Retail signage basics: principles for successful instore communication


Regardless of whether you are looking into implementing digital or conventional print signage, there are certain guidelines that are crucial to be aware of. When implemented properly, your signage endeavors can have great effects on the performance of your business. But mistakes are easily made and any improvement can be lost in the blink of an eye. Let’s have a look at what it all encompasses!

Think carefully about what you want to say. All too often you see marketers trying to tell their whole story at every touch point. Pointless!

Think in terms of customer journey. What different stages does a customer go through when visiting your shop? How does his/her mindstate differ in each of those stages? What are his/her intentions in those different stages?

To store

When potential customers pass your store window. You have the opportunity to draw them in. To do so, you need stopping power. Visual stimulation that draws attention and gives the passer-by a reason to come in. Above all, keep it simple! Be to-the-point, attractive and clear. Sometimes the image of a delicious looking meal can be enough. Do not try to tell people all about every single promotional offer you have for them. The majority of people are unwilling to read more than one or two sentences. So don’t waste your money on copywriters filling your window with descriptions of your entire product catalogue.

Old-fashioned? Sure! But clear and attractive

Old-fashioned? Sure! But clear and attractive


Messy and cluttered. What do you want from me?

Messy and cluttered. What do you want from me?

Keep in mind, we are not talking about looks here. Making your communications look good is step two. Make them effective first.


Provide people with information that is relevant to them. Do not throw random promotions on the wall. Make them congruent with what the customer is actually experiencing. Ofcourse you can promote a specific make of white wine in your wine aisle. But what if you were to say „this wine is great with pasta and chicken!”?

Again, keep it short. If you have come this far into this article you probably have a longer-than-average attention span. Most people do not really care too much for long messages. Maybe an attractive image wil get your message across better than a detailed announcement.

Think of places where you might get the chance to communicate more elaborately. Maybe people spend on average two minutes waiting in line. Try to trigger impulse purchases here with smart signage. You have a little more time here. Putting up the same communication at the entrance of your store will have no effect at all. Be conscious about it.

A common mistake is to put the most important information at eye-level. Theory has it that this is where people are most consciously focussed. In fact, our main focus lies at heart-level. So lower your most important communications a bit, and reach a larger audience.

These points are basic. But have a look around next time you go shopping. There is so much ineffective signage out there. Clutter, mess, incongruent messages and irrelevant information. As any instore marketing element, approach signage strategically. There is a lot to be gained!

Thomas van Straaten
Instore Media Consultant

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