At first glance, maybe not much.
They're both designed to sell products.
Visual Merchandising is generally applied in a retail setting- either brick and mortar or on ecommerce sites.
UGC is short form video or photos designed to post on social to help sell a specific product or brand.
But, as someone who has a degree in Visual Merchandising who has owned a brick & mortar boutique AND also creates a lot of UGC content, there is quite a bit of overlap.
Let me explain.
You see, the backbone of Visual Merchandising is actually Consumer Behavior.
You have to understand WHY people buy, HOW they behave in a retail setting, WHAT draws them in and build your windows, displays, floor sets around that while keeping true to your brand.
Its really about understanding people- their wants, needs, desires- even the ones that they can't quite articulate themselves, but when they see it, they feel it.
Its visual (obviously). Its meant to engage your senses- the more the better.
All of this applied to retail, so if feels more like an experience and less like shopping.
Same for UGC.
You have to understand your customer and what makes them tick, only this time you are trying to stop the scroll vs trying to get them to stop into a shop.
And again, we try to engage ALL the senses and that's why we use sound, text, descriptive copy (especially for scented products like candles or skincare).
We are trying to connect with them on an emotional level so it feels like its more than just a photo of a product (and why so many brands are gravitating towards incorporating at least some UGC into their marketing) on a boring white background.
As a UGC creator, I am always pulling from my background in Visual Merchandising and retail.
And while I never envisioned that I would be using my degree or decade of boutique ownership in this capacity, I absolutely love it and find that is has been so helpful in creating content that is playful, educational, fun, authentic and still on brand.