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Commerce blog | Omnichannel

What's in a Sign?

image: J. Jill website screengrab
A way to salvage a sale, that's what

The lack of a simple sign almost cost J. Jill a sale.


While in our local mall shopping for a coat, I wandered into the J. Jill apparel store. On a rack was a version of a shirt I already owned (and loved). Unfortunately the new shirt was available only in colours that made me look either consumptive or jaundiced. And so out of the store I wandered, without making a purchase.



image: The shirt in question, in case you were curious.

image: The shirt in question, in case you were curious.


That would have been the end of it... if I hadn't long ago opted in to receive emails and catalogues from J. Jill. Thanks to that, I recalled seeing that the shirt also came in black. Once home, I logged on to the retailer's website, saw the shirt in black in my size, and made my purchase.


A customer who didn't read J. Jill's catalogues or emails would never have known that the shirt was available in black. But if the store had featured a simple sign along the lines of "Don't see the size or colour you want? Let us check our website for you," she would have.


A lot of retailers think that implementing an "endless aisle" strategy entails investing in kiosks and the like. And while kiosks and other self-serve options are great for those of us who'd rather perish of thirst than ask where the water fountain is, in a sense just about everyone already carries a own self-service device: a smartphone. In-store signage can encourage a shopper to go on the retailer's website then and there, rather than head into another store. And for customers who don't have a smartphone or who prefer not to use it to shop, the signage will encourage them to log on when they get home—or if they prefer, to ask the staff for help before leaving the store.


I stopped in a lot of stores while at the mall (I had my teenage daughter with me—need I say more?), and so far as I recall, none of them had signage directing shoppers to their website for a wider selection. Granted, a few (including J. Jill) did have catalogues one could pick up, but none had an immediate call to action, or if they did, it was too subtle for me to notice.


Perhaps retailers assume that in-store shoppers will automatically head to their website if they don't see what they want. Or maybe they fear additional signage will spoil the appearance of their shops, make them look off-brand, busy, or downscale. But if there's room for signage to promote sales, surely there's space to incorporate this sort of signage into the everyday layout of the store—and not just behind the checkout area. It should appear in fitting rooms and by the entrance/exit as well, for starters.


While marketers often bemoan that people no longer read, I think it's more that they don't read anything lengthy. Thanks to mobile and the web, people may actually be reading more—more directions and calls to action, that is. So why not include more of them in-store?



image: How many calls to action do you see on J. Jill's homepage?

image: How many calls to action do you see on J. Jill's homepage?



PS: In case it seems I'm unfairly picking on J. Jill, let me add that the shirt fits fabulously!



author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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