2024 In-Store Marketing and Retail Design Trends

7 in-store marketing and retail design trends to watch, plus our exclusive behind-the-curtain insights on bringing them to life—at scale and on budget

2024 Trends for In-store Marketing and Retail Design

Does it seem like grabbing and keeping customer attention becomes more important—and more difficult—every year?

Smart brands know: Your in-store marketing and store design can be the magic ingredient that turns browsers into buyers and buyers into loyal brand advocates. And lately, visuals are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible to incorporate attention-grabbing features that make a lasting impression.

But how can you take a “wow” trend and scale it to hundreds—even thousands—of stores?

At Imagine, we’re possibility engineers. We lead the trends and bring them to incredible, jaw-dropping life… while also scaling these incredible ideas across thousands of locations in ways that make sense for the brand, the budget, and the location.

So we tapped the creative minds at Imagine Studio to give you the big picture on the key trends for in-store marketing and retail design in 2024 and why they matter. We then turned to our production pros to share real-world knowledge on how you can harness the impact of these trends at scale, no matter your budget or space.

A store is not just a store anymore. Gone are the days when a store was just a place to put product on shelves and hope it sells. Now, retailers need to consider store design, marketing, understanding the customer, and how they transition from online to in-store before making a purchase.

The battle between brands for customer attention is intensifying, so being intentional and purposeful is key.

Robert Grimmett
SVP, Executive Creative Director at Imagine

Retail design trend 1: Texture and Patterns to add visual interest and depth

Trend 1: Textures & Patterns

Strike just the right chord with your audience by tapping something as simple as textures or patterns.

Tried and true, they can add visual interest and depth to a space, drawing the eye where you want it to go and pulling shoppers to your display instead of your competition.

Choose materials and patterns that support the feel you want your brand to evoke.

  • Is it sleek and futuristic? Smooth surfaces like marble and steel create that feel.
  • Want to create a rugged aesthetic? Opt for rough, weathered wood.
  • Trying to get shoppers to cancel their plans and get cozy in your store for the evening? Faux fur, luxe velvet and thick knits are your best friend.

Patterns are also important ingredients in achieving the right ambiance. The key is to be conscious about exactly what mood you want to evoke, and then to select patterns that bring that mood to mind.

Floral prints can suggest sweetness, freshness, and a commitment to the environment. Conservative prints like a simple stripe or small dotted pattern set a classic mood while still providing visual interest. A rich, dark paisley or tartan can evoke old-world splendor and luxury.

And if you want “wild,” “bold,” and “daring” to be the impression you make, you can’t go wrong with animal prints.

Mixing patterns? Why not?!

When in doubt, a good approach is to make sure both patterns share a color, and to mix larger patterns with smaller ones.

The good news? All these textural aesthetics can be achieved through printed materials—which can be a huge budget saver.

You may not be able to afford real barnboard in every store, but you could probably afford a light material printed with the appearance of barnboard… or marble… or tree trunks. (You get the idea!)

When incorporating textures and patterns into your shopper marketing, strategy is the name of the game. Too many textured pieces in a small space can overwhelm.

So if you want to play with this look, consider a simple or even monochromatic color palette. And a large pattern could look great on a huge wall but will completely overwhelm a small poster.

Select items that make sense for your space and, when in doubt, opt for less over more.

How to approach this trend

Remember your environment. If your signage is going to hang 10 feet up in the air, you’ll need to give the appearance of texture without the benefit of customers touching it.

Consider your scale: Ornate, involved displays that take lots of manpower to install could work at three or four locations, but not 3,000. A good in-store display partner can help you design elements that are easier to scale across many locations.

Are you making one of these or are you making 100,000? Because if you're making 100,000 of them, how we may make one all of a sudden becomes totally impractical—from a cost standpoint, assembling things, and so on. But we have ways to make it work, regardless of the scale. We just need to get creative.

