Going by the visibility in the economic media, one could be forgiven for thinking that all of India shops online. This could not be further from the truth though. According to the latest figures from the Indian Brand Equity Foundation, India’s retail sector will clock $ 1.1 Trillion by 2020 and of this $ 120 Billion will be the share of eCommerce. That’s just a shade over 10%. That said though, it is true that the traditional retail sector has recognised the looming challenge posed by the online world. Where the eCommerce world promises convenience, range, and economy, the offline world focuses heavily on strengths like winning customer service and a great customer experience. It is in the context of creating this unmatched customer experience that retail signage plays a key role.
While designing the in-store consumer experience the aim is to make the customer feel that all the information they need in order to reach an informed decision about a product is available to them easily. Customers want the in-store experience to be clean, smooth, and hassle-free. These customers want to transact their business quickly. It is in the interest of the retail brand to build an engaging relationship with the customer. It is also incumbent upon the retail brand to ensure that the products and offers that make the most business sense to their retail operations are most visible to the customers so their decision-making can be reasonably influenced.
You could say that the signage has to fulfil two broad functions. First, to support the customer’s buying journey, and second, to help the retail store accomplish its own economic objectives.
In retail establishments signs can perform a variety of functions:
- Giving Directions: Signs showing the way to specific departments and key locations, for eg. trial rooms and billing counters. These help the customers find their way about the store easily and quickly without getting frustrated.
- Providing information: Signs about product information and categories, in-store events and promotions, or pricing. These are designed to help the customer get all the relevant information they need and to then make a quick decision.
- Branding: These are signs about the retail brand and are primarily intended to support the messaging and values of the brand and establish them deeper in the minds of the consumers.
- Showcasing: These signs are specifically for drawing attention to promotional offers, like seasonal discounts, or to specific product features or benefits that are the subject of wider campaigns. The aim is to drive up the probability of the customer making a purchase by reinforcing the benefits they may have encountered earlier.
With that in mind, here are some suggested Do’s and Don’ts for retail signage:
- Pay attention to the location of the signs. Post information everywhere it is needed so that it can help shoppers get all the information they need at one location. A key part of this consideration is allowing for the angles of visibility based on the direction of traffic flow.
- Put some extra focus on the signage at the entry of the retail location. The first impression is the last impression as far as the retail store goes. The signs at the entry will help to set up the entire shopping experience. Well-designed signs can help to drive the traffic in the most appropriate direction and also help the shoppers plan an optimal shopping visit.
- Use as many signs as are required.
- Ensure the signs are visible and legible from an appropriate distance. For signs outside the store they should be legible from a distance and while in motion. For in-store signs, they should be legible from close up. The ambient lighting, natural light in the day, and location of the light sources at night all play a key role in deciding the location of the signs.
- Use the right colours. Research shows that certain colours help drive specific emotions and actions –this is why Red is most often used to showcase “Sale” signage.
- Ensure the signs showcase your corporate identity with appropriate use of logos, colours, and fonts.
- Allow for flexibility in changing the signs. The layout of the store may change from time to time and the signs should be amenable to accommodate these changes. This is also useful in case of the signs that refer to product promotions and signs regarding announcements.
- Use the signs to drive the right perception of your retail brand with the right quality of graphics and visual imagery.
- Protect your signs from dust, discolouration, and physical damage with covers, sleeves or holders.
- Spend adequate time and money on the signage given the key role it can play in the overall customer experience.
- Use too much text as this could make the sign illegible.
- Post too many signs as this could confuse the shopper.
- Be inconsistent across the store. This is especially true of large format stores with a lot of floor-area. To maintain a uniformly high-quality experience across the entire store, all the signs must be similarly designed and laid out, and of the same quality.
- Make your signs too large or obtrusive. This takes away the focus from the products on display and can irritate the customer. In the end, the best signage is one that goes by almost unnoticed!
- Don’t treat signage as an afterthought. This will almost always result in a poorly designed, badly implemented, and shoddy effort that will be immediately visible to the customer visiting the retail location and detract from the experience.
Indian actor Anushka Sharma is reported to have said, “I’m paranoid about shopping. I get irritable. I find it tedious and taxing. People say shopping is retail therapy, but I need therapy after shopping.” Our suggestion to the retail establishment that brought on this severe indictment is to take a look at their signage systems and make a change!