While COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the digitisation of retail, in-person shopping is by no means a thing of the past, especially as populations across the globe emerge from restrictions understandably keen for real-life experiences. But with more competition than ever, utilising every tool available to tempt customers through the door is important for every retail business.
With a wealth of experience in providing beautiful and compelling signage for shop fronts and interiors, discover how to make the most of this still-vital medium with our guide to commercial signage and retail signage ideas.
Using signs on storefronts is perhaps one of the oldest forms of marketing there is. Archaeological exploration has unearthed signage as old as ancient Rome (if you ever get the chance to jump in a time machine, watch out for signs with ivy and vine leaves – it means you’ve found the pub), and shopkeepers have tempted customers and communicated key information through signage for millennia.
While poorly designed and installed retail signage can be off-putting and confusing, if you get it right, signage can not only serve to advertise your brand but enhance the customer experience you provide. As online retailers place pressure on the high street, the ability to provide experiential retail (for example, the atmosphere of a cosy bookshop on a rainy day) is of huge advantage and one that can be strengthened by imaginative signage design.
In our role as signage manufacturers, we have worked on projects as diverse as independent high street stores to large scale retail outlets. We understand how to help clients achieve greater customer engagement through the strategic use of signage, and how signage can help to build a brand.
Why Is Retail Signage Important?
For retail businesses hoping to capture and retain the attention of potential customers, shop signs are indisputably one of the most compelling marketing tools they have available to them.
The first step for any retail business is getting people through the door, from which point a great range of products, welcoming staff, competitive prices and dynamic store design should all come together and drive sales. Getting noticed more often than not starts with signage, and once you’ve got people’s attention, you can continue the conversation through the inspired and thoughtful use of signs in-store.
The primary aim of retail signage is to communicate positively to your target audience, and it can include everything from directional signs placed at key transport routes (which is especially common for rural businesses) to temporary window displays showcasing a particular product run or celebrating a special time of year.
Whether it’s signage incorporated into a wider storefront or a roadside sign pointing commuters to your business premises, even if they’ve seen your business online or heard about it from friends, signage is often the first real-life manifestation of your brand that a customer will encounter. Getting it right can help to draw them inside and turn a potential customer into a paying one, and ensure that your brand is memorable and revisited.
For smaller businesses, retail signage often represents the best opportunity to get bang for your buck. Signage isn’t only effective as a primary advertising tool, it is also cost-effective in terms of ROI, with research from the Signage Foundation finding that signage has a positive impact on revenue, with over 60% of businesses reporting a 10% increase in sales by adding to or updating their signs.
Where Can Retail Signage Go Wrong?
Retail signage has the power to draw people to your business, guide them effortlessly around your store and encourage sales. By the same token, poorly designed, inconsistent or incoherent signage can do the exact opposite – confusing your audience and alienating them from your brand.
In the worst-case scenario, poor signage can even make your brand effectively invisible. According to the Sign Research Foundation, more than 60% of customers in the US were unable to find a business because the signage they used was too small or unclear.
People make hundreds of small decisions before making a purchase, and sometimes even the smallest factors can lead them away from making the decisions you’d like them to. The importance of signage is to ensure you are helping, rather than hindering, that decision-making process.
Retail Signage: The Basics
Retail signage has a range of purposes, which include:
Every decision you make in terms of the signage you use (and more broadly, the way your store looks generally) helps to inform the way your target audience learns about what you have to offer as a brand, and even to some extent how becoming a customer of your brand will reflect on them.
It is important to ensure that the medium of signage is working as hard as it can do to convert customers and is an asset to your store. Installing poor signage in a rush or as an afterthought can undermine your aims as a business and mean that you miss opportunities, as it fails to meet its full potential as a marketing tool. The key requirements for effective retail signage are:
Legibility: Retail signage should be clear, concise, legible and designed specifically for its unique purpose. A storefront sign, for example, is unlikely to benefit from the same typography that conveys pricing information and has to be easily picked out from the visual noise of its surroundings.
