Retail stores are like coded messages to customers.
Filled with information.
Shoppers receive messages from all aspects of the store. The store front, layout, product selection, displays and lighting all convey information about what the retailer has to offer. They’re all part of the code.
Our minds process this code so quickly, we don’t even stop to think about it. We are constantly taking in information, sorting it and making decisions.
Usually when we shop, we are familiar with the code. We easily sort the information we need make our way through the store. We know our way around the local supermarket. We have favourite places to shop for clothes. For routine purchases, we usually don’t need help to find what we need. Many of the stores we shop in use similar layouts, and have product lines we already understand. We understand the code.
But what if a shopper doesn’t know your code?
New customers don’t know your code. Your store might as well be an alien environment.
Imagine the first time customer stepping into your store:
She pauses inside the door to get her bearings. She is bombarded with visual information. Information about the departments, products, categories, and displays. She doesn’t know which way to go first.
She feels she doesn’t belong. Products have special names she doesn’t understand. She has trouble finding prices. She doesn’t what makes one product different or better than the next.
She feels like an outsider trespassing in a special club. You can help this customer feel comfortable as soon as she walks in the door. Before you even speak to her.
The secret is to provide a key to your code right away.
The key helps the shopper understand your store. She quickly moves from feeling like an outsider, to being an insider.
The key is signage. Effective signs help shoppers feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. Signs welcome new customers. Give directions. Explain new products. Compare benefits. Signs display prices and draw attention to sales and promotions.
They help shoppers find fitting rooms, or know what kinds of payments are accepted. The customer learns how to find her way around. Signs help her navigate and decode the information she needs to find merchandise quickly and easily.
But what about those stores that go crazy with signs? Some retailers create signs willy-nilly. Without a plan. Sometimes they think ‘more is better.’ Instead of decoding the store for the customer, they add to the confusion. In most stores, the problem is usually not too many signs. It’s too many colours. Too many fonts. Too many sizes. And too many messages.
Signs are not meant to be the main attraction. Good signs draw your attention to the product. They guide the shopper to find what she needs.
Effective signs have:
1. Only one message per sign. Any more than that, and you confuse your customer even more.
2. No more than three fonts, or font variations. A basic rule of thumb is a display font for occasional headings, a sans-serif style for the majority of the text, and a bold weight of the text style. Once the fonts have been chosen, use the same ones for all signs.
3. A simple colour scheme. A good basic is black or white text with one or two high-contrast colours. Another colour can be used with black or white to highlight sale or special merchandise.
4. A similar layout and design. Signs should coordinate with each other. Not compete for attention. Ideally, the signs coordinate with the store’s other marketing materials and website.
Effective signs help your customers decode the store. Both new and returning customers can find what they need quickly and easily.
And isn’t that what you want?
Give your customers the key to the code.
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