Signage in the Shop

These days, it seems like everyone has their nose in a phone checking Facebook Likes, trying on Snapchat dog filters and putting just the right touch on their Instagram Stories. Because of this, it may seem like in-store advertising materials should be becoming less and less relevant to your guests and, thus, to your fast lube. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If done correctly, the messaging and branding you’re able to do in-store will always be important to the business you do and have a place in your shop.

It’s common for many industries to approach in-store signage as the catch-all for all the things they want to say: certified technicians, certified mechanic, fastest bay times in the area, locally-owned, we do tire rotations, cabin air filters and brake checks, etc. In the advertising world, these are called unique service propositions or USPs. The problem with filling your shop full of signs with USP-leading messaging is it makes for a busy, confusing, inconsistent and overall ineffective strategy over time. If your shop’s signage feels like a bad first date (the kind where the other person only talks about themselves), you need to re-evaluate your messaging. You can still talk about yourself and your services — those are important things the customer needs to know — but frame how you do it differently. An easy way to do this is to simply change how you think about these messages.

Instead of writing on your old-school letterboard out front, “We change cabin air filters, too” try, “Allergies got you down? Breathe easy with a new cabin air filter.” Of course, depending on your set up and the piece of signage you are executing the message on, you will have to adjust that message for conciseness and clarity. However, in general, that is the sentiment behind good messaging versus messaging the customer will eventually tune out. It’s also important to remember, when talking about your shop’s messaging, that you are inviting customers into your “home.”
“You wouldn’t put a sign on the bathroom door in your home saying, ‘Put the toilet seat down’ or ‘Flush the toilet.’ I see a lot of signage in stores that is offensive to the general population,” said Don Moser, North America Marketing manager at Shell Lubricants. “Try not to think of it like you’re the janitor of the building and really invite guests into your home. For example, if you’re going to have a sign about safety and the pit area, be sure it starts out with something like ‘For your safety’ versus ‘Stay away.’”

Signage is also about educating and directing your customer. Historically, guests don’t feel comfortable coming into your shop and rattling off technical terms and jargon. A lot of times, they don’t know what they need, they just know “this light came on” or “my car started making this noise.” Some really great educational and instructional signage can make your customers feel at ease in a matter of minutes. Many of your vendors have point-of-purchase (POP) materials, such as brochures, counter cards or posters, available to help educate your customers about vehicle maintenance and the services you offer. If you think POP materials could be valuable in your shop, be sure to ask your vendors what they have available.

“Only 20 percent of the people who come in are educated and feel like they’re in a position to be able to prescribe their own medication [for their vehicle]. Signage needs to fill in the gaps customers feel and should clearly articulate what your offering is. If your offering is all about convenience and how the guest can get more than an oil change, making sure you have the appropriate signage is really important for the consumer to see,” Moser said. “You want the guest to be able to say, ‘I think I need an oil change, I don’t know about my tires but I know I can find out here.’ Signage and POP always helps to assure a customer they are in the right place to be able to take care of whatever needs they have.”

Keeping your shop in great condition is still just as important as it has always been. Make sure the signs you have displayed are not faded, torn or outdated — and this includes your bay banners. Make sure you take time to experience the same consumer journey that your customer will walk through and that everything looks good to you.

Have you considered a few digital solutions for your shop? You may have to invest a little more on the front-end, but this investment will make sure you always have curated and up-to-date content. Things like digital menu boards, point-of-sale screens and digital content providers are game changers when it comes to being efficient, effective, professional and educating the customer.

“Consumers go to fast lubes because of trust, service and speed or some combination of those three things. You want to make sure everything your shop is doing is living up to those expectations,” said Dave Schletewitz manager, Consumer Sector, N.A. at Chevron. “Print collateral is always going to be more expensive over time and isn’t as easy to update or change as digital options. Digital signage in the shop is more current, relevant and puts the control back in operators’ hands.”

Consider places where you could incorporate a digital screen or two. Menu boards are always great because of how easily you can add services, update prices or even run specials. Screens the customer can see from their car can play a loop of content chosen by you from a digital content provider that is a mix of regular entertainment and educational content. Consumers are more confident buyers when they feel like they can make educated decisions, and content helps them in that process.

“Your job is to make consumers feel like choosing your shop is the best decision they could’ve made by letting them know you’re a team of professionals who, whether or not the consumer is a certified mechanic, will take care of them just the same and will do it quick,” Schletewitz said.

Signage should strategically educate the customer and give them confidence in your staff. In-store signage, particularly POP signage, is important to giving your shop credibility in the consumer’s eyes, whether or not they realize it does.

“Consumers already, by absorbing different types of media, are familiar with a handful of brands who have invested marketing dollars in mass media,” Moser said. “This familiarity reassures the consumer that you’re carrying name brand products and that your business proposition is to offer quality products.”

Studies have shown that 80 percent of the population reacts based on assured confidence, Moser said. So all of those positive messages about the way you run your business instill confidence in your customers over time.

Next time you’re thinking about in-store signage (which should be frequently), hopefully, you will consider what you’re telling guests both directly and subliminally through your messaging and how it is presented. Consider how you can integrate a few digital tools into your arsenal and how much money you could save over time in print costs by doing so.

Don’t be a bad first date. Talk about the customer first and you second. You’ll always have a better shot of a second date that way — and hopefully a long relationship thereafter.

In-store signage can be an effective tool; it just can’t be the only tool you use. Make sure you have strong digital and social media strategies to work alongside it. If your in-store, digital and social media experiences work together, you will be on your way to capturing the marketing secret everybody wants to know.

Lauren Henderson

LAUREN HENDERSON is an experienced automotive freelance copywriter and a former full-time team member of NOLN. Her work has appeared across print, broadcast and digital mediums.