Let's talk about business signage and Covid

When compared to 2019, today's shopfronts are often a barrage of anxiety-inducing Covid-19 signage. Sure, they're serving a good purpose, but what effect do they have on your customers? And are the signs themselves being as effective as they could be?

As a marketer, my role is to help smooth that process between someone finding out about your business for the first time and then going on to buy from you—hopefully becoming a raving fan. So, shop signage is actually a key element of this customer journey: it takes someone from being just a passerby to becoming a genuine prospect.

In the past, the frontage of our businesses would have had a welcoming "Open" sign, some on-brand logos, and perhaps an enticing window display or engaging message or promotion announcement. Now, thanks to Covid, most businesses have between 4 and 30 (yes, 30—head to your local supermarket or pharmacy and count them!) non-business related signage ... and all in an alarming, most likely off-brand orange.

This barrage of safety orange not only sends customers diving into pockets and handbags for masks, QR scanners and vaccine passes, but also creates a mass of sensory noise that dulls any street-facing marketing messages we might want to be communicating in order to boost business.

So, what can businesses do?

Here are some tips for making sure you're not only doing your part as a business for NZ's Covid response but also making your space and entranceways as appealing as possible:

1. Understand your requirements: Every business and venue has different requirements around customer numbers, vaccine passes, and mask wearing. And these have changed significantly over the past year. So, start by establishing what the current criteria are for your type of business. Business.govt.nz has a great up-to-date overview and, remember, if your businesses has multiple uses (e.g. a mall with retail and a food court) there will be added complexities to navigate.

2. Out with the old, in with the new: Now do a walk-through of your entrance ways to see what signage is out-dated and can be removed and what signage needs to be added. You can download signage from the Covid-19 Toolkit here. Remember, when it comes to signage, less is almost always more, so don't feel like you need to over-do it—placement and minimalism are most important. In the above toolkit, there are signs that combine various messages like masks and social distancing which can be great for reducing clutter.

3. Observe: Grab a coffee and spend 10-15 minutes observing how customers enter your store. Notice how they juggle masks, phones, shopping bags, kids, umbrellas, buggies, wheel chairs. Notice where they would most likely see a sign and where the logical location for a QR code might be (hint: an automatic door is not one of these locations!).

4. Walk-through: After seeing how other people enter your store, give it a go yourself (and even invite employees and family members to do the same), including signing/scanning in and reading the notices you have. Is there a sense of overwhelm? Are you blocking the entrance while signing in? Are there any signs you missed and could these signs be better placed? Are fonts appropriately sized? This walk-through will give you ideas on where and when to communicate various messages and how to make your entrance way as calming as possible.

5. Monitor: It goes without saying that we live in changeable times. So, as traffic light settings change and as government mandates shift, keep an eye on what can be done away with and what can be updated in your entrance ways. Also, pay close attention to how any of your customers with unique needs interact with your signage and Covid responses (the obvious example being wheel chairs but also think about vision impairments, the elderly and non-English speakers).

6. Online comms: Finally, make sure your Google Business listing, Facebook About section and website all have the correct information about open hours and Covid requirements. If you require vaccine passes or have limited bookings, it's WAY better to find out about this online than once a customer arrives.

If you'd like help with your business frontage and the marketing messages that it sends to prospective customers and also for managing your online comms, be sure to drop a line to the Branding HQ team.