Your Signage Sends a Message

Bridal retailers are constantly trying to enhance their store layouts and display space to optimize profits and inventory while also improving the customer shopping experience. But one area that often gets overlooked is signage – specifically customer-service signage. Yet these signs are important because they can quickly help you communicate efficiently and effectively to your customer base while also protecting your bottom line.
    “Since information is crucial for the customer experience, signs and visual graphics can explain the store policies on sizes, orders, returns and payment,” says Drue Townsend, senior vice president of marketing at FASTSIGNS International, a company that specializes in the latest sign-making systems and techniques. “Policy signs can provide answers to questions before they’re even asked.”
    Cathy Montante, owner of Collezione Fortuna Fashion Boutique in Carmel by the Sea, Calif., feels it’s particularly important that your store policy, especially your return policy, be politely worded and visible to customers.
    “You need to have signage with your store hours posted by the door in script that can be easily read and your return policy by your checkout counter,” Montante says. “If you do not allow photos taken, this should be worded politely and posted visibly.”
    According to Earle Bevins, general manager at The Global Display Solution, this is important not just for clarification purposes, but also because a store’s signage can change the atmosphere and thereby the entire customer experience.
    “Signage can distinguish a store by conveying promotions, product value, branding and even the ownership’s vision,” Bevins says.

Signs of the Times
In Strategic Locations
    The signs you display inside your bridal boutique can enhance its brand. And proper customer-service signage is a sound investment because these signs encourage stability, which can boost bottom-line returns. For example, when you clearly display your store’s return policies, this not only cuts down on confusion among customers, but also adds a layer of protection for you, the retailer.
    That said, the most effective location to display your signage varies and should be based on where potential customers are most likely to linger for extended periods of time. In some stores this might be the checkout area; in others, a popular “selfie station” or particularly comfortable lounge might be better.
    As well, areas near your dressing room could be a prime location to display signage. Many store policy announcements are also placed at the cash wrap area.
    While these are all good ideas, there is one strategy Bevins definitely recommends: display your store’s commitment to customer service right in front where the customer walks through the door.
    “The sign can be displayed on a wall, window, or in a poster stand,” Bevins says. “The message should be reinforced at the sales counter at the purchase moment.”
    Aside from that, providing the rest of your information on different wall panels throughout the store can help provide useful information as customers browse.
    “By providing policy signs, stores and businesses can help to reduce anxiety and ease the minds of customers who may be thinking about and juggling countless wedding details,” Townsend says. “When it comes to signs and visual graphics, you want to incorporate them in a way that is helpful, providing the information the customer needs when they need it, while still blending with the ambience and décor of the store.”
    Indeed, you have the ability to take advantage of unique, high-end signs in many locations throughout your store. From welcoming customers inside to describing your photography policy or alterations structure, the customer-service signage options are endless.

