Retail Wayfinding Design: Principles for ROI

by Drue Townsend

Wayfinding signs can be so much more than directions. Strategic retail wayfinding signage can liquidate backstock, increase the average transaction amount and create the kind of shopping experience that keeps customers coming back for more. Discover how to take the signage in your retail location to the next level with these principles.

Define Your Consumers

Start the process of revitalizing your wayfinding systems by creating personas for your customers. These archetypes should be based on your consumer data and observation of in-store shopping habits. For example, two personas for Target Stores may be “Mary,” a busy working mother who spends the majority of her in-store time in the baby and clothing areas and “Brian,” a retiree who stops in frequently for essentials but rarely strays from the grocery and pharmacy aisles.

Marketing strategists for the store can develop  wayfinding signage that serves the needs of these particular consumers while accomplishing the goals of the business model. If a strategic goal is to increase the average transaction amount across the board, Target’s marketing team could create wayfinding signage that draws Mary into the groceries and Brian into the seasonal goods aisles.

Map the Store Path

The next step is to analyze the critical points in a shopper’s journey around your store with your target consumers in mind. Consider your wayfinding signage as a silent salesman drawing customers into areas they may not visit otherwise and encouraging them to discover new and exciting products. You can create a truly engaging shopping experience when your directional signage combines practical information with inspiration. Think “The Hottest Pants for Spring This Way!” rather than “Pants”.

Areas to pay special attention to include the “dwell zone,” high-traffic routes and the location of destination goods. The “dwell zone” is the area right inside the store where customers unconsciously recalibrate their senses. This is a terrible place to put promotional signage because shoppers are busy absorbing the new sights, sounds and smells of your store while trying to quickly determine the fastest path to accomplish their shopping goal. Do everything you can to provide quick and easy directional signage in this zone and save the sales pitches for places where customers are required to stop and wait (the deli, escalators, check out).

Mapping high-traffic routes allows you to determine signage design and placement more accurately. Your instinct may be to place all wayfinding signage facing the front of the store, but if you observe that a large majority of shoppers actually enter the makeup department from the women’s apparel department, you can place signs facing that route to optimize this traffic flow. Determine your customers’ most frequent paths and think about how directional signage could encourage additional routes. For example, Target could double Mary’s transaction with a sign at the end of the diaper aisle reading “What’s for Dinner? Full Rotisserie Chickens Hot & Fresh in the Deli”.

Grocery stores refer to staples like milk and bread as “destination goods,” meaning they are the items that shoppers most frequently visit their location to purchase. They astutely place these goods at the back of the store to ensure customers have to walk through aisles, past promotional end caps and around displays of backstock before reaching their goal, increasing the odds of them grabbing additional goods on the way. Determine which of your products are the “destination goods” and follow this strategy. The key however is ensuring there is excellent wayfinding signage leading to the destination goods so customers don’t become frustrated by not being able to find what they came to purchase.

By taking the time to understand your consumers’ needs, habits and goals you can develop wayfinding signage design that motivates and inspires shoppers while improving your store’s bottom line. To learn more about the art and science of wayfinding signs, talk with the experts at your local FASTSIGNS ®.