Whether you own your own retail business, or the boss wants you to be head of the sign development and marketing department of the retail store where you currently work, it is important to understand that retail signage is a key component of any marketing strategy that can help a retail store generate major cash flow.
Signs guide and inform customers, telling them things like the name of your store, what you are selling, and how your customers can acquire what you are selling. Signs for retail stores also alert customers to times of store operation, current deals you are running, and other important facts that the store’s general customer base should be made aware of. Whether you realize it or not, signs in a retail setting are an avenue of communication. The one designing the sign has a lot of control over what message is being sent and how it is being received by the customers you are trying to target and get their attention.
1. How Large Should A Sign Be?
Designing a sign to be the right size is more than simply a matter of aesthetics. The size of a sign should be measured by a few important factors, to ensure that the sign is correctly designed to grab the attention of the target customer it is intended to reach.
For example, if you are trying to make a sign to sell a great new toy to a child, the sign should be fairly large, accommodating lots of room for tall letters and graphics that identify the toy in question. The more popular the toy, the larger than life it needs to appear on the sign. You don’t want to design a sign that is small and unnoticeable, leaving the children who frequent the toy department to wonder if you even carry the latest and greatest toy being advertised on television.
Since most stores sell items to adults, it may not be necessary or even practical to produce signs that depict each item as being larger than life. An adult can usually figure out how to find what they are looking for much easier, so signs do not need to be so huge to help an adult find what they want or need. With an adult, it is perhaps more important to make sure the sign is large enough for being easily read from a distance.
2. Graphic Appeal
Retail signage will often contain more than words. Signs for retail can say a lot about a store and the products it sells by the type of graphics used on the signs displayed in the store. Graphics are a crucial addition so signage, but they must perfectly convey meaning and not add distraction. A sign with the picture of a wrench and a tire on it might help a customer quickly determine that the automotive department is near where the sign is posted. But, random flower petals on a sign over the automotive department might cause more confusion, rather than properly indicating to a customer where to buy their tires or get their oil changed. A sign like this extreme example can also turn away macho men not wanting to shop in a sensitive environment.
Consequently, graphics on a sign should be used in the right context, to imply useful information to a customer that will improve sales. For example, a sign with the words “Automotive Department” and a hand pointing off to the left is a great sign, indicating to a customer where the automotive department of your store happens to be.
3. Bait And Hook!
If you want to grab a customer and make them sit up and pay attention, just plaster the word “FREE” somewhere on a sign that is in plain view in your store. When most customers see the word “FREE!”, there is a reaction in their brain that draws them to swell with curiosity.
What exactly is the store offering for free? If you make all the other words on the sign intentionally smaller, they will be forced, often against their better judgment, to give in to their curiosity and go find out. No one wants to miss out on a great deal – especially if they can get something for nothing.
Another trigger word that tends to hook people in print is the word “NOW!” It evokes the question in the customer’s mind, what is going on now! Stores have been using signs like this for as long as advertising has been around to compel, draw, and bait customers with their own curiosity. And surprisingly, it continues to work. Apply a little bait, add a little mystery, and watch as people’s curiosity gets the better of them. Sales are much easier to generate, if the customer’s own curiosity hooks and reels them in for you.
4. Weird Fonts And Other Artistic Endeavors
Some artsy sign developers have this idea that fancy, hard to read letters on a sign is a satisfactory marketing strategy. It’s not until the store owner realizes that the sign isn’t generating any sales that they begin to understand that the wrong person is designing the signs for their store. It is important to remember that with a retail store, the goal is sales, sales, and more sales. Works of art belong in a gallery and signs that generate leads and sales belong in a retail store. So, it is best to avoid the hard to read fonts, weird symbols, and anything else that might obscure the intended meaning of the sign for the foot traffic in your store.
5. Testing Customer Reactions
When placing a new sign in a retail setting, it is usually a good idea to have a store employee monitor how people react to the placement and message of that sign. If customers are paying it no mind, or read the sign and walk off disinterested, then chances are that sign is not getting the job done and needs to be replaced. If, however, passing customers read a sign and start taking notice, walking faster towards the sign, showing interest in the product it is advertising, then this likely indicates that the design of such a sign is spot on, getting you precisely the results the store wants to get in order to increase sales.
6. Electric Retail Signs
Signs that light up can tend to be more eye catching than signs that do not. Bright letters and outlines that glow in the dark or in dim lighting are hard to ignore. Signs that appear to involve some type of graphical animations are also very eye catching for a lot of people – especially people who are used to spending a lot of time watching television, which is a huge percentage of the general population.
7. The Invisible Sign Problem
Retail stores spend billions every year on sign design and construction, never pausing for a second to realize that a huge part of their customer base has poor vision and can not even read or see their retail signs.
Blind, visually impaired, and aging customers, many of which are in the process of losing their sight, utterly miss what many stores are trying to sell to them. Overcoming this problem, as the Baby Boomer generation reaches the age of visual decline, may prove to be key to maintaining a high rate of sales for many retail stores. This means that signs that incorporate an audio component, rather than relying on the hope that vision is the only avenue to employ to appeal to a customer, will likely attract far more customers to a product than will other less engaging signage.