How to Design the Best Signage for Your Store

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When done well, retail signage is a powerful customer service tool. Signage should be memorable – it’s easy to picture the glowing apple, stories high against a glass background, or the luminous green pillars of a BP petrol station – and it should also encourage customers to enter your store and interact with your products. But the purpose of signage doesn’t stop there. Once customers are in your store, signage should help educate them on your products, direct them around the store, and offer options (and incentives) for purchasing your products.

Different types of signage

Outdoor

Outdoor signs can take in the form of everything from sidewalk signs, awnings, banners, window displays, and even doormats! Exterior signage is probably the most important signage because it is the first impression that customers will gain of your business.

Branded

Branded signs reflect your retail brand. They include your brand name or logo so people can easily identify who you are. This type of sign can also be a form of outdoor signage because it is the perfect way to grab the attention of potential customers as they walk past.

Directional

Directional signs provide your customers with information about the best ways to navigate your store. Think arrows and lines that lead customers consciously or subconsciously to the items you want them to buy. Directional signs are also useful for customers if they are looking for something specific, e.g. shoes can be found this way.

Sales

Everyone loves a good sale! That is why sale signs are one of the most efficient ways to connect with your customers. These signs are informative and let customers know about discounts or ways they can save money on your products. Customers will be drawn to these signs more than anything else, so make sure they are direct and honest.

Educational

Educational or market research signs highlight information that you think will interest customers and therefore persuade them to buy your products. For example, think of signs you see in beauty stores that advertise anti-ageing creams. These signs will also generally include research to back up their claims, such as “one in five women saw fewer wrinkles after 10 weeks of use”.

Educational signage boosts customer faith in you and your brand. They’re more likely to buy if they trust you and displaying market research in a transparent and easy-to-read fasihon goes a long way in enhancing customer confidence in your store and it’s products.

Accessibility

Accessibility signs include a broad spectrum of symbols and writing systems such as the International Symbol of Access (more commonly identified as the ‘wheelchair sign’) and braille. When setting up signage in your store, it’s good to think about your target market and if they will need alternative signage to help them interact with your products.

Digital

Although these signs are a little more expensive to implement, the upside is you are able to change whatever they are showing almost instantly – so the investment leads to several signs in one. Digital signage allows you to keep your customers updated throughout the day with exclusive information that will make their shopping experience fun and memorable.

Designing your signage

Regardless of the type of sign you’re after, there is some basic sign etiquette you need to know before you begin designing.

Keep it simple, straightforward and specific

There is some information that is essential to convey through signage. Depending on it’s purpose, it’s a good idea to include location, contact details, website details, and the date and time in some instances. Without this information not all customers will feel that the message is genuine and therefore will avoid it.

However, you also need to be wary of making your sign’s message too long. This is where you should use the five-second rule, which states that if you can convey the main theme or idea for the sign in less than five seconds then it’s perfect. If you’re struggling to shorten your message, think about breaking it up across multiple signs (without confusing customers, of course). Don’t forget, in the age of Twitter, attention spans have shortened significantly so even having too many symbols such as exclamation marks can detract for your main message.

Use the inverted pyramid

The inverted pyramid is a method used by journalists to write news stories – it’s also a handy tool in creating effective signage. The inverted pyramid recommends your first sentence or opening line should include the most ‘newsworthy’ information – for example, a sale or new product – followed by the specific details. All non-crucial details, such as disclaimers and background information, should come at the end. This system provides customers with the most important information first. So, if their attention is diverted, they can still take away the basic idea of the message with just a glance. 

Use colour

Several studies have shown that colour can drastically influence the way we purchase products. Often however, individual colour preferences are dependant on personal experiences, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing with colours.

A study called Impact of Colour in Marketing, found that up to 90% of snap judgements about products were based on colour. Another study also found that consumers are more likely to purchase products if they perceive the marketing colours accurately matched the product being sold.

In putting together your retail signage, it’s a good idea to think about how your product might be perceived by your customers. For example, a dark black sign for a florist may work if your store sells ‘gothic blooms’ but, if you business is called ‘Flower Power’, a different colour scheme is likely needed. 

Keep fonts clear and easy-to-read

Quite simply, it’s important to make sure your signs are easy to read. This applies to everything from chalkboard signs to in-store posters, or even return policies at the cash register. Clear fonts without serifs (the curly bits) in an easy-to-read font size will allow customers to focus on the message, and hopefully be encouraged to buy your product. If your customers can’t read the information they need quickly, or from a reasonable distance, they will lose interest and you’re likely to lose a sale. Restrain yourself – even though fancy fonts might seem trendy and cool, they could really hinder your business.

Use enticing language

All you need to say is ‘sale’ or ‘discount’ and the customers will come running. However, customers will usually want some more information before investigating the sale items furter. So make sure you use some of the above tips to ensure your enticing words have the maximum impact. Just remember, the sign might help customers enter the store but – once they are in – you often will need additional signage to really sell the product to them.

Don’t shy away from testing

Last but not least, it’s a good idea to design multiple signs for the same purpose – but using different styles, designs and text. This way, you can test your different signs out in-store to see which styles work and which don’t. This is the most effective way to ensure that your signage really is driving customer engagement, and it means you won’t continue investing in signage that will not work for your products or branding.