By Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer
With drivers rushing by in cars and pedestrians looking at their devices, you may think nobody notices retail signs. That’s a big mistake. True, you only have a few seconds to make an impression. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
“That exterior signage is usually seen while the prospective customer is focused on everything except your business,” says Robert Richardson, owner of Richardson Graphics & Marketing in Las Vegas. “To attract their attention, you need to stand out from the rest of the businesses around you. It’s all about simplicity and readability.”
Here are 5 tips for designing effective retail signs:
“Using light colors on a white background can create readability issues, especially during daylight hours,” Richardson says. The same goes for red, blue and purple on black backgrounds. “And avoid neon and rainbow color combinations. While these colors will attract a lot of attention, they’re very hard on the eyes and can actually create a negative impression.”
Most retail store signs are best on the horizontal, but a vertical or skewed orientation might suit your type of store, your fa�ade or your neighborhood. Try several options with large-format paper mock-ups to find the right solution.
A common mistake is using small text or complicated fonts that are hard to read, according to Jon Feagain, art director at Adhere Creative in Houston. “Avoid having a heavy background color or busy graphic interfere with the bottom-line message you are trying to convey on the sign.”
A sign that’s too big can become the background; one that’s too small gets lost. Use large-format paper prints to simulate different sign sizes to determine which is just right for your store.
“One of the worst things you can do is clutter up exterior signage with too much text,” Richardson cautions. Use LED signs, smaller printed signs or retail store banners to tell customers about your hours of operation or special sales.
And don’t forget to check with the local authorities before investing in production. “Many municipalities have restrictions around sign size, height, location, color and lighting,” advises Kristen Smith, vice president for advocacy and engagement at the Chapel Hill—Carrboro (NC) Chamber of Commerce. “Exterior signage is a great way to spread the word with a big bang for your buck — but you don’t want to pay for a sign you can’t put up.” This also holds true for promotional signs, banners and sidewalk signs.
Once customers are inside, additional signage helps them shop. Too often, retailers are focused on getting merchandise on the floor without considering how customers will find it. “Think like a customer,” says Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor®. “Customers want to be intrigued and entertained and want their choices reduced to one or two.”
Use promotional signs or digital signage to direct customer traffic. Use custom store signs emblazoned with your logo or even a tablet computer to convey more detailed information about specific products, demonstrate use and showcase special promotions.
“For both interior and exterior signs, you want to put a lot of thought into what you produce,” says Leigh Segall, CMO for InnerWorkings, Inc., a Chicago-based business services company.
“Determine what you’re looking to accomplish. Are you promoting a short-term campaign or will the signage represent longer-term branding efforts? Are you inducing trials or samples, or creating an experience that will drive a purchase decision? Thinking through the objectives will ensure you select the right formats, materials and approaches that bring impact, lasting power, durability and efficiency.”