5 Graphics Trends You Can't Ignore
There’s a pandemic gripping our country with no clear end in sight. But despite that, businesses are still opening, consumers are still buying, and brands are still marketing — the how, when, and why has changed.
For print service providers (PSPs), this means taking a hard look at both the state of the country right now, as well as where it is expected to go in the next 12 months, and the trends that can be capitalized on. And make no mistake — the opportunities are out there.
We’ve put together five of the trends we’re seeing in the sign and graphics market right now that PSPs should be paying very close attention to, and making plans on ways to either build or grow business in these verticals. The world has changed, there is no denying that. But business does continue to drive forward, it is just a matter of who will come out on top with creative and innovative solutions, and who will refuse to adapt and see the doors close for good.
While Thousands of Restaurants are Closing, New Ones are Opening
According to a report published by Yelp at the end of June, nearly 24,000 restaurants are closed as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and experts expect more than half of them will be permanent closures. But that’s not stopping some from opening brand-new restaurants — and it’s an opportunity for PSPs.
Although it’s not easy or cheap to build out a new space, restaurateurs have the opportunity to start from scratch to meet the mandated safety and sanitation requirements. Signage — both for promotion and as part of the safety requirements — are essential.
One such restaurant is Smokecraft Modern Barbeque based in Arlington, Va. Although Andrew Darneille, owner and pitmaster for the restaurant, started laying the plans to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant showcasing modern barbecue, construction was halted in March 2020 because of the pandemic. Darneille then had to reevaluate how he would bring his brand to market amid the pandemic.
Marketing for Smokecraft was a critical part of his strategy to connect with the community. Smokecraft took advantage of the foot traffic in the neighborhood with large, graphic window wraps to build awareness pre-opening.
The restaurant is finally open and heavily relying on graphics to help let people know it’s open and encouraging them to come engage. COVID-19 has created new obstacles for many new restaurant owners, but they are rising to the challenge, and PSPs can be a perfect resource for them to turn to, offering expertise in a wide range of signage opportunities designed to get them noticed and build a business in a socially-distanced world.
Making it an Experience to Shop Local
Pre-pandemic, many brands and retailers were centering their “store of the future” on the customer experience and how they could make their brick-and-mortar locations into places where customers could have an experience with the brand.
Post-pandemic that has changed. Retailers are focused on safety — both for their employees and their customers. For many, this has been an increased reliance on online purchasing and even turning storefronts into makeshift distribution centers.
In an Aug. 10, 2020, article in Glossy, retailers shared ideas on how they are planning to change their brick-and-mortar locations into something more welcoming — especially in light of the restrictions and concerns brought to the fore by the pandemic.
According to Coral Chung, founder and CEO of Senreve, a luxury Italian leather handbag brand with one store in San Francisco, the store of the future will need to embody three characteristics: experiential, community, and convenience. “These elements are distinctive aspects that a store can offer versus digital shopping and e-commerce,” Chung says in the article. “Because the hurdle is much higher now for someone to go into a store, it really needs to be that much more experiential, for example, to make it worth their while.”
Retail collectives are another way unused commercial retail space will see a resurgence, according to Michael Phillips, president of real estate developer Jamestown, which owns retail locations like Manhattan’s Chelsea Market and Brooklyn’s Industry City. “Instead of stand-alone individual stores, we are going to see more retail collectives emerge, bringing together digitally-native brands that complement each other under one roof,” Phillips says in the same article, “to create a community experience and let these brands experiment with in-person business.”
One example of this is Neighborhood Goods. Its mission is to be a new type of department store, featuring a variety of changing brands, stories, and events. The focus is also about building community. Currently, there are three locations — Legacy West in Plano, Texas; Chelsea Market in New York City; and South Congress in Austin, Texas. Online, customers can also get to know the more than 100 small brands already associated with these locations.
As we see large retailers closing up shop, unable to withstand the challenges brought to the forefront with the pandemic, could these retail collectives offer something unique — and a reason for consumers to visit? What role will signs and graphics play in spaces such as these?
Visual Communications are More Important Than Ever
For any customer-facing business — restaurant, retail, grocery store, hotel — the pandemic has changed business dramatically. Business owners have learned how vital it is to have a visual communications plan to ensure their success.
As businesses reopen, signs and graphics that help to inform, direct, and protect customers and employees are critical. Just think of all the touchpoints — inside and out — available to these businesses to communicate and build trust. Current offerings can be advertised with exterior flags, yard signs, and sandwich boards. They can also serve to alert consumers these businesses are open. Window and door graphics can communicate vital health and safety guidelines, building access policies, maximum occupancy levels, safety and policy signs about mask requirements, and social distancing — as well as communicate current hours and other critical business information. Directional signs — like one-way traffic in grocery store aisles — help customers navigate these establishments, leaving no room for confusion.
