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Text, images or prices - what works best for retail signs?

Posted: 2 October 2019

Better retail signs

In our previous article we looked at what makes a good sign, and the importance of color, font, size and the quality of the sign holder.  But what about what actually goes on to the retail sign? Is text best, or an image, or a price? What has the greatest impact?

Let’s take a for and against look at each.

We’ll start with text. Retail signs with text are great for informing your customers. Have a product that is special in some way? Maybe it is from a small local farm or perhaps you can trace the ethical cotton back to the picker. Text signs allow you to tell these stories.

text signs

Text can communicate concepts very easily

Text is also useful to direct people around the store. Imagine signs with outlined pictures directing you to pants, sweaters or shoes. It would just be a bit odd. A bit childish. In our literate world we expect these signs in text.

picture signs for confirmation

An image can help to confirm and give confidence to the shopper

But, they say, a picture is a worth a thousand words. And so it can be. The brain processes images 60,000 times quicker than it does text.  Using signs with images can help you spark the imagination of your customer. Helping them envisage themselves in the bathing suit on vacation or putting two of your garments together to make an outfit. Well placed images in your store can lead your customers further down the purchasing path without you uttering a word.

And price? A sign with a price is the ultimate sign. It tells the customer the most basic, fundamental thing of all. How much does this cost? There are very few occasions that shoppers will make a purchase completely irrespective of price. So these signs are essential.

using reflex signs for price display

Clarity on prices

But which is best?

The most basic information we need as shoppers is the price, so that’s one point scored to pricing signs. Yet a store with only price signs would be off putting. A store that sells on price only would be functional yet dull.

Images help spark the imagination of customers and lead them further towards a purchase. Digital marketing and reduced attention spans have increased the importance of using images even further. And our brains also remember images better than words. This is called the Picture Superiority Effect. When we see an image our brains remember it twice – as an image and as a word. Whereas text we remember only in the form of the word. So, images are undoubtedly powerful.

But an image cannot tell you everything. How would you visually portray a sale? It would be a whole lot simpler to just use the word ‘Sale’. And what about when you want to give your customers more information about the products? You just can’t get the same level of detail in a sign with an image as with text. Of course, we aren’t talking about reams of literature. No shopper is going to read a thesis while browsing the shelves. But signs that tell your customers something special about some of your products will help engage your shoppers and encourage them to make a purchase.

communicating brand

Communicating the brand helps set expectations.  (In this case, do we have words or a picture?)

Key take away

So, which is better. Text, image or price? On its own, none would work very well. Text would be too much, images would be too little, and price would be off-putting. But put them together and they start to work. Think of it rather like a s’more. The graham cracker on its own is nice, the marshmallow is nice and the chocolate is nice. But put them together and they move beyond nice, to utterly delicious.

price text and image examples

A set of signs that use all three. Price, picture and words to communicate with shoppers in different ways

Your signs are the same. Each type of sign is fine, but use the three sign types together in the right way within your store and they move beyond useful, to compelling. The power is in the combination.

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