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Make Signage Priority No. 1 for Your Micro Markets

Make Signage Priority No. 1 for Your Micro Markets
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The execution of the right signage strategy for a micro market is almost certain to increase same-store sales by creating product awareness and building customer loyalty. Signage can also be an effective marketing tool for elevating awareness of a micro market brand.

When it comes to onsite micro market messaging, whether it’s on traditional print media or digital display, there is always room for improvement, according to Steve Orlando, cofounder of Fixturelite, a breakroom design specialist. Orlando underscored that signage best practices are critical to “conquering the new micro market frontier.”

“You don’t have to look very far for micro market signs that have inconsistencies, irregular fonts, images that don’t correlate to the products being offered or no branding at all related to the service provider,” said Orlando, who added that signage should be purposeful, informative and include a call to action.

Messaging Don’ts

  • Avoid nonessential information, including the use of graphics for the sole purpose of filling up space
  • Avoid putting the word “drinks” on a glass-front cooler
  • Signs that say “check out” or “snacks” are not needed
  • Do not place your company name and logo on every piece of equipment

Signs can be an operator’s silent salesperson. Properly worded signage can attract customers to a micro market, telling them where to find what they want, introducing them to new items and alerting them to specials. A recent article in CHRON suggested some basic qualities of signs that operators should take into account when creating and placing them. Among them:

Readability. A sign’s letters should be large enough to read from the customer's vantage point. recommends adding an inch of height for every 10 feet of viewing distance. If a customer will be viewing a sign from 40 feet away, for example, the letters should have a height of at least four inches.

Color. Contrasting colors for the font and backgrounds should be used. The most visible colors are black, white and red for the text, and these should be printed over backgrounds that are as opposing as possible.

Condition. Handwritten, tattered or unclean signs, along with misspelled words or crossed out words, will leave a bad impression on customers. A whiteboard is the exception for handwritten signs.

The article also suggested limiting negative signage. Prohibitions, warnings and statements about penalties offend some customers. Negativity suggests that the customer is a problem. Here are some examples of negative wording to avoid in micro markets:

  • Do not place drinks on the kiosk
  • Do not handle an item unless you plan to buy it
  • Make seating available to others once you have finished eating
  • Clean up after yourself—your mother doesn’t work here

If providing basic instructions is necessary, then use language that reaffirms good behavior, instead of highlighting the negative. For example, “Thank you for keeping it clean” rather than “clean up after yourself.”

Whenever possible, Orlando recommends that signage designs match or complement a micro market’s theme or décor.

Make It Interactive

In retail and restaurant spaces, digital signage is becoming more common and a potential new revenue source for the businesses deploying it. In the micro market space, digital signage is expected to become an important component to operators in the near the future, not only as a messaging service, but also for advertising revenues. Larger operations with marketing divisions are beginning to make widespread use of digital signage.

Digital displays use technologies such as LCD, LED, projection and e-paper to display images, video, web pages, weather and other data, restaurant menus or text—but most often for advertising. According to Statista, worldwide ad spending in the digital-out-of-home sector is projected to reach $10.7 billion in 2021, growing to about $20 billion in 2025. Much of that revenue will be generated in the United States, where $5.4 billion in revenue is forecast this year, increasing to $7 billion in 2025.

In addition to the checkout kiosk screens, micro market operators have many digital signage platforms at their disposal. LightSpeed Automation offers a system specifically designed for the vending industry. LightSpeed Vision is a location-based digital display system that enables operators to push marketing content to TV monitors in locations. Operators control content deployment and length to promote products, sales and client messaging, among other subject matter.

Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Five Star Food Service, the nation’s largest Canteen franchise, began testing LightSpeed Vision in 2015. Three years later the company committed to full deployment. Today, the multi-state away-from-home food and beverage provider manages about 2,500 active screens in micro markets.

“We mostly deploy a variety of product promotions to drive same-store sales and boost consumer engagement,” explained Five Star marketing vice president C.J. Recher. “We also use the screens as an awareness tool for our consumer-based programming like our mobile app and loyalty program. During the height of COVID, we used the screens to inform consumers of our safety protocols, supply chain concerns, etc. It’s a great communication tool to the end consumer.”

Digital All-In

Five Star makes use of other digital signage systems, too. “We utilize interactive card touchscreen readers on a large percentage of our high-volume vending machines,” Recher noted. “We’ve been using these screens about as long as we have been using Vision. The programming has been slower to develop, but we now use these in very similar ways to support the consumer experience and drive more sales.”

In micro markets, Five Star will push complementary messages to both Vision and kiosk screens to create high-visibility touchpoints for consumers. But the same messaging used for the larger digital display, however, might need to be tailored for the proximity to the point-of-purchase and the goal of that message.

“The media used is planned in a way to enhance the consumer experience and help drive sales as they shop and interact within the market,” Recher observed. “Over the years, we have built an internal marketing team and detailed process that generates creative promotional ideas, fully develops and designs the still and motion graphics, manages the network of screens, and deploys the media to the devices. There is also a very close relationship built with the operations side of our business to ensure the screens remain online and working in the markets.”

Analog and Digital Side by Side

Amid its rapid digital deployment, Five Star’s communications strategy continues to employ physical signage and merchandising points of sale. These include pullup banners and posters for market grand openings and various program launches.

“Physical signage paired with digital activation helps drive promotional awareness, consumer recall of the offer and more sales,” the Five Star marketing vice president said. “Its use is certainly more cumbersome to deploy and manage than digital, but we utilize on-shelf signage frequently to complement the messaging that we deploy on our digital platforms.”

Five Star’s C.J. Recher emphasized that a proper signage strategy is central to creating a great consumer experience. That experience should be on equal footing to what customers are used to in other retail settings. And no matter how you deploy your signage, follow the messaging best practices laid out by Fixturelite’s Steve Orlando; first impressions are everything.

Are you looking for other ideas to help promote and enhance your micro market business? You can find additional articles here.

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