Signage Trends That Lead the Way
By Angela Altass
Signage has always played a key role in any business that deals with the public but the necessity for clear and concise communication strategies has become increasingly important since the start of the pandemic.
A session by TC Transcontinental at the recent RCC Store virtual conference focused on identifying critical signage trends and how retailers can capitalize on opportunities to better serve new customer behaviours inside and outside of the store.
The first trend mentioned at the Retail Council of Canada session revolved around the merging of physical and digital environments.
It is important to have consistency between digital and in-store messaging, stated Eunice Chan, associate creative director in-store marketing, TC Transcontinental.
“It is important to visually remind the shoppers of what they have seen at home and that what they will be seeing in the store has the same continuous message,” said Chan. “We can do that with simple graphic displays at the front of the store. We can put in the same message and visual clues that have been used online and in the app so it is easier for the consumer to navigate that message. Consumers can change their minds when they come into the store so it’s important to remind them of what they came in for and why.”
Incorporating some of the same existing media that a brand uses online and in social media and bringing it in store and onto the shelf with a built-in digital screen is one solution to merging physical and digital, said Oscar Bertola, creative director in-store marketing, TC Transcontinental.
Another trend discussed during the session dealt with how the outside of a store has become a major selling area, especially throughout the COVID pandemic.
“From the start of the pandemic, retailers had to change the way they think about their stores, turning them into curbside pickup locations and utilizing stores as warehouses for picking orders,” said Greg Neath, VP business development in-store and direct marketing, TC Transcontinental. “There’s a lot that happens in the parking lot that wasn’t happening before and we can take advantage of this. The power of parking lots is something I am very intrigued about.”
A customer’s first impression of a store is no longer made inside the store but rather in the outside space, said Chan.
“Because of COVID, retailers have been using this space very differently than they did previously,” said Chan. “In the early days of the pandemic, retailers were scrambling to find out how they could use their outside space. Consumers are looking for information, such as store hours, where and how to pick up products, and the flow of traffic. This is all important information to display in that outdoor space.”
Large outdoor banners are a great option for displaying simple messages that can be seen from a distance, noted Chan. Bollard covers are another recommendation that can be used for promotional signage or to convey way-finding messaging and can be made with material to withstand weather conditions through the various seasons.
“Outside space can be transferred into selling space and it is important for consumers to be able to have visual clues that make it easy for them to navigate the different areas within the outside space,” stated Chan.
The outside space is very important, said Bertola, noting that some stores have worked on bringing some of the inside out into the parking lot.
“One thing that we are utilizing is putting a shipping container, which takes up a few parking spots, into the parking location as a place where customers can come to pick up items they have ordered online,” said Bertola. “Some stores are also putting products in the container space so customers can purchase them on impulse. The outside of the container can also be used to display graphics and the container can be a safe environment for employees to work. Products can be locked up in the container overnight or during off hours without having to move the products back and forth from inside the store. It’s a great, safe way to allow for a shopping experience in an outdoor parking lot and a nice, simple way to extend the in-store experience and bring it outside.”
Shop local is also a trend that has impacted the shopping experience and highlighting local products with signage in-store will attract customers, said the TC Transcontinental team.
“This trend is near and dear to the heart,” said Neath. “The pandemic has brought up the importance of local products and supporting local businesses. That messaging is clear and there is a lot that can be done to support local and it is absolutely what consumers are looking for. IMI Research shows that supporting local is a high priority for Canadians and we are seeing some retailers doing a great job of highlighting product that is local on the shelf. This trend is not going away, especially with how much more difficult it has become to source product. Local businesses have become a great source for keeping shelves filled as well as introduce new items.”
One way to showcase local products is to gather them into one display at the front of the store, noted Chan.
“We understand that some of the local vendors might not have a large range of products,” added Chan. “They might only have two or three products and by gathering them together it makes it easier for the consumer to find them in the store and gives the vendors a bigger stage in a cohesive space to showcase their products.”
A central column with graphics sharing messaging about the vendors can anchor the display, noted Chan.
“We can also build in a QR code that consumers can scan to find out more about the different vendors and their stories,” said Chan. “Some of the products might be different in size and shape so we can create a tiered podium that helps the products be seen by customers. If a retailer doesn’t have as much space to work with, we can use nesting tables and work with a smaller display.”
Retailers who prefer to distribute local products throughout their stores instead of in one central display need to identify where those products are located within the store, said Bertola.
“There are all kinds of solutions that we can use as it is very important to keep the information available about the products and where they came from and to help the customer who is specifically looking for local products navigate the store to find them,” said Bertola.
Another important trend is sustainability and retailers are trying to change in-store signage that is not made from sustainable materials, noted Neath.
“A recent study by Ernst & Young, which was released in August, stated that 69 per cent of Canadian consumers expect companies to solve sustainability issues,” said Neath. “They expect us, whether we are the suppliers, vendors, brands, or retailers to solve this and over 61 per cent of consumers are paying more attention to the environmental impact of what they consume.”
Communicating with customers on the trends that matter most to them will encourage return trips to the store as retailers continue to face the challenges of helping consumers navigate their way through the shopping experience.