Store Signage: a Customer Conversation

shop window signage

Your in-store signage is a conversation with your customer. And like any method of customer communication, it should be clear, compelling and on-brand. We take a look at some of the key considerations when you’re designing signage.

Point of View

When you’re thinking about store signage, you should be thinking from your customer’s point of view. What questions are they asking when they come into your store? These questions might be…

Is this store for me?

Where do I find this product?

Which one shall I choose?

Where do I try this on?

Where do I pay?

Can I return this if it’s wrong?

The first question is the most important, and one that your signage should be constantly answering. For a customer, a shop they haven’t visited before is an unfamiliar and potentially threatening environment. Store signage should remove confusion and tell a clear story with the customer as the hero. This food outlet uses striking signage to guide the customer as soon as they come through the door.


This doesn’t mean a signage overload though – too many signs and a retail environment becomes confusing. Concentrate on key messages that make a customer’s journey through the store less stressful.

Talking to customers

Signage fulfils a utilitarian purpose, but can also just be there to add to the customer experience. Signs that ‘talk’ in your brand voice can add to your customer’s overall impression of the value you offer.

This hand-written window sign encourages passers-by to look into the store, but beyond that it has little practical use. Instead, it’s promoting a brand personality of warmth, humour and individuality.

Store signage message on window

Pointing out the Process

If shopping your store involves a particular process that a new customer may not be familiar with, clear, instructional signage is essential. But get this wrong, and you could be bombarding your customer with confusing instructions or too much information. Fast food chain Mission Burrito uses large, simple signage above the counter to show their menu, but also to explain to customers how to construct their burrito.


Similar instructional signage can be used to explain deals; Marks & Spencer’s recent ‘Dine in For Two for £10’ promotion offers a range of ready meal main courses, sides, deserts and wine for £10, with in-store signage clearly explaining to customers how the deal works and what choice is available. Similar meal deals are run by Boots and Superdrug, with signage showing what items can be added together to get the deal.

Choosing Colours for your Store Signage

Good design helps your signage get the message across strongly, so it’s worth researching some design basics.

Choose colours carefully. At the most basic design level, high contrast signs (a light colour on a dark background or vice versa) will be the most readable and eye-catching. Picking out particular offers in one colour of signage can be effective in drawing a customer’s attention across a store.

On a deeper level, give some thought to the psychology of colour. Why do coffee shops use a lot of brown, or budget brands often use orange?

Red is a signal for urgency and danger, and because it makes us react quickly it’s the most common colour for sale signage. The brightness of yellow makes it an eye-catching colour, a popular choice for signage about deals and offers.

Other colours can be used effectively, depending on the context. In this display, Tesco uses blue signage to advertise a deal on back-to-school merchandise. Why has Tesco chosen to display this price deal in blue, rather than with its customary yellow deal signage? Research has shown that blue has connotations of trustworthiness and productivity, possibly why Tesco have gone with this colour for a school range.

Back to school store signage promotions

Choosing fonts

Choosing a font that fits with your brand is important, but first and foremost a sign should be readable, so a font should be clear. It might be tempting to go big and bold on lettering to draw attention, but in fact lowercase letters are easier and quicker for the brain to read than uppercase.

Here, IKEA use a mixture of uppercase and lowercase font to highlight key words in a brand message.

Store signage in IKEA

Interactive signage

New retail technology is transforming the scope of what store signage can offer customers. Digital signs can display more layers of information for customers than traditional signage and some can offer personal interaction, either through touchscreens or by communication with a customers’ smartphone.

At the Ralph Lauren flagship store in New York, interactive mirrors in the fitting room recognise items brought into the room to be tried, offering additional sizes, colours and related items.

A Polo Ralph Lauren associate trying out the interactive fitting room.

Use and flexibility

The type of signage that’s suitable for a particular store will depend on its use. Do you need to be able to change signage regularly to reflect price changes or new products? If so, flexible signage will save time and money.

This chalkboard sign fits with the vintage branding of the store, can be used for a variety of displays, and also conveys the message that prices are fluid– the temporary nature of a chalked price signals this £3 price point as a temporary deal, making it more attractive.

store signage scarves chalkboard

Responsive signage

Some chains are using digital shelf-edge screens as a high-tech alternative to the chalkboard sign to make their store signage responsive to fluctuating price and stock levels.

Metro, an international cash and carry chain, has to react to market conditions in its pricing including buying costs and supply issues. It started using electronic shelf edge displays as far back as 1999 and is still using them across 60 stores to show reactive pricing and to manage stock levels.

More recent shelf-edge technology offers retailers the opportunity to mix price displays with branded images, adverts and other content.

store signage metro shelf

Image Credits

“Signage Order”: Pieminister,

“Singage Friendly Message”: Paul Robertson,

“Signage Mission Burrito”: Mission Burrito,

“Tesco Back To School”: ThinkRetail,

“Signage Ikea”: Juhan Sonin,

“Signage Ralph Lauren”: Ralph Lauren / Oak Labs,

Ralph Lauren:

“Signage Scarves Chalkboard”: Juhan Sonin,

“Signage Metro Shelf Edge”:,