In these COVID times, it is hard to imagine things getting back to normal and if we are honest there will definitely be a new normal. The retail industry has been changing for some time and for retailers to survive in the digital age let alone COVID you have got to get the customer experience right for when shoppers do eventually return to bricks and mortar shops. So whether your business has remained open and you need to maximise sales or counteract returned competition when more shops are open or want to re-open your store with a ‘bang’ you need to get your signage right.
You may have a funky font in your logo but for your store signage clarity is key. For the best readability go for a Sans serif fonts. In typography, serifs are the little extra strokes on letters that give lettering their design characteristics but for signs, it is best to go Sans (without) serifs (fancy bits). Size and colour are also important. Take into account viewing distances but generally the bigger the better. Dark lettering on a light background is also easier to read and can improve customer responsiveness by 23%. Getting the balance though is critical, we don’t all want black and white signs using Helvetica – just too boring, getting a good designer to help you with your signage will mean they will adhere to these principles but will make sure you have signs that are still eye-catching and fit with your brand.
2. Directional & Accessibility (and safety)
These are the signs that help navigate your customers through the shop, and never more has that been so important. Whether you are implementing a one-way system or ensuring social distancing, COVID traffic management signs keep people safe and also make people feel safer which all adds to the customer experience. General store directional signs can be used in two main strategies. One efficiency, if you are the kind of business where speed and service are important. Use your signage to send customers directly to the goods, help them follow the process, keep customer turnover high, the customer experience is all about efficiency and ease of purchase. The second strategy is more suited to softer, non-essential businesses. Use your directional signs to guide your customers through your retail space and a slower pace, a safe meander through the store giving ample opportunity to see and experience the goods on display. Years ago the term ‘impulse buy’ would have been used but it is more than that it’s about inspiring your customer, it’s about it providing a more creative or entertaining experience. While the one-way system employed by Ikea is the butt of several jokes, the system works. Directing your customers through your store, however small, combined with clever merchandising can make all the difference to sales and customer experience.
Retail stores also need to embrace inclusivity and make sure their environments are accessible. Use DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliant signage whenever possible. Use pictograms and illustrations as well as text to aid recognition in our multicultural community.
Your safety signs as well as being obligatory all help remind people that you have their safety in mind and helps build a positive shopping experience.
3. Right Sign, Right Place
Out Door Signs,
Storefront signs have got to be bold, they need to catch the eye from a distance. Once you have the passer-by’s attention secondary window signage will need to keep their attention and entice them inside. Modern window graphics are now easy to remove and replace, so will give a professional appearance but with all the convenience of temporary campaign signage. However, people don’t walk along gazing at the horizon and eyes may not fall on your main shop front signs. To catch those mooching along, eyes down (probably looking at their phones) pavement signs can work well but you need to check what by-laws you have in your area and cannot be placed where they could cause an obstruction or trip hazard. If pavement signs are not an option flag signs can work well. Permanent store flag signs will help attract attention from a wide-angle not just face on. Lower level temporary flag signs can also be useful as their unusual shape helps break up the uniformity of square buildings catching the eye further and there won’t be as much of a trip hazard as pavement signs. A fabric flag will also add an element of movement in an otherwise static view.
Your promotional signs need to be in a format that can be replaced regularly, so look for low-cost formats such
as foamex or even banners for temporary exterior signs. Think about viewing heights. The optimum places for promotional signs are high above head height as people will look around the top half of a room to help orientate themselves and then also just slightly below eye-height, research has proved that people natural rest their gaze at a slight downward angle rather than looking straight ahead.
4. Brand & Design
Where ever possible your signs need to reflect your brand. This can be difficult where you need clarity to convey safety messages, but adding your logo will enhance brand without compromising the sign efficiency. Where your messages don’t need so much constraint you can be more creative. Use colour to work on the subconscious. While yellows, reds and oranges are great for flash sales, stock clearances and price promotions, you need a more subtle approach to appeal to more considered purchases. Soft blues, aqua and greens will give your edge an eco-feel, whereas stronger blues are said to instil a feeling of trust, confidence and authority. Metal, glass, black, gold, copper and purples can give the feel of luxury and work well for high-end goods. Natural materials and neutral colours give a relaxed or holiday vibe, great for more relaxed clothing and accessory brands.
Keep the text on your signs short and snappy, get your message across quickly, if you get the overall design, font, colours and sign material right they will do half the job for you with the actual text just providing the confirmation and clarity.
5. Audit, Test & Review
Once you have brought all these elements together, your job does not stop. Signage needs to be updated or moved around to avoid sign blindness (essentially people stop seeing things once they become too familiar) and to keep your shop looking fresh. If budget allows employ the services of a secret shopper to feedback on the customer experience, could they find you? Could they find what they were looking for? How did they feel? Or get a contact that is not associated with the business to walk the route into and around your shop to see if they can make suggestions for improvement. Your signs should be reviewed quarterly or in line with any seasonality, your business may have. It won’t be necessary to change your signs every time but it is about constant testing and reviewing to make sure they are still working hard for you.
Just like any other business service, you need to find sign suppliers that you can build a relationship with so they can get to understand your business and brand. Find a sign company that will advise you or even design signs for you that fit your business. Your signage can have a huge impact on your business and taking these simple steps will mean you get the best ROI from them.
If you would like to have an informal chat about signs for your retail business please get in touch.