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Are You Using Signage Properly?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Are You Using Signage Properly?(GIFTBEAT)

Think signage has a minimal impact on how product moves in your store? Think again. "Studies show that a piece of merchandise that is signed will outperform another by as much as 40 percent," notes Rick Segel, retail expert, author and president of Florida-based Segel & Associates. If this statistic makes you eager to learn more about signage, read on as Segel explains his "ISEEE Formula" for signs that sell and offers tips and examples for exterior signage.

Q. Why is signage such a key component of retailing?

A. A 2005 study co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration and The Signage Foundation indicated that as much as 25 percent of the daily business at a McDonald's restaurant was derived from signage. Signs enhance the brand of a company through its store name, a department, product name or group of products -- and make product more appealing. Signage also enhances the shopping experience and changes customers' moods. Signs don't get fired or dismissed by your customers. Signs placed in the back room of your store motivate employees. …Employee signs can also be stress relievers for employees. [An example is] the sign that reads" "4% of all customers belong to the PLO [Pushy, Loud, Obnoxious]; 96% will be perfectly normal." [Remember,] big stores usually have too many signs, and small stores don't have enough.

Q. Please discuss the five different types of signs in your "ISEEE Formula."

A. The "I" in my ISEEE Formula stands for "Inform." This is a sign that informs or directs like a department, bathroom or policy sign. "S" stands for "Sale." Ask yourself if [the merchandise to be signed] is new, different, exciting, a must-have, faster or helps the environment. Real sale words are those like "New Arrivals," "Hot Item" or "Did You See This?" They are saying, "Here's the product you should be looking at." Signs can have a sale theme but still be informative, like "Back of Store Sale" or "Overstocked Sale." This [type of sign] could just be a sign that says "Sale," but that's not the strongest of uses.

"Education" signs teach something about a product or how someone could use it. These are the number one signs for enhancing the shopping experience. A January 2001 study conducted by Brigham Young University's Communications Department showed that an educational sign will outperform a sale sign by up to 18%. [For example,] you could give your design expertise with the sign "Perfect accent piece for a Victorian living room." Another type of interesting educational sign would be [found] in a glass- blowing studio. The sign would describe who made the glass piece, how it was made and how long it took the artist to become a master glass blower.

The second "E" is for "Entertaining." These signs make customers smile and put them in a good mood. A supermarket in western Canada has a sign that reads "Milk so fresh the cow doesn't even know it's missing." At Seattle's Pike Place Fish there's a sign that says "Hello, I'm a monk fish. Come closer, my precious."

The third "E" is for "Emotion." This is a sign that pulls at the heartstrings. Women make 85% of all buying decisions today. By 2010, they will have more wealth than men in the United States. Signs that express emotion or picture children and pets are a big draw for female customers. Emotional connections with customers can also be made with testimonial signs. When someone comes in the store and says, "You guys are so wonderful. I love this store," ask if you can get a quick quote and take a picture. Design [and hang] a sign with the customer's picture on the left and the quote and who said it on the right. Try to come up with four signs in every category, or 20 in your store. Once you have some success you'll expand that number. But you can't create signs and forget about them. They have to be updated as needed.

Q. You also say signs should appeal to customers in four main areas. What are those areas?

A. Signs should tell how your products can save customers money, save them time, reduce stress or save the planet. Those women who are dominating the economy are experiencing more stress than ever before. [Retailers also need to] start addressing the "save the planet" issue in their products and signage. To ignore this area is like throwing money out the door.

Q. Can you give our readers some tips about exterior signage?

A. Exterior signs can be on your building, window or outside. After someone gave a Massachusetts store owner a big porcelain pig, she put "Mac the Pig" on a dolly, put different signs on the pig every day and wheeled it out onto the sidewalk. The signs [had sayings like] "We love Hillary Rod-Ham Clinton" and "Eat chicken for Easter." Drivers would slow down in front of her store to read the signs. There were over 10 fender benders! The name of the game [in this example] is word-of-mouth advertising. If you want that, give people something to talk about!

Exterior signs can also be billboard or transit signs. Billboard signage was up about 19% nationwide in 2007. An Oklahoma shoe retailer who is a client of mine was upset because a big shoe discounter was coming into town. He asked what he should do. I said, "Have you considered a billboard?" The monthly price for that billboard was $1,400; his rent was $1,100. I said, "Go for it!" His business just exploded after that billboard ran. Electronic billboards are more economically feasible. Your business [is featured on them] seven seconds of every minute. Is this a powerful type of advertising? Absolutely!

Q. What other signage tips can you share with our readers?

A. Shop other stores at least once a month and check out their signage. Shop stores in different industries. If you have a gift store, go to a supermarket and a fashion apparel store. Visit an IKEA store in your area. IKEA has mastered the whole concept of signage and taken it to another level. I got involved in signage seminars for retailers after shopping at IKEA with my wife. While we were there, I said to her: "Boy, we're getting great service." She said to me, "We haven't talked to anybody yet!" [IKEA's] signage was providing the service.

Interior signs include the threshold sign. It's what customers see in the first 10 feet of the store. Do you welcome them? Do you have [signage about] a featured product or designer there? A schedule of classes or events?

Pick out a type font for signs that you like and that represents your store image or brand. Frame each sign, and use the same type of frame throughout the store. Remember that the average person [stands] over three feet away from a sign. When I see stores with expensive merchandise and small signage, I ask an employee, "Why do you only want to sell to young, rich people?" Those over 40 can't read their signs!

Note: To contact Segel, log on to

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