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What is the Relationship Between Signs and Foot Traffic?

William (Bill) Hayes

In business, it is all about getting people's attention, since you can't really sell anyone something if they are unaware that you exist. We all talk about building an online presence, but what about your physical location? How can you really make an impression to get people interested in what you have to offer – within the immediate surroundings of your location? The straightforward answer, psychologically, is "visuals." After all, the human brain is capable of assimilating and understanding an entire image in just 13 milliseconds (MIT). Compare that to the time it takes to blink: 100-400 milliseconds (Harvard). These numbers show us how powerful visual perception is: impressions based on images are created 8-31 times faster than the blink of an eye!


Now, that tiny slice of time is great in a way. It means you can influence the information that is processed by someone in your environment almost immediately. However, it also means that people can very rapidly decide what around them deserves their focus. Businesses typically let passersby know what they have to offer through signs. Let’s look at the specific relationship between signs and foot traffic.


  • Monument signs & the creation of foot traffic
  • Making the most of foot traffic with signs
  • How signs help reduce crime [study]
  • One step to attract customers


Monument signs & the creation of foot traffic


Despite all the psychology of impressions above, you won’t be able to make any kind of connection if the person is not there in the first place. To that end, signs can be useful in improving your foot traffic.


In fact, a strong monument sign is the 1st suggestion on retail consultant Bob Phibbs’ list of 11 ways to get more storefront foot traffic.


Phibbs notes that many signs follow the same standard pattern of a functional business message with colors that don't distract: simple black letters on beige. The fact is, many businesses can’t get creative with signage due to their development’s rules. If you are able to better differentiate yourself with a sign, though, it makes sense to engage foot traffic with an intriguing monument sign, says Phibbs.


Making the most of foot traffic with signs


Phibbs is not the only one who has noticed the impact the outside of the business has on how much business is done inside. Writing for the Small Business Administration, Caron Beesley had similar advice as her top item. While Phibbs specifically suggests a monument sign, Beesley says to really take into consideration those who are in close proximity to your shop.


Think about the demographics of these people. Are they window-shopping? Are they visiting another business? Once you have a sense of those individuals, you are able to figure out how best to sell to them. “[T]ake an objective look at your signage and window display,” says Beesley. “[D]oes it appeal to your target demographic or buyer?”


These comments are helpful as advice, but they also serve as a reminder about the relationship between signs and foot traffic. Yes, the former can create the latter. But the former can also leverage the latter – notifying people who are already walking around in the area that you might have a reason for them to make another stop.


How signs help reduce crime [study]


As you can see, the relationship between signs and foot traffic is somewhat complex. We have discussed how a monument sign can increase foot traffic, and how signs can help turn foot traffic into paying customers. Finally, there is another major connection: crime. It may sound preposterous to suggest that you could make your store and customers safer and freer from the risk of theft simply by investing in a sign. However, that is not an off-the-wall idea, as indicated by a recent study.


Sociologists have sometimes found evidence that higher amounts of foot traffic lead to lower amounts of crime. The case for that perspective was strengthened with a study conducted by an economics professor at the University of Southern California, Tom Chang. The study was on a supposed link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime. Because of that possible connection, Los Angeles City Council acted, and two-thirds of the dispensaries closed. However, when the dispensaries were closed, Chang found that the crime rate rose. Next, Chang and Mireille Jacobson (UC – Irvine) looked at crime rates when restaurants closed. Again, crime spread when the business was closed.


The takeaway is that foot traffic lowers crime, and foot traffic can be both built and better leveraged through signs. In this way, simply by putting up a sign, you will improve the safety of your location.


One step to attract customers


Are you interested in seeing what signs can do to bring more people to your business, and to better intrigue people in the vicinity? At Signdealz, we focus on giving you the ability to control your advertising with unique and cool custom signs. View our work.

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William (Bill) Hayes
Written by

William (Bill) Hayes

William (Bill) Hayes, with over 20 years of experience, is deeply committed to assisting small and medium-sized businesses in developing effective B2B advertising strategies. His expertise primarily focuses on integrating on-premise signage solutions with traditional advertising methods. At Signdealz, Hayes leads the charge in innovating advertising tactics aimed at SMEs, concentrating on generating efficient, lead-producing mechanisms that outperform competitors in both immediacy and cost-effectiveness. He spends much of his time working directly with small business owners, guiding them in evaluating locations, advertising strategies, and the necessary systems to attract customers to physical sites. Utilizing a tested network of partners, Hayes plays a crucial role in facilitating the nationwide distribution of signage, underscoring his dedication to enhancing the visibility and growth of businesses across various sectors.

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