By Jasmine Glasheen
Your retail signage is one of the first and the last things customers see when they visit your store. Signage directs the flow of customer traffic within your brick-and-mortar shop and, if done incorrectly, it can lead to a lot of confusion on your sales floor. For your business to effectively draw customers in and direct them through your store in a manner that’s efficient and lucrative, you first need to become proficient in the fine art of retail signage.
Let’s take a look at the different types of retail signage and discuss how you can design and set up signs that grab customers’ attention.
Tip #1: We like big fonts and we cannot lie
Customers need to be able to read your retail signage for it to be effective. In fact, a recent study by Signs.com found that smaller signs received a 75% decrease in response compared to their larger counterparts.
When determining your ideal font size, put yourself in your customers’ shoes: Will they be driving by your sign in their cars, walking past them, or encountering them on product labels? Senior citizens or people with eyesight issues call for larger fonts, as well. Keeping this in mind will help you to determine how big your font needs to be to reach all of your customers.
Another thing to consider when choosing fonts is the clarity of the text itself. Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to reach prospective customers with Wingdings, but certain cursive and italic fonts are also super risky. It all depends on the visibility of the font from customers’ eye level. So, keep use fonts on your signage that are clear and on-brand for maximum impact.
Check out this example from Ponder Posy, a flower shop in Australia, which uses a large, easy-to-read font for its store. Ponder Posy’s signage makes the store easy to spot, and the fact that it says “FLORIST” in big, bold letters means people know exactly what the shop is all about.
Tip #2: Use the right sign for the right function
All retail signage is not created equally. Understanding the purpose of your retail signage is pivotal towards your ability to make the right investment. It’s one of the big the “whys” of the visual merchandising trade. Let’s take a look at four types of retail signage and what you need to know about them.
Your outdoor signage is the first impression that customers get of your store. Because of this, it needs to be bright and compelling enough to capture their attention. This is often done through humor, but it’s also important to show your brand logo and at least a teaser of the type of inventory you have in-store.
The bottom line is that customers need to be enticed to come in when they read the copy on your outdoor signage––just putting out a funny saying without any type of inventory tie-in won’t cut it if your store is in an area where passerby aren’t already familiar with your offerings. Outdoor signage should be changed often if not daily to drive business from repeat passerby.
Here’s an excellent example of outdoor signage done right, care of Covet, a jewelry retailer in San Francisco. The sign makes great use of color, humor, and wit to entice people to walk in and shop for accessories.
Directional signage is a type of indoor signage. These are the signs that help customers navigate through your store. Most of these signs will hang from the ceiling and be readily visible when customers walk through the front section, to help time-pressed consumers locate the items that they came in for.
You don’t want to get too witty with directional signage––it’s there to save your customers time. However, you should consider offering signage that is ADA compliant to help differently-abled customers navigate your store effectively.
There are two ways to go about making your in-store signage ADA complaint:
1) You navigate ADA compliance standards yourself by consulting the official ADA Standards for Accessible Design, or
2) You can hook up with an ADA compliant signage provider that can help get your store’s ADA signage game up to snuff. Directional signage only seeds to be changed when signs begin to show wear, or when your store is remodeled.
Note that directional signage can also come in the form of floor decals. The grocery chain Sprouts, for example, made good use of floor signage to direct the flow of traffic (on one-way aisles) and encourage social distancing.
Here’s a fun one. Promotional signage uses language that will lure in your key customer demographic(s).
Now, if you’re not aware of what wording to use to attract prospective customers, do background research on the lingo their favorite brands use on social media. Is their tone humorous? Rebellious? Practical? What words do they use? Now your challenge is to take this insight and make it applicable to your brand voice and inventory.
Give customers enough information about your products to make them want it, but, as always, beware of cluttered wording when you’re communicating what’s special about your brand. Promotional signage should be changed regularly to communicate sales.
For some retailers, big “in your face signs” work well. Here’s an example from the retailer kikki.K:
But this approach isn’t for everyone. Some retailers, such as STRUTT FASHION prefer a more understated approach.
Digital signage can be used to personalize your customer’s shopping experience. Most retailers (94%) have already used digital signage to improve the customer experience. The benefit with digital signage is that it gives you the versatility to customize your message depending on the weather, time of day, what you’re selling, and even who walks into your store.
As you know, customization is key to driving sales with modern customers, but there’s a fine line between customization and creepiness. And syncing customers’ browsing history to your digital signage without their express consent? Not a good idea. A study held at the Digital Signage Expo in Vegas last year found that creating too personalized of an experience can alienate customers, so make sure you get their buy-in when creating a customized ad experience with digital signage.
Digital signage can be updated easily on the sign itself or in-app, so you should change it regularly to meet your diverse customers’ needs.
Tip #3: Know where to position signs in and outside of your store
There are certain standards in the signage industry that dictate where customers will look to find your signage. Directional signage, for instance, will hang down from your ceiling or be higher than eye level in the aisle, so customers can see it when they’re passing through. While promotional signage will be positioned at eye-level in your window display, or at ground level on the street to attract meandering passerby.
Keep in mind that “eye-level” is different for different people: kids, customers in wheelchairs, and people in cars have different sign height (and font size) requirements, so test signage positioning out yourself to determine the most effective height for your prospective customers, as well as considering each sign’s intended function.
Tip #4: Keep the copy bold & concise
When it comes to signage copy, there’s nothing worse than too much verbiage. Don’t let clutter obscure your store’s message: always use the minimum amount of words necessary to get your message across.
However, it’s equally important to remain aware of how many signs are posted in a given area. There’s little as disconcerting for a customer as being bombarded with lots of wordy, cluttered signage when they’re trying to browse your selection or to make a purchase. It’s not a professional look.
Instead, be sparing with your wording and keep the intent of your retail signage in mind. And never… I repeat… NEVER use all caps on a sign that addresses your customers. This comes across as yelling and it is flat-out disrespectful to the people spending money in your store.
Tip #5: Get a grip on color theory
There are a lot of subconscious factors at work when customers look at a sign. First of all, use high-contrast colors in your retail signage––black with white, dark with light, and so on––this can boost customer responsiveness by about 23%.
Another important factor to take into consideration is color theory, or the emotion and associations we experience when presented with a given segment of the color wheel. It’s important to understand the subconscious associations conjured by each color so you can make sure that they’re in line with the image you want to present. Here are some of the basics of color theory:
Cool colors, such as green, blue, and aqua, to impart a tranquil vibe. These are great for eco-friendly or self-care brands. Blue also conjures up a sense of trust, so it’s awesome for financial institutions.
Purple is an introspective, soothing color. Use purple for spiritual and/or cosmetic lines and products.
Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow, on the other hand, get customers’ blood broiling. This is why the traditional SALE or CLEARANCE sign use a bright red hue to impart excitement. Yellow is also an optimistic color that’s great for attracting young consumers.
Black is associated with strength, power, and luxury. It’s perfect for high-ticket items like jewelry or luxury footwear.
White communicates hygiene and/or new beginnings––think weddings, lab coats, and kitchen appliances.
Bringing it all together
Your implementation of retail signage can make or break your in-store experience. From the chalk sign outside your store’s doorstep to the directional signage indicating where the exit is, each sign needs to be concise, witty, easy-to-see (for all customers), and on-brand. Maintain an awareness of the many uses for retail signage and put advanced practices such as color theory and font to work in your store to make ensure that your retail signage never falls flat.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.