When opening your retail store, one of the most important sales tools you have is signage. The goal of signage is to attract customers, inform them about what you offer, and encourage them to make a purchase. Sadly, signage is often an afterthought rather than a focus in the planning process. This incredible sales tool, both in and outdoors, can increase your sales many fold if it is properly planned and utilized.
Great Design and Visual
When you open a retail store the “look” and values you want to convey can be expressed in visual form in your logo and signage. This is what's known as your brand – what you want customers to know and trust about you.
It is important that your logo, byline, signage, packaging, as well as digital and print advertising are consistent with your overall theme. Even the smallest sign in your store should reflect your standards and be consistent with your brand. For this reason, it is prudent to engage a professional designer to assist you in solidifying your brand, unless you are trained and/or highly experienced in marketing and design.
If you have the option when negotiating your lease, push for the most visible signage, on the building or on a pylon, in the highest traffic area available. The size and type of your outdoor signage may be determined by your lease and also regulated by local city and county zoning codes.
In addition to overhead signage on your building pylon, in some locations you can also have a sandwich board outside your door to highlight events or sales and catch the attention of people walking by. If you have a great loyalty program to reward customers, you can highlight it on such signage. Just be sure to check with your building management and zoning departments about the type of signage allowed in your location, so you’re not planning to have helium balloons for your grand opening only to discover it’s considered a “moving sign” and a violation.
Don’t skimp! Many new retailers often think that they will start with smaller, or less expensive, signage with the intention to redo it and upgrade at a later date. This rarely happens. The initial signage you choose is most often the signage that will represent your store for the life of your business. It is therefore advisable to choose the very best sign that you can afford, realizing that once you make the investment, your signs continue to attract customers to your store 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, with no additional investment other than occasional maintenance. It is well worth the extra money to do it right the first time!
Be sure that all of your signs have large enough fonts to be clearly legible, and that they are simple and easy to understand, rather than jumbled and confusing. In most cases you have just a split second for the information on the sign to register in your customer's brain, so don’t overload (leave some white space) and limit your font choices to one, or max two, per sign.
Store Layout and Location
Depending on the size and layout of your store, overhead signs that hang from the ceiling to identify major areas of your store, can make the shopping experience easier for your customers, so they are not wandering aimlessly trying to find what they need.
Inside your store, you will also want to have directional signs, such as exit and bathroom locations, as well as informational signs that can include days/hours of operation, policy signs such as your return and shoplifting policies, and merchandise information signs often called “shelf talkers”.
Shelf talkers are informational signs that identify specific products and educate customers about their beauty, quality, uniqueness and/or meaning. Customers love to know the “backstory” and feel like they are spending money on products that are unique or in some way help others. Sales increase because you have given them a reason to buy.
Shelf talkers “talk” to your customers all day long, even when a sales associate cannot. Remember though, you do not want a sign beside every product. Choose one or two per shelf to highlight and then rotate them every few weeks. Again, be sure to make them simple – a headline and one to two sentences is plenty. Few patrons will take the time to read more than that and you will lose sales with too much info.
Make it actionable
Don’t be afraid to put a “call to action” on your sign if appropriate. Your outdoor sandwich sign can have an invitation to “Come in today” or “Take advantage of this extraordinary offer today only!”
Your call to action can also be more subtle, as in the “story” you tell on a shelf talker sign that gives the customer a reason to purchase because you have informed them about some special aspect of a specific product or vendor.
Remember, every sign in your business “speaks” volumes, so be sure to keep your signs fresh and updated. Regularly take a walk through your store, pretending you are a customer visiting for the first time, and check for any signs that look outdated and update them immediately. Signs convey your attention to detail and are a way of developing trust in your business and in your products, so be sure they are professional, with correct spelling and grammar, and visually appealing at all times.
About the author:
Marc Prosser is the co-founder and managing partner of Fit Small Business, a site that provides reviews and articles for small business owners. Prior to starting Fit Small Business, Marc was the CMO of FXCM for ten years. He joined as FXCM's first employee and grew the company to more than 700 employees.