Should You Go Digital?
The Answer Depends
    More and more boutiques and independent stores are beginning to incorporate digital signage into their customer-service communications. One main benefit is that digital signage can serve not only as an extension of your brand, but as a salesperson as well.
    Interactive digital kiosks can be used to communicate your customer-service policies by the swipe of a finger – perhaps while a bride is waiting for the next gown to be delivered into the dressing room.
    “Digitally printed signs also will continue to be used across all stores because prices are so attractive and they are exceptionally easy to display,” Bevins says.
    Another benefit is that digital signs can also be easily updated if your customer-service policies change or need to be expanded.
    Ceiling banners displaying customer-service messaging are also growing in popularity right now because there are now effective ladder-free ways to display graphics from drop ceilings or in open ceiling environments.
    “There is an incredible amount of ceiling space that is currently underutilized in retail,” Bevins says. “Ceiling displays can help set the tone of the store.”
    Susan Metropoulos, owner of The Left Bank Jewelry & Bridal Finery in Chicago, says that while she recognizes digital signage is currently the trend for many businesses, she feels it is not in synch with the highly personalized approach she takes with her clients.
    “Design wise, digital signage would not be a proper fit for our brand,” Metropoulos says.
    Rather, her customer-service policies are placed in pretty frames that project the image of her boutique – which is glam, contemporary modern with a touch of Parisian vintage flair.
    “This not only resonates with our brand and interior design but with our clients, and that is most important,” Metropoulos says. “The most appealing aspect of every business is the customer experience. If the customer feels comfortable and relaxed, they are most likely to return and spread the word about your business. Clients more than ever want access to information and we need to provide a positive impression to motivate them to purchase, return and refer others.”
    Metropoulos places her customer-service signage near her main “cash wrap” area, which is where she says clients are most accustomed to seeing this type of signage.  
    “Typically, our clients ask about our policies when we work with them and we repeat verbatim what we have on our signage,” Metropoulos says. “Consistency of our policies builds trust and brides are increasingly skeptical about purchase making. Also, we never explain why our policies are such, because most simply do not care about your particular business model, they care about what’s best for them.”
    And remember, even if your budget does not allow you to invest in high-tech digital or professionally printed signage, handwritten signs are better than having no signs at all. However be cautious because they can be difficult to read.
    “In a business that relies heavily on appearance, like the wedding industry, professionally created signs and visual graphics are best for first impressions,” Townsend says.
    If there are messages or information that changes frequently for promotions or in-store events, digital displays are a good idea. Finding plaques that are made from glass or chalk is another option – each item allows you to change your message often.
    For seasonal information that needs to be changed out regularly, you can also connect with customers by using promotional window graphics, exterior identification signs and fabric banners that point out product features and promote specials.
    “Bridal shops also can use custom wallpaper and counter graphics to extend their brand message and reach shoppers,” Townsend says.
    While Sandra Budewitz, owner of Sandra D’s Bridal Boutique in Watertown, Wis., doesn’t use a tremendous amount of signage in her shop, she is very cognizant of the types of signage she uses.
    “Chalkboards are popular, however, we use these more for sale or information signs,” Budewitz says. “Handwritten signs are not professional. Clearly printed signs are best – whether you print them yourself or have a printer professionally do them.”
    Budewitz places her customer-service signs at the register because of prime visibility.
    “We also occasionally post things in the dressing rooms,” Budewitz says. “In my opinion, the key is to keep it simple. Too many signs add clutter and then there is just too much to read and absorb. Some things are better explained verbally at the time of sale rather than assume they will read it on a sign.”

When It Comes To Amount
Less is Still More
    So how much customer-service signage should a store have?
    If a prospective bride enters your business, the first impression she has should be of the products and services you offer.
    Cathy Furze, owner of Country Bridals in Jaffrey, N.H., posts customer-service signage in each fitting room, for bridal, maids and tuxedos - stating the policies that apply to them.
    “We also have policies posted on the wall in our check out area,” Furze says. “It’s important to have tastefully displayed signage in private fitting areas. Having one sign in a public check-out area should be sufficient as long as the consultant is verbally explaining your policies and procedures to each customer about the purchase they just made.”
    Townsend recommends looking for opportunities to use as many types of signs as possible throughout your store as long as each sign has a purpose. Also assess your in-store signs and visual graphics regularly – every six months at minimum.
    And determine your most important needs when it comes to customer-service signage.
    Brainstorm to determine if there are more efficient ways of communicating some of the information. For example, if you have a new payment policy, it might make more sense to print into your customer agreement and not display it in the window. If your business operates off of scheduled appointments only, that information would be best presented on your website as well as through in-store signage, greeting potential customers as they walk through the door.
    Bevins warns that signs become overkill when the customer no longer identifies the store’s brand from the brands that the store carries.
    “Too often stores allow themselves to be upstaged by the branding of their suppliers,” Bevins says. “Why? Because the signs and collateral are free. Minimize the signs of your suppliers and emphasize the brand you are trying to develop by investing in a quality sign package, including customer-service signage.”
    And Montante agrees.
    “You want the customers to feel comfortable and too many signs may scare them off,” she says.
    Metropoulos says that signage should be limited to a store’s dressing rooms and near the check-out counter.
    “If there is too much, it subliminally tells the client that there were issues in the past,” Metropoulos says. “Our clients are very intelligent and our goal is to build a trusting relationship.”

Content and Clarity Are Key
To Awesome, Effective Signs
    When it comes to customer-service signage, you need to remember that customers’ attention spans have shortened, thanks to things like 140-character Tweets and six-second Vine videos. For that reason it is crucial to make sure your customer-service content is clear, concise and gets quickly to the point.
    And whether you chose to use charming chalkboard signage or professionally printed laminated signage, it’s important to remember that signs and visual graphics must be simple and easy to read. Use clear font characters without multiple colors. Customers aren’t going to spend time deciphering fancy calligraphy or squinting to read the fine print.
    If you follow these rules, your bridal salon will reap amazing benefits. Customer-service signage provides many benefits: enhancing your brand, cutting down on confusion with customers, adding a touch of décor and professionalism to your store. It’s important to choose the right type of signage for your salon, and to choose a strategic location to display them, however. When you do all of these things, it’s a clear win-win situation. And THAT is a message you can frame!

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