design and marketing, a well-designed window should draw you in like the cover of a good book. Ideally, it should tell you a story but, most importantly, be visually compelling to the point that it stops you in your tracks and blows you away. It should give you a window into the soul of a brand and offer a glimpse, a snapshot, a bite of what is to come. And at that very moment, define your next actions. 

According to research by the NPD Group (2018) window displays influence purchases an average of 24% of the time, which is not insignificant for a market that is under tremendous pressure. So it is crucial to get it right straight away and stand out from the crowd. This is especially so for brick and mortar retailers where there is just a relatively small amount of time to attract - and hold - the viewer’s eye since window displays have become the billboards of our time in an overly crowded and visually diluted market. 

Besides stopping someone in their tracks - which is finally the ultimate goal of any window designer worth their salt - shop windows also give the brand an opportunity to enhance its image and let the world know what it’s about. It allows the brand to reaffirm its place and its raison d’être. Its Ikigai. Well-designed, inspiring windows not only lead to an increase in foot traffic; they also allow retailers to display new products, highlight promotions and, even more importantly, they allow the brand to connect personally with real shoppers in a real world. Giving the retailer or brand a unique insight into their respective customers, their needs and their aspirations. 

In a digital retail world where the biggest online differentiator is increasingly price, retail spaces are more relevant then ever. Making the shop window an honest indicator of where you are as a brand in relation to your customers. And the first stop in driving traffic into your store, by connecting and interacting, and making the unknown known. 

So next time you pass a shop window that leaves you in awe, remember there was a whole team of talented people behind it who got you there in the first place.