Three Pillars of Retail Décor and Signage in 2021

It’s a new year and what better time to evaluate the best ways to keep your business as competitive as possible in 2021? Here we highlight three of the primary reasons successful retail businesses are evaluating and upgrading their décor and signage in 2021.

(Post) Pandemic Mindset

We are still in the throes of an international pandemic and consumer mindsets are geared toward safety unlike any time in history. Even as the dissemination of vaccines picks up, this mindset isn’t going away any time soon.

Consumers need to know their health and safety is being taken into consideration; this is the impetus for the introduction of antimicrobial wraps into the retail and restaurant environment. Antimicrobial wraps are thin, clear, and pliable which makes them hardly noticeable to our eyes or sense of touch.

As retailers, it is crucial the focus on safety is conveyed to consumers – for both their peace-of-mind and engendering future customer loyalty. The retailers achieving the optimal customer experience are those who are both proactively leveraging antimicrobial material on surfaces with high touch exposure and using signage to inform their customers of these measures.

Perhaps the best example of this in retail are grocery stores wrapping this antimicrobial material on their conveyor belts. This placement of antimicrobial material brings comfort to customers and employees alike, all while being highly effective and very affordable. Other businesses are using them on door handles, menus, and countertops.

As we look forward to what is hopefully a post-pandemic world, the public consciousness will remain cognizant of germs and viruses and the use of antimicrobial films is a highly effective way to assuage those concerns.

Aesthetic Competitiveness in a Social Media Fueled Word-of-Mouth World

Robust word of mouth advertising is the pinnacle for any company or brand. It’s a short-cut for our brains since we rely on the opinions of those who we perceive as being most similar to us. This is what makes it the single most trusted source of information in existence.

Humans are pattern-seeking animals; we are also highly social animals. This combination causes our brains to consistently seek out those people who we deem to be most similar to us – or most similar to what we want to become. Our brains tell us that these people must have preferences that are similar to our own. Once we identify these people, we give their opinions far more legitimacy than any other source of information.

What does this mean for retail?

As we know, social media has changed the way we exchange information. And for better or worse, we use social media as an extension of word-of-mouth advertising. That means we must cater our retail environment to foster the generation of as many positive social posts as possible.

How do we do this?

First, we must be honest with ourselves about the role style and aesthetics play in social media posts. Just like we seek out the opinions of those we perceive to be most similar to us, social media users want to only make posts that will garner as much positive feedback for their personal brands as possible. That is the foundation of your opportunity. By creating a space that is aesthetically pleasing, you create an opportunity for your customers to use your physical space as a way to draw positive attention to themselves. It’s a symbiotic relationship. You provide them with an environment they want to broadcast to the world (or maybe just their 63 friends and family on Instagram) and in return, they provide you with the most trusted and impactful form of advertising in the world.

The Retail “Experiential” Revolution

This is not a newsflash, but the battle between retail and e-commerce for consumer attention has been trending toward e-commerce for quite some time. However, not all areas in the retail space are struggling; some are thriving.

The first place to look for success in brick and mortar is brands that are embracing “experiential retail.” These are businesses that don’t just sell items, they allow the consumer to immerse themselves as an active participant in the experience. A shining example of experiential retail is Memphis, TN-based Buff City Soap. Over the next few years, BCS is poised to open more than 500 new locations across the country. All while the giant in their industry, Bath and Body Works, has been closing locations across the country.

What is the secret to their success? They designed their stores from the ground up with a focus on experiential. Their décor is warm and inviting; it feels both familiar and new at the same time. BCS’s décor beckons for patrons to make social media posts from within their location, all without ever explicitly asking them to do so. Their commitment to the customer experience runs so deep that in some locations they have even installed “Scents on Tap” and have classes where customers get to create their own soaps with friends, family, and coworkers.

Custom décor and signage are at the core of what they are selling, an experience. If your retail location is focusing on incorporating and expanding your customers’ experience, the first place to start is your design, décor, and signage.

Stand out

“Our company is forward-thinking, innovative, creative…”

We all say it, but do we actually put the action behind our words? If you sell in retail, you might live out that mantra in many aspects of your business, but you likely don’t apply that same standard to your P.O.P displays.

That’s a problem!

If your P.O.P. displays don’t capture attention while being both affordable and eco-friendly, you’re doing it wrong – and your competitors won’t wait on you to get it figured out.

The world of retail is evolving and “2020” accelerated the pace of change. Adaptation – as in nature – is a core tenant in whether we will simply survive, thrive, or cease to exist. Consumer expectations are changing as their attention is being fought over like never before. Consumers see 5,000 ads per day! That is not a typo – that’s your competition.

Take a moment to process that. In addition to your brand, your target customer will be inundated four thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine times per day by other brands. The thought of that is hard for your brain to even comprehend as you leisurely read this blog. Now imagine how hard that actual experience is to process for the average consumer.

Fortunately for consumers, the brain has evolved to be able to tune out certain forms of stimuli, including standard P.O.P. displays.

Unfortunately for companies, the brain has evolved to be able to tune out certain forms of stimuli, including standard P.O.P. displays.

We all have two systems in our brains – System 1 and System 2. System 1 is our autopilot, and it navigates us through the minutia of daily life; this is where 98-99% of each person’s brainpower goes each day. System 2 is the part of our brain that performs critical thinking. To capture the attention of prospective consumers, we must engage their System 2’s.

