We are a society of judgmental people; we’re quick to form opinions about people, places and experiences within seconds of our first contact. Think about the last time you met someone. You quickly scanned his appearance and drew conclusions based on the way he was dressed, how his hair was cut, his posture, body language and speech.
Once you’ve formed an opinion based on your first impression, it’s hard to change that impression. Imagine that you and a friend are hanging out in the coffee shop when a woman comes in that your friend knows. Your friend introduces you to Jill, who’s hair is greasy and stringy. Her shorts and t-shirt are stained and dirty she’s not very talkative or engaging. Based on your first impression, you immediately decide that Jill is a sloppy, dull person that you’re not very interested in knowing.
Later you find out that Jill had stopped to grab coffee on her way home from an exhausting three day backpacking trip. Typically, Jill dresses in business suits for her job as a salesperson. She usually has lots of interesting stories and is very gregarious. But your first impression of Jill was different, so it’s hard for you to imagine her as the person she usually is.
Signs and First Impressions
Before your customers even walk in the door, they’ve already formed a first impression about your store based on the signage. The latest BrandSpark/Better Homes and Gardens American Shopper Study generated some interesting findings about store signage and customer impressions:
Impressions of Quality
Every town has a few discount/souvenir stores that carry plastic, imported junk and cheap T-shirts. They’re a good place to go for kitschy joke gifts but not typically the kind of place you’d shop for a nice gift for your mother-in-law’s birthday. The signage for these stores is usually painted on a piece of plywood or other temporary material. Signs for sales or specials are typically handwritten in marker on a piece of paper. You know by looking at these stores’ signs that they carry poor quality, cheap merchandise.
In contrast, you probably have a few upscale clothing stores in your town. These stores have more expensive, tasteful signage in muted colors. Signs for sales and specials might be constructed from vinyl banner or corrugated plastic, but they’re also designed in the same formal font, in muted colors. Looking at the signage for those stores, you immediately know that the store carried high-quality, expensive merchandise.
Quality Materials Make the Difference
Quality signage gives customers the impression that your store carries quality merchandise and that the shopping experience will be high quality, too. A few tips for signage that denotes quality:
- Create exterior signage that portrays the personality of your store. Use a font that is appropriate for your business and is clear and easy to read.
- Don’t skimp on quality; spend a little extra to get signage that will look good for years. Have it professionally installed.
- When posting signs or vinyl banners for sales, find the best quality vinyl and install it properly so that it won’t tear or flap around.
- Use an existing template or hire a designer to help you create a professional, quality sign.
- Never use hand-written signs – they look sloppy and unprofessional.