Bold and colourful retail signs attract most attention, survey shows

 

In recent years, the high street has struggled to compete with the growing popularity of online shopping. This has led to an overall decline in face-to-face sales and the closure of several retail giants. Yet despite its convenience, e-commerce cannot offer the same customer experience that buying items in-store provides.

In-store shopping allows consumers to receive helpful, personalised advice from staff and enables them to inspect products in-person, avoiding those unfortunate surprises that can sometimes follow an online delivery.

Rather than a chore, many people consider shopping as a desirable experience, and one to be savoured.

Now, it is common for retail stores utilise music, smells and temperature to create a particular atmosphere on the shop floor that can entertain shoppers as well as encourage sales and brand loyalty. However, to stand out against competitors, stores are increasingly being forced to get creative and fight much harder for each customer.

A study of consumers’ retail preferences by design consultancy Dalziel and Pow revealed that 41% of people selected store ambience, making it more important to consumers than location, friendliness of staff and customer service. 

One element that businesses know should not be overlooked is lighting. Whether its general in-store lighting, under-counter illuminations or something even more tailored, lighting has the power to influence emotions, showcase a brand’s personality and enliven certain spaces.

Something that has seen a surge in popularity in recent years is in-store neon signs. Retailers are using this decorative lighting to direct customers to areas of the store, imbue products with a particular tone, or simply draw people in from the street.

Recent research shows that 64% of people think a bright and eye-catching sign using creative lighting effects would attract their attention more than something simply informative.

Graeme Hoole, Head of Product Development at NeonPlus which carried out the survey, said: “Neon signs have become a huge trend in retail settings and are commonly used to exude fun and give a store a modern yet retro feel.”

The art of the window display

Window displays are typically how a store makes its first impression. Not only should they be attention-grabbing, they also need to promote new products or sales and tempt customers into making those all-important impulse buys.

A study by FedEx revealed that two thirds of consumers believe a stores signage is reflective of the quality of its service or products. The study also revealed that 8 in 10 consumers enter a store they have never visited before based on its signs

Will Bartlett, project manager at retail design agency Prop Studios and commercial interior design agency FormRoom, said: “Window displays are considered one of the most influential marketing tools in reinforcing a brand’s identity and driving footfall.

“In the digital age, customers have their eyes firmly on their phones, so brands must work harder than ever to capture their attention.

“Window schemes need to be worthy of customers’ time. This is the first touch-point to communicate the brand message with impact and form an authentic connection.”

In 2017, Topshop promoted its new clothing line with a vibrant window display featuring multi-coloured neon signs of phrases such as ‘summer’, ‘wild’, ‘girls’ and ‘love’ surrounding mannequins dressed in festival clothes. 

“The range of colours that neon signs can achieve offer a very stark contrast to the everyday world,” Will Bartlett added. “Our eyes can’t help but be drawn to the unusual. It’s very hard to miss something so bright and unique.”

Creating a fun environment

When River Island launched its flagship store in Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre, it used neon lighting and ceiling spotlights to create an atmosphere that replicated a fashion show or art exhibition.

Graeme Hoole said: “Neon is often associated with parties, which can make shoppers feel happy, excited and encourage them to buy something spontaneously.

“If a customer enjoys visiting a store because of its atmosphere, they are more likely to return and feel loyal to that brand.”

In 2017, the online beauty subscription company Birchbox opened a London pop-up store to provide customers with an upbeat ‘build your own Birchbox’ experience. The temporary boutique radiated positivity and love with a combination of charming décor, pastel colours and a ‘love notes’ tree that allowed visitors to leave their own messages and ‘share the love’. This attraction was brought to consumer’s attention with a pink neon sign of the phrase ‘with love’.

“Having a store attraction such as neon signs can draw customers in and encourage them to take photos, and bring a level of excitement to the experience,” Graeme Hoole added.

Expressing brand personality

Many retailers have used neon signs of fun images or quotes to convey the character of their brands and create signature styles that are instantly recognisable and memorable.

Accessories brand Skinnydip London uses neon lighting to radiate positivity and provide a unique experience for its target market: young people aged 16 to 24. It emblazons its stores with neon signs of the company name along with slogans such as ‘hustle hard girl’ to illustrate the brand’s fun and playful image.

Will Bartlett said: “Colour plays a massive part in a brand’s identity, whether it’s a cool blue and white to connote a minimal modern feel, or a red to symbolise power and dominance.

“Neon offers a way to really shout a brand’s identity to the world. In today’s saturated marketplace, brands need an innovative and immersive image to stand out.”

The benefits of LED neon

While neon lighting has a long list of benefits, some companies resist using it over fears around maintenance and upkeep.

Common worries include that:

  • the glass tubes could break easily
  • the running costs would be too high
  • the use of harmful chemicals (e.g. mercury) could be dangerous

However, using LED neon—also called faux-neon—can eliminate these concerns.

“Faux-neon uses low-voltage LED lighting to replicate the appearance of traditional neon, with the benefit of an 80% reduced running cost,” Graeme Hoole said. “And because it has no potentially harmful gases, it’s much more environmentally friendly.

“There are a wide variety of colours and styles available, so retailers can still create visually striking displays without any of the challenges that often come with neon.”

Although companies now need to work harder to entice consumers into their stores, neon signs give them the perfect opportunity to have fun, emphasise their unique selling points and turn the idea of visiting their stores into an unmissable experience. 

Survey data

Question: “Which of the below signs would attract your attention the most?”

Description

Image shown

Percentage

A bright and eye-catching design

64.9%

A very simple design

20.6%

A creative yet simple design

11.2%

A sign containing a lot of information

3.2%

Description

A bright and eye-catching design

Image shown

Percentage

64.9%

Description

A very simple design

Image shown

Percentage

20.6%

Description

A creative yet simple design

Image shown

Percentage

11.2%

Description

A sign containing a lot of information

Image shown

Percentage

3.2%

BACK TO RESEARCH