So, what easiest thing for the brain to ignore? The things that are most common and present no threat or reward. We have been exposed to certain things so many times we associate no value, positive nor negative, with them. And that is at the crux of P.O.P. in the retail environment.

As consumers, what stops our brains in their proverbial tracks? New. That’s right, NEW. The notion that this thing is not like other things. This forces our brain – rather, the System 2 within our brain – to make a value judgment on this new thing. Here’s what happens next, our System 2 begins looking for similarities between this new thing and things with which it is already familiar.

As a vendor or retailer, this is your big shot! This is the moment of greatest potential impact. Your best chance at being able to acquire this potential customer is by keeping their System 2 engaged for as long as possible. This is why your competitors are rethinking their P.O.P.

This means your P.O.P. will not be effective if consumers’ System 2 easily identifies your P.O.P as similar to the P.O.P. they are used to seeing. Their brains will quickly file it away as just another one of the 5,000 ads a day that creates no value for them. However, you can use that psychological dynamic to your advantage! By simply defying their expectations – and requiring their System 2’s to engage longer – you can force their minds to pay attention to your product.

What is this I’m seeing? What is this product? The human brain hates unknowns and will engage longer to seek resolution. This is where the Semiotic Standout sets your brand apart. It hacks the phycological wiring of potential consumers System 2’s and forces the critical thinking part of the brain to engage – something it only does with a handful of brands each day.

Your brand’s Semiotic Standout caught their attention at a subconscious level; now that they’re engaged, your brand must make a positive impact. This is where the potential consumer will make their first impression of your display, and maybe even your brand.

The Semiotic Standout is the first 3D P.O.P. display that is affordable to produce, can be shipped flat to locations across the globe, and made from eco-friendly materials. Our Standouts force consumers to pay attention as the visual experience they encounter exceeds their preconceived expectations. This forces their System 2’s to contemplate both your product and brand; something they might not have done in many years, if ever.

The brand that garners the most attention from consumers – and uses that attention to paint their brand in a positive light – will win the retail battle. There is no P.O.P. display alternative that captures the attention of your desired consumers while helping you achieve your overall business objectives (lower costs, eco-friendly) like the Semiotic Standout.

Salesmen Sleep; Signs Don’t

2020 has been the most trying year in the history of retail. Not only have retail businesses been facing more than a decade-long trend of consumer preferences shifting to e-commerce alternatives, but 2020 brought with it the existential threat of COVID-19. As we are all too well aware, this led to a global economic slowdown, stay-at-home mandates, social distancing, and other elements that kept consumers out of stores.

But not all is doom and gloom. We will examine bright spots in the retail economy and see what these industries and businesses have done to not only survive, but differentiate themselves and thrive.

The retail sectors that have thrived to the greatest degree in 2020 are the grocery industry, dollar stores, and convenience stores. Interestingly enough, all three sectors are spending more than ever on their signage.

The grocery industry is up more than 10% year over year in gross sales and the investment in grocery store signage is up more than 20%. It is more important now than ever before to grab customers’ attention with grocery store signage at both the “drive-by” level and the in-store level. There is more competition for customers than ever before. That means getting customers to stop and enter your store is more important than ever before.

Once in the store, it is crucial to capture as much business as possible from your existing customers. With the number of in-store employees on the decline, the single best way to point customers in the direction of your product or sale is in-store signage.

Dollar stores, while not as commonly thought of as grocery stores, sales are up more than 20% in 2020. What’s more, their in-store signage spend is up more than 35% year over year! More than 85% of street-facing dollar store windows have signs extolling the deals to-be-had within their walls. Once in-store, signage is hanging from the ceiling, accompanying new endcap displays, even pointing customers in the direction of great deals with floor decals (along with their social distancing decals).

The grocery sector and dollar store sector aren’t the only segments enjoying banner years, convenience stores are making hay while the sun is shining. As an industry, in-store sales are up eight percent. How is it that with less driving in 2020 than any year since 1992, gas stations are doing more business than ever before? We can’t ignore the shift in the c-store model to a more full-service experience with high-quality food options. But the biggest driver of increased revenue is getting drivers to leave the pump and make in-store purchases. What is the single biggest tool in the c-store tool kit for driving consumers inside? You guessed it… signage.

C-stores are taking advantage unlike ever before of opportunities to introduce customers to the deals inside by leveraging printed signage on top of their pumps, wrapped on their pumps, on the barriers that protect both their pumps and doors, their windows are full of monthly and seasonal offerings, etc. The spend on gas is in decline, but the spend by gas stations on signage is increasing unlike ever before. There’s a reason – the economics dictate that c-store signage has one of the best ROI’s in this retail environment.

It’s no accident that when the stakes have never been higher, the market sectors which are growing at a record pace are focusing more than ever on their in-store signage and print.

Why do we see these red-hot sectors increasing their focus on their signage? Because signage works! Signage never clocks out, doesn’t take days off, and doesn’t need three weeks paid vacation. Yet, it never stops attracting, informing, and influencing both your existing clientele and prospective new customers.

Sales are the lifeblood of every business. When examining your business and the potential strategies for maintaining or increasing sales, don’t overcomplicate your options. The effectiveness of signage has been proven over time and in the modern era. Just remember…

Your employees sleep; your signs won’t.