Communicating with Customers

Communicating with Customers

Torch Light in the Dark


Why are signs essential tools to customers? Is there a basic set of signs that eliminate customer frustration and make it easy to shop in your store?


Occasionally garden centre owners tell me ‘our customers don’t like signs’ so we don’t use them. EH??

How do their customers drive? How do they navigate from place to place - many of my friends don’t go anywhere without their Tom Toms or Garmin GPS systems. How do their customers find their way around busy public spaces like airports and train stations? How do they make the most of their shopping experience in large department stores or malls without the frustration of getting lost and going home empty handed because they can’t find what they are looking for?

A few months ago I had an appointment with the owners of a garden centre that I hadn’t been to before. I didn’t get to speak to either of them until 30 minutes after my arrival. There were about a dozen cars in the car park and each of the drivers had joined a queue ahead of me vying for the owner’s attention with “where do I find....?” “Where is .....?”  “Can you help with.......?” “What can I plant......?” 
You’ve got it ... there wasn’t a sign to be seen.

To be successful in retail requires us to communicate with customers on a variety of levels: 



Via our websites we communicate our location and contact details; commodity products we have in store or online for sale, new lines, store specials, promotions and events and we educate by showing people ‘how to’ or providing information.

We communicate via email newsletters, Facebook and Twitter to update customers with our latest information on what’s happening in store and our latest deals as encouragement to come back and visit.

We pay big money to print and distribute monthly mailers to tell everyone in our neighbourhood or in our town about our sale or the latest seasonal stock in store now

We engage with our community through supporting local events, schools and other community initiatives, to increase the visibility of our business.


In store

category-signage.pngWe communicate with signs so customers can find their way around and find the product type they are looking for; provide product information, tell what a product does and where it can be used; tell about the services you offer; tell about in-store exclusives and specials, make in-store promotions visible, convey the latest trends in gardening style, encourage customers to choose gardening as a leisure experience.


Whew! Imagine trying to share all this information without signs! Staff would be run ragged and they wouldn’t have time to do the most productive things like re-stocking and making product visible so that it will sell.

If we have a bricks & mortar store, one of the primary reasons for our external campaigns is to get people into our store, so why confuse them when they arrive? Most people are time poor; most feel frustrated and annoyed if they have to spend their valuable time aimlessly wandering a store looking for what they can’t find! They will vote with their feet and walk away without buying - and miss all those impulse opportunities as they do so.


Category signs and sub-category signs are an important tool in assisting customers to find their way around and locate products – especially important for first time customers to your store and to beginner gardeners. Make sure your category signs are in customer friendly language – 

Trees: 'Large trees,' 'Evergreen Trees,' 'Weeping Trees,' ‘Trees for small gardens’.
Garden care: ‘Plant Food’, ‘Plant Health’, ‘Weed Control’,
Edible Gardening: Veges, Herbs, Citrus, Fruit trees, Soft fruits 

Keep the message and design of category signs simple and clear and with consistent branding.


Plants for Purpose or end use signs are sub-categories that make shopping easier for life-stylers, beginners and time poor customers who want to find things quickly. These sign collections of plants for a purpose, situation, colour or style.

Purpose: Ground covers, Screening and privacy, Hedges and edges, Narrow gardens, Plants of Pots, Children’s Gardening, Bird attracting, Fragrant, Plants for Gifts
Situation: Hot & Dry, Shade, Coastal, Clay soils, Windy, 
Colour and Style or theme: Tropical, Mediterranean, Formal, Cottage, Simple concepts


There are two types of point of sale signs – price or value signs and benefit signs. A benefit sign promotes all the good things about a product and uses these to sell it, taking the focus off the price.

Benefit signs should have an end use heading to attract attention and the benefits or selling points should be in 3-4 bullet points using no more than 10-15 words in total. Use words like ‘Easy Care’, ‘Low Maintenance’, ‘Flower all Summer,’ ‘Beautiful Perfume’, ‘Great in Pots’ – clear concise messages that will appeal to your customers wants and needs. Never use negative phrases or words that make the product sound complicated or hard work!


Smaller A5 signs are great to draw attention to a product, give reasons to buy – one key message. ‘Take me home to your windowsill’ ‘Lasts longer than a bunch of flowers’. 

A6 Shelf Talkers are excellent to highlight garden care products, especially best sellers customers are looking for or should use; or staff recommendations.


Service signs should highlight just one service at different points around the garden centre – ‘gift wrap’, ‘trolleys’, ‘Umbrellas’, ‘Re-cycle used pots here’

Use a Service sign in a prominent place, for example behind the checkout, to list all the important services that are not obvious – ‘Delivery’  ‘Gift Vouchers’ ‘Garden Design’ ‘Landscaping’ ‘Loyalty Programme’.


It is important to ensure each sign is of the right size and height and that the design and text allows them to be easily seen and read by customers.


A basic set of integrated signage will engage customers as soon as they enter your store, allow them to find their way around, allow them to read and assimilate information and make the best use of their time, eliminate frustration; convey a message that a visit to your garden centre is stress-free and gardening is fun and an altogether pleasant, rewarding leisure activity.


Garden Retail Success have a lot of experience at achieving a good balance of signage for garden centres. Contact us if you would like help.



- Joy Lamb