Before coming to work in a supermarket, I gave little thought to signs. If there was a sale, I took note. If the writing on the wall told me persimmons were in season, I smiled because I love persimmons.
Signage is a world unto itself. There are strategizers, designers, merchandisers and marketers plotting signage schemes and systems. Signs are mighty tools in the arsenal of every wise retailer. They are “silent salespeople” who can influence shoppers through stealthy words and gorgeous design.
Signs are advertisements that live in your store, telling your company’s story to each passerby. They are forms of dynamic communication.
Think about what a humble sign can do.
Lure people in
I’m strolling through the mall, and my intentions are crystal clear. I am returning an ill-fitting holiday gift and buying a buttery pretzel, nothing else. And then my eye catches a sale too good to pass up, a promise that makes my heart skip a beat.
Pasta Maker Will Change Your Life!
Cozy Mittens Make Winter Happy
Everything 75% Off!
And there I am, changing my plans because I’m yearning to make my own pasta or because missing an amazing sale would bring me to tears. I'm especially vulnerable when the signs create a sense of urgency.
For a short time only!
In Season for a Blink of an Eye!
While supplies last!
That means next time I come for a pretzel, I might miss out on the mittens of my dreams. This is perhaps my one and only chance for joy-inducing mittens. My path is diverted, and I’m heading into your store. You’ve won the first battle and brought more potential customers in your doors, eager to check out your goods.
Capture your attention
Now I’m inside, ready to shop. But with aisle upon aisle and shelf upon shelf of products, cool things can easily disappear among scads of less cool things. Or, even amid other cool things. Even the smallest grocery stores sell staggeringly big numbers of products.
Hello! I’m here!
A sign can scream. And how else would you have spotted the gorgeous cashmere scarf, the nifty tennis racket or the handmade jam from Belgium? A sign gives you a nudge, points you the right direction.
Tell a story
Now that the such-and-such is on your radar, a sign is your chance to tell the world that its attention is warranted—that this item deserves pause, it should take the journey from shelf to shopping cart to kitchen cabinet. This is the opportunity to wax poetic, to tap that not just convincing but inspiring salesman or woman within. Give your customer something to get excited about.
The jam, my friend, is no ordinary jam. It is from the ancient recipe of a little family in an idyllic Flemish town. It contains only ripe, exquisite black figs or blood oranges picked at the height of their perfection, and a touch of pure cane sugar. It is the favored jam of the Queen of Belgium. It is jam to put all other jam to shame, to elevate your toast to hitherto unknown heights of grandeur.
This is where your sign can act as a master salesperson. If you don’t have legions of employees on hand to talk up the merits of your fine jam or your spiffy pasta machine, the sign makes a valuable stand-in. It informs, delights and gently but convincingly cajoles: Buy me.
Help customers navigate
Ikea is famous for ingenious maze-like showrooms. The layout leads shoppers from one place to the next, forcing them to see the whole selection in its entire splendor, whether they want to or not. Grocery stores put the milk in the back so you have to walk past the rainbows of produce first. The endcaps sport chips on sale and the bakery wafts the aroma of baking breads.
Signs can lead customers where you want to take them. They can allow you to tailor your customers’ experiences, and encourage them to take a journey through your store, on the route you want them to travel.
Distinguish your brand
I’m not a visual person, but I am aware of the power of a great design. Pictures, they say, are worth many, many words.
Your signs can capture and broadcast your image. They can encapsulate your identity and shout loud and clear: We are fabulously trendy, or Our bargains are staggeringly amazing, or We define classic.
Compelling visual message defines brand
Your visual message sets your brand apart, and makes it resonate.
We’re familiar with the symbols, logos and color schemes of big brands. There’s a lot of power in that. A pair of golden arches, for example, says it all. Even a small company can harness some of that power in a great and consistent design.