Mark Popp
VP, Technology, Research, and Development at Imagine

Think about shipping: A design element might look cool… but could be expensive and difficult to ship. For example, if you wanted a 3D installation using a series of tubes, it would be much more economical to install the original in a flagship store and then have high-quality printed images of the installation made, using printing techniques that emphasize the visual depth of the design. The printed displays would still provide the textural look, while being less expensive to ship and much easier for store associates to install.

Factor in labor. Speaking of installation, assembling a display can be expensive—sometimes costing as much as the design and materials. Choosing elements that can be partially or completely assembled before being shipped to your stores can help drive down those costs.

Store Design trend 2: Layers create a 3D look

Trend 2: Layers

Want to create visual interest that makes your display stand out? Experiment with layering.

Most displays tend to be two-dimensional, so consider interrupting a sea of sameness and creating a more 3D look. Layering elements on top of each other is a great way to break up the monotony and grab attention.

You can also think of every element in a display as a layer.

If you’re designing a furniture display, for example, you wouldn’t stick a sofa against a stark white wall and call it a day. Adding a rug, a throw pillow, a blanket, and a side table to the space automatically adds visual interest, making the display more eye-catching.

Each of those elements acts as a layer, playing an important role in the overall feel of the space.

Instead of a one-dimensional display or poster, try adding a layer or two—or more! This works great for window displays. The depth and richness of layering can add real drama or interest.

Achieve this look with window clings, hanging signs, free-standing objects, and so on. The impact can be incredible!

How to approach this trend

Create depth. Vary the shapes and sizes of your layers to create depth in your display. Eyes are drawn to differences.

Opt for lightweight items. Adding items on top of each other creates weight, which can make shipping and installation charges add up. Stacks made of foam or paper are much less costly than layers of wood or stone.

Layering is really effective and easy to do—we do it all the time. The pieces can be interlocking, or they can be held together with adhesives.

At Imagine, we can create pretty much any configuration you can dream of. We have very large equipment, so it isn't difficult to create layering of materials of different sizes and shapes.

Mark Popp
VP, Technology, Research, and Development

Consider Illusions. Not only are printed illusions a cheaper alternative to layering heavy objects, they’re also a better option for displays you don’t want shoppers to touch. And because printed fabric or cardboard is so lightweight, you’ll save on shipping and installation without sacrificing the wow factor.

Coordinate your kitting: Order smaller print marketing pieces that complement the larger décor/display pieces you already have—when everything is assembled on-site, it works together to create a layered look, without having to pay for shipping and installation for the entire display.

Retail Design Trend 3: Organic Shapes create a softer visual for in-store displays

Trend 3: Organic Shapes

Rectangles and squares are great, but this trend is all about creating a softer, more organic shape in your displays.

Instead of sharp lines and angles, think curves, swoops, waves, circular elements, and other shapes you might find by looking in nature. Organic shapes can also be an unexpected way to stand out in a store, while also tapping into your buyer’s emotions.

After all, your imagination is organic too, so feel free to let it run completely wild and make up showstopping shapes that transport shoppers into another world.

Your displays can strengthen—or sink—your brand

Well-designed displays can do more than influence emotions. They can also communicate your brand values to like-minded shoppers.

Your expertise in retail extends beyond mere product presentation. Thoughtfully crafted displays not only impact emotions but also serve as a powerful means to convey your brand's essence to discerning shoppers.

Achieving a seamless alignment of values across your brand is crucial for fostering understanding, belief, and active engagement in the brand narrative.

Robert Grimmett
SVP, Executive Creative Director

How to approach this trend

To create organic shapes at scale, you need to think about lightweight, cost-effective materials that can either be bent into unique shapes or printed on to give the illusion of those shapes.

That route will cut down on assembly and shipping costs and be less expensive to print.

