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Why Business Signage is Essential to Retail and How to Get Started

Why Business Signage is Essential to Retail and How to Get Started

Business signage plays a vital role in getting your name in front of potential customers and branding your business – especially during the holidays.

When you’re driving down the street, you see signs for big corporations like McDonald’s or Walmart. When you see their signs, you know immediately what they stand for and what experience you’ll have in their store. 

According to the United States Small Business Administration’s latest report, there are approximately 32.5 million small businesses in the country. 

No matter what type of company you run, you likely have competition in your area. 

Business signage helps you stand out from the crowd. You can use them to advertise special events, inform people of new product releases, or show your personality. The suitable types of signs engage people and draw them into your store.

Why Is Business Signage Important in Retail?

Business Sign For Barbershop

Signage is another form of marketing and advertising. You can invest in numerous signs without spending much money, too. 

Proper business signage includes everything from advertising to directional signage showing customers where to go for different services. 

During the pandemic, signs became an essential part of business operations and safe social distancing. 

Proper signage is essential to any retail business. Here is how to get started and the elements to pay close attention to. 

1 – Survey Your Site

Before adding any business signage to your storefront, work with an expert and survey the site. 

  1. Where is the best placement for your store sign? 
  2. How can you best grab attention with other displays? 
  3. Would window vinyl work well for your business?

Consider building technicalities for the best installation, such as the height of the building, nearby landmarks and what material the storefront face is made of. 

A professional will work with you to ensure your sign is visible from a distance. If your shop is on the main road, you may need something people can see as they drive and read quickly. 

On the other hand, if you have a shop in a local shopping mall, your business signage may need to be sized differently.

2 – Make the Sign Beautiful

The aesthetics of the sign can make a memorable impression on consumers. Is the impression a good one or a bad one?

Your sign must use contrasting colours so the text pops. It’s a good idea to tap into the colour palette for your brand, so people have a consistent experience no matter where they encounter your retail business.

Also, think about the other signs in the area. If every business on your road uses blue, do you want to use the same colour? It might be better to go with something contrasting the blue such as yellow or orange. 

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3 – Use Persuasive Words

Minimal Shop Signage Sale

Business signage within your store can encourage your customers to try a new product, buy more than they initially planned or return for more deals. 

Think about the words used on your in-store displays. 

Words such as “sale,” “limited”, and “almost gone” all signal to the client that they can only get the offer for a short period. 

You can even use persuasive language to guide them to the checkout line. Add a sign that says, “Check out here. Ask how to save 10%.” 

Put yourself in the shoes of your target customer. What would entice you to go ahead and make the purchase? 

How can you move the buyer through the sales funnel to enter the store and finish their shopping?

4 – Add Comfort

As mentioned before, the pandemic has changed the way people shop and live their lives. 

They may feel a bit uncertain as they enter your store. Each location seems to have different rules and protocols. 

The shopper may wonder what they should do to follow the rules or have concerns about their safety.

CNN recently reported data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and John Hopkins shows 1 in 500 Americans died from coronavirus, making the total deaths 663,913 people. 

People are rightfully still scared to go out shopping, but you can put their fears at ease. 

Add signage explaining your store policies, such as whether your employees wear masks and your cleaning protocols. 

You can direct your customers to your preferences, but ultimately some may choose not to wear a mask or abide by your advice. You’ll have to determine what steps you wish to take should this occur. 

Your business signage can explain everything, but people may or may not read it and abide by it. Don’t be afraid to train your employees in worst-case scenarios, such as someone becoming irate over a policy. 

5 – Narrowcast Your Messages

The right sign in the right place allows you to give a narrow focus to your store and direct employees and customers in best practices. For example, you might add a floor sign that says, “This way to checkout.” 

Other signs for your retail business include signs to the restroom, labels for different departments, and even notices about new products or sales. 

Some signs will stay up around the calendar, and some will only appear for a short time before being replaced with something else. 

Your messaging should align with your brand personality and values. If you’re known as a young, hip store, your signs should be fun, brightly coloured and lighthearted. 

6 – Increase Text Size

Typographic Business Signage Neon

Signs should be written in headline text. People tend to view in-store signage from a distance. Anything under a 20-point font shouldn’t even be an option. 

Using larger font sizes also means you have to simplify your message as much as possible. When you can say something with one word, lose the extra verbiage. 

Keep editing and writing as concisely as possible. Your goal is to grab the user and inform them while using as few words as possible. 

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The goal with business signage is for the user to glance at it and gather all the information needed to take action. 