Coherent Branding: No matter how small or large your retail business is, every brand touchpoint needs to be coherent and work as a whole. If a customer first discovers your brand on Instagram and seeks you out, having signage that is inkeeping (using brand colours, fonts and styles) will make your business more recognisable, and in the long term more memorable.
Aesthetic Appeal: Storefront signage needs to be compelling and attractive, both to capture and keep people’s attention and to positively impact the environment it is in. Well designed and thoughtful retail signage can help to make an area more aesthetically pleasing and contribute to the general “feel” of the location – whether that’s a modern shopping mall or village high street.
Clear Communication: The time and energy a customer spends seeking out and deliberating over a product are known as “search costs” – referring to the fact that shopping isn’t only a monetary exercise, but one that takes time and energy too. Informational and wayfaring retail signage should reduce search costs, improve people’s shopping experience and make the customer journey more seamless and enjoyable.
Wayfaring in Retail
Compelling storefront signage can increase footfall in your retail business, but directional signage in-store is another fantastic way to increase sales. In larger premises, such as supermarkets, there is an intricate science to layout and signage installation which is designed to lead customers into making more purchases.
Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and making thoughtful choices regarding features such as points of sale is a key part of using signage to its best advantage. Instore signage should:
Types of Retail Signage: Ideas and Inspiration
Storefronts: There are few better opportunities to communicate who you are as a brand than through storefront signage – the retailer’s primary means of marketing themselves for time immemorial.
As discussed above, storefront signage is likely to be the first real-life impression your business will make on a customer, and we recommend walking around the shopping district where you are based to get an idea of what other stores are doing, and the ways in which you can differentiate your brand from them.
Illuminated Signs: Using illuminated signs both outside and instore is a fantastic way to get noticed, and there are many creative ways you can apply illuminated signage to its best effect.
The fact is that high streets and shopping centres are always saturated spaces, with advertising of various types competing for people’s attention. Illuminated signage is a way to stand out while also creating something that is truly aesthetically pleasing, and makes a great impression in the minds of potential customers.
Projected Signage: Another way to (quite literally) stand out is through the use of projected signage, which can help customers identify your shop even from busy crowds.
Projected signage can also be illuminated for an even greater effect, and is particularly helpful in wayfinding, as it is easier to pick out overhead and can guide people through a space.
If you are embarking on a new retail business or want to refresh your store, our decades of experience and friendly team can help you achieve your vision. Get in touch today.Back to News
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A pleasure to work with Links again on such a poignant programme. Delivering amazing high quality. Very much looking forward to working together again in the future.Robert Varney – Engagement Officer (North) & TfL Charities Scheme Manager
Links Signs took on the challenge to provide the awards for the first Transport for London Supplier Awards. Using products and materials that are supplied to TfL for our station signage, Links created very impressive plaques for our winners and runners up. Throughout the production process Links kept TfL up to date with images, delivery schedule and were always on hand to clarify any queries. We look forward to working with them again next year.Amanda Green – Transport for London
Link Signs provide a first class service throughout the design, production and delivery process. I worked closely with the team on a high profile project, with requirements changing on a sometimes daily basis. Links Signs went and above and beyond to meet our requirements and surpassed our expectations. I would highly recommend and endorse working with Link Signs.Catherine Villegas – Project Manager, Transport for London
The team at Links Signs provide unfailing support and flexibility, which enables us to develop ambitious schemes and be confident of the highest quality results. Working with them has transformed the way we approach our exhibition design.Catherine Harvey – Hastings Museum Office & Keeper of World Art
Links Signs successfully managed a complex project overseeing the manufacture and installation of 48 panels to create a bespoke mural on the Transport for London (TfL) owned bridge and the station entrance at Northwood Hills station. Links ensured not only that all the technical and engineering requirements of TfL were met but also that the extensive colour hues specified by mural artists Gordon Collett and Cosmo Sarson were achieved. The finished result is wonderful, as summed up by Mayor of London Boris Johnson when he visited ‘My God, it’s beautiful! Did we do this? The murals – they’re sensational!’ He added: ‘I think it’s all fantastic, really imaginative. I’m very proud.’Helena Webster – Town Centre Improvements Team Manager, London Borough of Hillingdon
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