Creating Signs Customers Will Read

February 19, 2015
We’ve all done it. Asked a question of a sales clerk only to have them point to the sign in front of us that has the answer we were looking for. That’s because we were on autopilot and since there was someone right there that we could ask, our brain stopped trying to find the answer any other way.

How many signs do you have on your selling floor right now? Are they all necessary? Are any beyond their ‘due date’ and should be taken down? Do they all coordinate with each other? The more signs you have up, and the more disparate the sign designs, the more likely your customers won’t read any of them. Their brains will simply bypass the signs because it takes too much time and energy to make sense of them.

With well-designed signage—signs that are simple and consistent in design—you can actually train the customer to read and (quickly) interpret your signs.

Seven Tips for Creating Signs Your Customers Will Read

  1. Create ‘design criteria’ for each category of signs. This includes: sign size, font, graphic, color, material, frame and/or sign holder. There should be a couple of differentiating qualities in each category. For instance, all sale signs might be printed on 5”x7” white cardstock using 16 pt Arial Bold font with red ink and red outline, and placed in acrylic sign holder. All product description signs might be printed on 3” x 5” white cardstock using 8 pt Arial font with blue ink and black outline, and placed in a standing metal clip. It’s the consistent use of these design elements that will have your customers quickly interpreting a 5”x7” red and white sign as a sale sign.
  2. Use few words. Less is more when it comes to words on signs in a retail space. Customers won’t read a lot. They are bombarded with visual symbols and design elements every second they are in your store. Keeping signs simple is the way to attract attention and impart information. Try using symbols, photos, and graphic images to communicate messages without words.
  3. Don’t scotch tape signs to your windows. This cheapens the image of your store in the consumer’s mind. Instead, put the signs in acrylic sign holders with suction cups. It creates a more professional look.
  4. Illuminate the important permanent signs in your store. Make sure your logo and department signs are highlighted with a spot light or down light. These are signs the customer should easily see when they enter your store so they can quickly decide where they need to go.
  5. Display your logo throughout your store. The more you display your logo, the more your customers will remember you, and the more they will believe you to be a credible, professional business. And always put it behind or above your checkout/service counter(s). You never want to hear, “who do I make the check out to?”.
  6. Display your social media icons on your storefront (windows or front door), at your service counter, and at key areas throughout your store, ie: dressing rooms, rest rooms, seating areas. If you have a strong social media presence, you want your customers to stay engaged inbetween visits.
  7. Conduct a ‘sign audit’ every year. Even with all the checks and balances in place, you’ll be surprised how some signs get left up beyond their timeline, or signs that don’t follow the design guidelines make it onto your selling floor.

Conclusion?  Keep signs simple and coordinated, and watch them work for you.

Contributor Lyn Falk is owner/president of Retailworks, Inc. and an award-winning interior designer.

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