For example, your key locations could have a gorgeously crafted three-dimensional tree. Your other 3,000 locations could have a gorgeously printed and impeccably cut-to-outline image of the tree that shimmers in the store lights… and mounts to the wall in minutes.

Same mood, same branding, but scaled in a way that makes sense.

Here are some other ways to approach this trend at scale and on budget:

Think thin: We can print materials up to two inches thick and assemble items thicker than that. But generally, the thickness of a material drives up the price for printing.

The sweet spot is around three or four millimeters, which is about average for prints—and much less costly.

Consider corrugated/plastic materials: They’re lightweight, but strong and safe in almost any weather. They can also be bent into many types of shapes and are sturdy enough to hold other parts of your display or even your products.

And because of their strength, they can reduce the need for expensive hardware.

Cut down on labor: You can assemble any shape you can think of, but it takes a lot of manpower to do it at scale. So work with your partner to choose shapes that can be printed into one piece or very easily popped together with just a couple of pieces.

Get a luxe look for less: At scale, extra costs can add up quickly until your project no longer fits your budget. The right partner can help you choose materials that will work for your use case and look expensive without breaking the bank.

Most brands these days are looking for ways to lower their costs, not raise them. So one of the challenges that we have is how can we take flat things, cut them, poke them, bend them, give them illusions, and fill the space?

It is possible to do it for certain things with certain materials. You just need the know-how.

Mark Popp
VP, Technology, Research, and Development

Retail design trend 4: Larger Than Life visuals drive buzz and big impact

Trend 4: Larger-Than-Life

Bigger can be better.

Using giant elements can give you more bang for your shopper marketing buck, as shoppers can see your display well before they approach it.

And if you’re striving for word-of-mouth buzz, the photos that will surely be snapped in front of your enormous display are worth a thousand words, and the resulting social media shares are free advertising for your brand.

Believe it or not, it is possible to get these wow, larger-than-life activations at scale and in a shippable way. It just takes planning.

In a retail setting, capturing attention requires genuine effort. I anticipate that sophisticated designs will not fade away; instead, they will continue to evolve, becoming even more remarkable.

How will the look and feel of a store change in the next year or two?

Robert Grimmett
SVP, Executive Creative Director

Here's an example of how we put it into practice.

If you were on social media in the summer of 2023, you saw moviegoers taking photos inside the life-sized Barbie boxes we provided to movie theaters around the world to promote the blockbuster Barbie movie. To get 700 boxes in 19 languages to the theaters ready to be displayed, we had to ensure they were easy to ship and assemble.

See the results for yourself →

Here are some tips to consider when creating larger-than-life visual marketing projects that need to scale across multiple locations:

First, does it fit the equipment? There's a pure physical size aspect to these larger-than-life pieces—does your print partner have large format equipment? For example, if it's a roll product, we have presses that are 10 feet wide at Imagine. If you want to print the size of a skyscraper, we can do it in pieces.

Then, we have to look at shipping. If the material’s flexible, can it be rolled? If the display’s made of rigid material, how can you break it down so you can get it onto the available truck space?

Additionally, how can it be made so pieces can be assembled? Can they be assembled by somebody who's not that knowledgeable so it doesn't look like it's a bunch of pieces put together? How do you hook things together, mesh them, fold them? Can you make a frame and give it the appearance of a big solid piece but it's a thin material stretched in between it?

How to approach this trend

Choose a few strategic locations. If you want to plaster your product image on the side of a skyscraper, you’re going to need a lot of printing to make that happen. So it’s not practical to do that in 5,000 cities. But it is feasible for five cities. Choose locations that will give you the biggest impact and reach the most people, and let that buzz generate excitement and recognition around your more economical displays.

Consider the environment. If your larger-than-life piece is going to be outside, you’ll need to consider wind, rain, and other elements that could destroy it.

Choose an expert. Creating show-stopping pieces your shoppers haven’t seen before comes with one key challenge: If no one has ever done it before, your print partner will need to figure out how to create it at scale so it’s easily shippable and practical to install. Experts like Imagine have experience creating all kinds of giant displays, so we can figure out how to make your dreams a reality on a tight schedule.

