How Signs Influence Consumer Behavior in Marketing

Signage can make or break a customer’s experience with a brand, especially in-store. From enticing color schemes to clearly stated message, signs can either direct consumers and increase revenue or sway them away from your business. While many businesses rely on digital signage, traditional brick-and-mortar stores use the power of physical signs to drive consumer opinions of their business and brand.

Marketing communication via signs is a popular approach to behavior change because it is low-cost, relatively permanent, and easy to target at specific groups of potential consumers. This is a significant advantage over mass media, which broadcasts messages to a broad range of consumers. In fact, research has found that signs can have an influence on behaviors in a wide variety of domains including anti-littering, road traffic, safety belt usage, recycling, and turning off taps or lights.

Unlike linguistic speech acts, however, where the sender intentionally intends to affect the receiver’s behavior, signage is often ad-hoc and not intentional. As a result, it is important to examine the process by which signage influences consumer behavior and what influences the effectiveness of those signals.

Past research has shown that the comprehension process by which a sign leads to an appropriate action representation can take two routes. If the sign is highly familiar, the viewer may go directly to the appropriate action representation, as in the case of the well-known three chasing arrows recycling symbol. The other route occurs when the sign is not familiar, in which case the viewer needs to infer the intended meaning from the context of the sign. The clarity of purpose is an important factor in this inference, and previous studies have found that the clearer a message’s intended meaning is, the more effective the sign is.

The current study aims to further investigate the effectiveness of signage in the face of consumer product choice and decision-making by testing whether a sign’s clarity of intent is more influential than the quantity of information it presents. Five experts rated the complexity of 105 real garden center signs using a Tobii X1 eye-tracker. Participants then viewed these same signs and rated their likeliness to buy (LTB). Results showed that higher coefficient scores were associated with more clarity of purpose, but that the number of items presented was not a significant predictor of LTB.

The study was conducted online with a total of 65 participants who were randomly assigned to one of the four options: “Environmentally friendly behavior”, “Safe community living”,”Health and first aid information” or “None of the above”. They were then presented with 35 different signs using Qualtrics’ randomization function. Each sign was displayed for five seconds and they were then asked a series of questions. The first question tapped Familiarity and asked participants whether they had seen the sign before or not. The second question asked about the clarity of purpose and asked participants to rate how clear or unclear they thought the sign was in its purpose. To learn more about how your business can leverage digital signage to promote its branding and customer experience, speak with a sign professional Fresno signage company.