If your sign doesn’t accomplish a single goal in a millisecond, then it needs additional work. You may need to tighten the focus or change the words. 

7 – Showcase a CTA

Once you know the goal of your sign, you should think about the call to action (CTA). What is the one thing you want customers to do when they see your sign? 

The action might be as simple as entering your store or as complex as making a purchase.

Consider the wording of your CTA. Is it clear what following action the user should take? 

Once they see your sign, should they walk inside, move to a display or take an item to the checkout? What is the ultimate purpose?

Think over how your signs build on one another. The CTA from one sign should accomplish a goal that moves the user to the next task until they make a purchase. 

8 – Check the Sign’s Size

Is your sign big enough for its purpose? Small signs may result in a decrease in follow-through. 

Something as simple as going with a larger display can mean the difference between converting browsers into buyers and losing them to a competitor. 

The Department of Transportation has some guidelines to help businesses figure out sizing for billboards and exit signs.

If you can afford to go up a size that fits the area, always opt for the more prominent sign. You’ll capture more attention and get a better response just from a slight increase in dimensions. 

9 – Illuminate Your Signage

Illuminated Neon Business Sign

If you plan to place your sign in front of your store or outside, it’s vital to illuminate it, so people see it in inclement weather and at night. 

Your store may only be open during daylight hours, but you still want to grab attention as people head out to work or come home in the evenings. They may not return until their day off, but you’ll still make an impression.

A storefront sign should light up when it is open, but consider leaving it lit around the clock. Your goal is to grab potential new customers and entice them to visit. Just make your hours clear and have a second open/closed sign in the window. 

Inside your store, you can use digital signage to announce new product arrivals and specials. 

Digital signage allows you to replace the wording and offers from week to week, keeping things fresh and exciting at all times. 

Someone who visited your store last week should see new offers this week. 

10 – Make a Great First Impression

Outdoor retail signage is the first impression people have of your business. A beautiful store sign tells the user about your personality as a brand and what they might expect inside the location. 

If your store name doesn’t clarify what you offer, you need to add a logo that does. 

For example, ABC Real Estate is pretty self-explanatory, while ABC isn’t. You might need to add a home logo to show potential customers what you do. 

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If your sign lights up, ensure all lights function correctly, and the sign is a beacon to the community. If any letters get damaged, replace them immediately. 

You only get one opportunity to make a first impression on potential customers. Please make the most of it by ensuring your sign is stellar. 

11 – Know Your Navigational Hierarchy

You’ve likely spent some time planning the flow of your store. What is the navigational hierarchy? 

When people enter the shop, where do you want them to go? From that location, what is their next move? 

Have a path in mind that creates excellent traffic flow through the shop and entices users to buy things.

Once you know your navigation, it’s easy to develop direction signage that moves people in how you’d like them to go. 

Don’t forget the last step of checking out and exiting the store. People feel much more comfortable knowing what you expect from them and what they need to do to move smoothly through the process. 

12 – Adjust Positioning

Coffee Shop Window Signage Design

There are some basic rules about where to position signage to grab user attention. 

You can’t just throw signs up anywhere and expect results. For example, directional signage often works best on the floor as a decal or hanging down from the ceiling. 

For window displays with promotional messages, put them at eye level. Remember that people are all different heights, so you want to go with eye level for an average-height person in your demographic. 

If most of your customers are women, the average height might be a bit less than if all your customers are men. 

Don’t forget that some of your customers may be younger, shorter or in a wheelchair. Stand back and use different positions to see how the business signage appears. 

Sit on a chair to get a sense of the angle someone in a wheelchair might look at your window displays. 

While you can’t cater to every person, you can strive to meet the needs of all your users and find a happy mix that makes a great impression on new customers. 

13 – Watch for Errors

As a final check before you put up any signs, check for typos and errors. It could be an embarrassing image that appears differently to users than to you or an unintended double meaning. 

Ask for feedback from employees and a few of your favourite customers. What do they love and hate about the design? How can you improve your business signage? 

Getting things such as your outside retail sign perfect is vital as the cost to replace is prohibitive. You may have a little more room for trial and error with temporary signs, such as window posters. 

Improve as You Learn

Getting indoor and outdoor signage perfect requires patience and attention to detail. 

You’ll learn new methods as you make mistakes. You’ll get to know your customers better and what they respond to. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Embrace them, change the problem areas and make your next sign even more impressive.

Retail business signage can bring tons of foot traffic and keep your regular customers coming back for more. 

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Don’t be afraid to obsess a bit over getting things right. You can even increase your revenue with the right images. 

Author Bio: Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.

Photo of author

Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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