If you want to put a billboard on the Sunset Strip with a car flying through it, call us. We've got it. That's what we're really good at—creating one-of-a-kind and larger-than-life things involving all kinds of construction techniques.

It's welding, it's woodworking, it's thermal forming, it's heat bending plastics. But we are equally as good at creating experiences that can scale. You don’t have to compromise.

Mark Popp
VP, Technology, Research, and Development

Retail design trend 5: Color and light create a more appealing environment

Trend 5: Color & Light

Want to break up a boring aisle with a burst of brightness?

Incorporating color and light into your displays in smart ways can make your offerings look much more appealing and can even have major a impact on the mood—and welcoming feel—of your store.

If you want buyers to associate your brand with a positive emotion, color and light are the place to start.

The utilization of color involves a myriad of subconscious processes, prompting extensive research into the emotional impact and our responses to different hues. This is particularly significant in fields such as shopping, where experts leverage the creative aspects of color to influence consumer behavior.

Robert Grimmett
SVP, Executive Creative Director

How to approach this trend

Color and light are where your visual design partner can really pull out their bag of magic tricks. We can combine a variety of substrates, inks, coatings, and techniques to get jaw-dropping light and color effects in an otherwise simple display.

Here are some fun ways color and light can get people talking about your displays.

Fluorescent inks. If your display is going to be in a dark room, fluorescent inks and blacklight can make it glow in the dark.

Optical brighteners. These can give your print a boost of shine, but will fade quickly when exposed to UVA light. Don’t expect to use them outdoors, and plan to replace them after about a month.

Frosted looks. With the right coatings, you can add the illusion of newly fallen snow over a landscape print or a faux window.

Edge glow. Turn heads with even the simplest signage by printing it on this specialty PVC. It glows where you cut it to give a glow-in-the-dark appearance, even when the lights are on.

Illusion of movement. Lenticular printing can give the illusion of depth or movement as shoppers walk past your display. For a less expensive option, certain small patterns, like checkerboard prints, will appear to animate and morph, especially when printed on either side of a thin sheet of plastic or fabric.

Retail design trend 6: Fabric elevates a space while being cost-effective and durable

Trend 6: Fabric

Oh, fabric. It can easily be the star of the show. The way fabric can drape and move and capture the light is like nothing else.

Soft signage can show off your brand colors in all their vivid glory.

And it can immediately elevate a space and make it feel more luxurious, while enabling special effects you never thought possible.

When you're looking to create an unforgettable in-store experience, the easy choice is soft signage—awe-inspiring, cost-effective, durable, and easy to implement.

Fabric displays and other types of soft signage are high on the wish list of brand or store experience leaders who want to elevate their large-format environmental or lifestyle imagery.

I see an increased focus on elevating retail experiences through premium materials and a willingness to break away from the usual display tactics, embracing novel approaches and stepping into the realm of the provocative, uncomfortable, and disruptive.

Robert Grimmett
SVP, Executive Creative Director

How to approach this trend

Look at the long term. Soft signage frames can be an up-front investment, but a good one lasts for ages. Additionally, the fabric graphics are easy to swap out, inexpensive to ship, and durable enough to be reused many, many times, ultimately resulting in cost-effectiveness.

Print “couture” features into fabric. Hand-beaded silk for each store’s displays or décor would be prohibitively expensive for most companies. But what about printing an image of hand beading onto shimmering fabric soft signage? It evokes the same luxurious feel, but at a fraction of the expense and maintenance.

Experiment with light and color. When backlit, most fabric gives off a gorgeous glow made to get attention. And dye-sublimated fabric graphics can pull off incredibly vivid, saturated, bright colors that create a strong impression.

