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  • Avoiding Sign Chaos: Why Your Signs Need Job Descriptions

    Signs seem simple. But they’re more complicated than you realize.

    Unless you know the secret to creating great signs.

    The secret to great signs has two parts:

    1. Great signs have job descriptions.

    2. A great sign has only one job to do. One sign, one job, one message.

    When you don’t know and apply this secret, you can easily fall into sign chaos. One symptom of sign chaos is multi-tasking. A multi-tasking sign has a job description that reads, “Any other duties as required.”

    Multi-tasking signs are easy to spot. These signs send too many messages. They try to do a little of everything at once. A sign that has too many jobs to do, isn’t really effective at any of them.

    A past client had a sign in her store featuring a new product. Great message. Great graphic. The problem was that the sign also showed the logos of the main product lines the store carried. And the store’s own logo. And a list of the locations of all the stores in chain. The sign didn’t have one message. The sign was trying to do three jobs, instead of one.

    When a customer sees that sign, he doesn’t know what to pay attention to. Is the sign directing him to a new product? Or is it telling him to go look for other brands the store carries? Or should he visit another location closer to his home?

    There’s too much information. The customer doesn’t care about all the logos. He doesn’t care where the other locations are. He’s already in the store. Most of the messages on the sign don’t connect with the customer. He doesn’t know what to pay attention to. He ignores it. He walks on by.

    The job of the sign is to tell the customer to pay attention. Signs need to be confident. Assertive. Not wishy-washy. A sign with one job, states the message clearly. The sign needs to say, “Hey! Something new! Pay attention to this!”

    So, now we know that great signs have one job. How do you decide what job your sign needs to do?

    Signs in different areas of the store, have different jobs. They tell the customer what to pay attention to in different zones of the store.

    The job description for each type of sign is defined by its location size, colour, font size and type of message.

    Create a plan for your signs based on these job descriptions. You’ll be on your way to calming the sign chaos in your store:

    Directional signs – These signs tell you where to go. When a customer comes into the store, she looks around the store to decide where to go. These signs are large, simple, and easy to read. They are overhead, above eye level. They either hang from the ceiling or are mounted on the walls above fixtures.

    Define departments or categories with these signs. They are meant to be understood quickly in a glance. Use one or two words in a large, easy to read font. Directional signs are meant to be viewed when the shopper enters the store. Even small stores can consider using directional signs or category signs. They will help customers to quickly find the right section of the store.

    Sale or Promotional – Choose one basic style for sale signs. (Tip: Unless you are a bargain basement discount store – stay away from pink and orange starburst signs!)

    If you need more than one size of sale sign for different areas of the store, keep the design, layout and font consistent between sizes. Sale signs can be used as posters, fixture signs, or shelf talkers (attached to the shelf edge) to draw attention to good deals in the store.

    Most people associate sales or discounts with the colour red. If you use red for sale signs, don’t use it for other signs in the store. This will help you colour code the store. Having a code helps your customers find things easily.

    Fixture signs signs are placed close to eye level. They may also be on a tabletop or shelf . They describe the products found on one fixture. They may designate a subcategory, new products, or a price point. The font used is smaller than directional signage. These signs are meant to be read as the shopper is walking through the store. The text is limited to one to three words. The sign attracts the shopper’s attention to the merchandise on that fixture. She is encouraged to pause and take a look.

    Product Information – As the shopper gets closer to the merchandise, she slows down and takes more time. The signs right next to the product can be smaller and more detailed. These signs provide the basic information that a shopper needs to make a decision. Include the product description, a few bullet points of features and benefits, and the price.

    Signs at this level may stand on a shelf or table top, or be attached as a shelf-talker. For general product information, a 3 x 5” size works great.

    You don’t need product information signs for every product. Be selective. Use product information to highlight key products.

    Price Labels – Price labels are crucial. If you are not pricing your products clearly, you are losing out on potential sales. Pricing on the shelf helps with restocking.

    For high end stores, you can use small, elegant tent cards to display prices. You can use this to price products individually, or list several products on one card.

    Store Policies – Policy signs are usually placed near the cash desk, on the door or at a fitting room. State the policy wording in as positive a tone as possible. Use the same font and colours as the rest of your signage. Get rid of hand written signs taped to the cash register. Font sizes for signs on the front door, or in the fitting room should be large enough to read from several feet away. At the cash desk, they need to be large enough to read while standing in line.

    Every store is different. All stores have different sign needs. Use these basic job descriptions to plan the signs you need. And calm the sign chaos in your store.

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