Trust the experts. There are countless options for fabrics out there, all with different features and capabilities… and an expert visual marketing partner will know what to look for. Give them as many details as possible: How and where will the display be installed? Is it going in a frame? Is it hanging in a window space? Will it be backlit? Sunlit? Exposed to weather or dirt? Tell us what you can about your project, and we’ll find the right fabric that’ll look and perform the way you need.

Go big. Fabric is a great option for large prints. It’s inexpensive to roll and ship and can be printed in sections as big as 30 feet and pieced together at its final location.

Kiss wrinkles goodbye. It’s easy to make sure your fabric displays never wrinkle. The secret? Print them a hair shorter than the frame requirements. During installation, they’ll be pulled taut, leaving no extra fabric to wrinkle or snag.

Retail design trend 7: Flexible and structural elements can be reconfigured and reused

Trend 7: Flexible & Structural

You need shelving, right? Seating? Changing rooms? Walls? Product displays?

Let’s make them work double or even triple duty.

Flexible can mean your displays can literally be manipulated and moved. But it can also mean they can serve several purposes, be used in different areas of the store, or include elements that can be reconfigured to create different looks.

This trend is about taking the structural elements your locations need anyway and making them multi-functional… and much more fashionable, incorporating them into your design vision for a more immersive brand experience.

In a flagship store or at an event, you can use structural elements to create high-impact space-within-a-space areas. Just consider the longevity you’re looking for. Any structural assets made to be temporary will have lightweight elements that only last a few months.

On the other hand, pieces meant to last longer are usually heavier and cost more up front.

Consider combining these structures with interchangeable graphics, so you can change not only their location, but their look, season after season.

Feel free to be creative. Get rid of the box. There are a lot of ways to get to an end result you like as long as you're open-minded about how things get done.

One of the advantages of coming to Imagine is we can shorten that curve and get to the end game quicker than most because this isn't our first rodeo. We make a wide range of things that change every day, at scale.

Mark Popp
VP, Technology, Research, and Development

How to approach this trend

Can you embrace this trend at scale and on a budget without it looking like it’s on a budget? Absolutely. Here are some things to keep in mind while using this trend at scale:

It’s curtains for you. Fabric panels are versatile enough to act as room dividers, way finders, signage, and more. They can be made out of almost any material in any color of the rainbow, and you can print anything on them. They can also be backlit or cut into any shape without running up a hefty bill. And they’re easy to disassemble and move to another location if needed.

Mix and match. Fabric can also be mixed with other materials for maximum impact. You can add foam shapes, Falconboard, and other materials to create a jaw-dropping mixed-media display that stops shoppers long enough to consider a purchase. Using lightweight materials means you can move the elements around easily.

The heat is on. Heat bending plastics or PVC can create strong, structural elements like columns, displays, seating, and other shapes that are strong but lightweight and easy to move. They cost a little more up front than cardboard, but will look great for a long time, making them easy to keep reusing.

Make visual marketing design trends work for you–at scale, and on budget!

Brick-and-mortar retail isn't going anywhere—in fact, we see an incredibly bright future for in-store shopping, dining, entertainment, and so much more.

People are social creatures by nature—retail, dining, hospitality, and entertainment venues are natural gathering spots for people who crave community.

It will be truly fascinating to witness the transformation of stores over the next five years.

That's why retail is here to stay—there's always that sense of anticipation, eager to discover what's on the horizon and witness the exciting evolution of brands.

Robert Grimmett
SVP, Executive Creative Director

But remember, with more options than ever before for shoppers, the key to success is making sure your brand stands out.

How do you do that? Through innovative in-store designs that are cohesively communicated across all your locations.

The good news? With the right partner by your side, it’s easy to scale even the most imaginative designs in a way that will look great at every store, even when installed by a brand-new trainee.

Just look for a partner with the experience you need to make your wildest dreams a breathtaking reality. They should keep up with the latest trends and have the track record and technology to make the most of them.

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