In parking lots, signs can help designate spots for curbside pickup that also include a number to call or text upon arrival. Or perhaps a branded curbside pop-up tent might be more beneficial to some businesses. A-frame signs can also be placed strategically throughout the property, directing customers to pick-ups points, or to the front door of the business.
Inside the business, these graphics are just as important — if not more so. As customers enter the building, signs that provide an overview of any service changes and safety measures in place should greet them. Business owners should also adjust floor plans for efficient traffic flow in higher traffic areas using floor graphics, temporary banners, A-frames, and hanging signs. Create one-way traffic through the space by designating a separate entrance and exit for each area, marked prominently using door graphics, banner stands, or branded barriers. Floor decals can also inform customers where to wait with social distancing cues to keep them from congregating.
Restrooms also need to be outfitted with CDC guidelines, handwashing posters, cleaning schedule logs, and safety reminders. Any surface — mirrors, soap dispensers, stall doors, and walls — can provide areas for these reminders using removable graphics. In bathrooms and break rooms, these decals can also signify spaces that are disinfected regularly as well as provide reminders to avoid personal contact.
By working with retailers and brands to employ a consistent and comprehensive visual communication plan, PSPs can help put their customers, their customer’s team members, and their customers’ customers at ease.
Digital OOH on the Rise
While most out-of-home (OOH) advertising are still static signs, OOH advertisements are becoming more digitally driven. According to a study by eMarketer, this year, digital OOH (DOOH) ad spending will increase by 1.6%, and in 2021 it will rise by 19.2%. The report expects DOOH ad spending to increase from $2.72 billion in 2020 to $3.84 billion in 2023.
DOOH is defined as any OOH advertising that is dynamically and digitally displayed. It includes digital billboards, digital street furniture, digital transit, and digital place-based display. It is also categorized as a subset of OOH.
The same report notes that in 2020, DOOH will account for one-third of total U.S. OOH ad spending. While that might not seem impressive, consider this: back in 2015, DOOH’s share of total OOH was just 17%. By 2023, 42% of all U.S. outdoor ad spending will come from DOOH.
The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) showed that in the U.S., there were 5,742 digital street furniture outdoor ad placements, 7,847 digital transit displays, and 5,830 digital shopping mall place-based ad units in H1 2020.
Digital billboards are the most common type of DOOH advertising. Per OAAA, the number of digital billboards in the U.S. reached 9,600 in H1 2020. In 2016, there were just 6,700 digital billboards in the U.S. That’s a 43.3% increase.
Additionally, some of OAAA’s latest Nielsen studies found that DOOH produces high levels of engagement and consumer awareness, and prompts consumer action. The research found consumers who notice directions from a DOOH are highly likely to visit a business, and more than 80% will make a purchase.
One of the reasons we’re seeing this increase in DOOH is simply because the digital platform allows brands to quickly adapt by providing the ability to optimize creative messaging for a target audience based on a variety of triggers. This is especially critical in the midst of a pandemic when the public needs up-to-date information.
But on the flipside, 68% of OOH will still remain printed through 2023. Printed OOH campaigns provide important 24/7 brand exposure and permanence, while DOOH can add another layer of opportunity. So how can you incorporate DOOH alongside traditional OOH? How can they — and do they — co-exist?
Marketing Strategies are Changing — Again
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has impacted everyone. The onset of COVID-19 has resulted in seismic shifts across marketing, businesses, industries, processes, and most aspects of daily life. Since the latest iteration of Deloitte’s CMO Survey was released in February 2020, everything has changed. Organizations and marketers have pivoted their traditional strategies and tactics in order to remain afloat and there have been varying levels of success.
According to Christine Moorman, founder and director of The CMO Survey, “It has been over 100 years since our world has faced a pandemic of COVID-19’s magnitude. The economic and social disruptions caused by the virus will continue for many months and a ‘new normal’ for business seems likely in the long run. As a profession, business function, and organizational activity, marketing sits at the center of corporate responses to these challenges as companies shift their go-to-market activities.”
Some highlights from the study are important for print providers to know — especially as they partner with brands and, in many cases, help execute marketing plans.
The good news: more than 62% of leaders said the importance of marketing to their businesses had increased since the pandemic. According to the study, while overall organization budgets and revenues have dropped, marketing budgets have risen to the highest percentage of organization budgets and revenues in the survey’s history. The fact that marketing budgets did not drop at the same rate as budgets and revenues likely reflects priorities given to marketing to retain customers and maintain brand awareness during the pandemic.
What are marketers spending their money on? During the pandemic, it’s been digital. Spend on mobile (70%) and social (74%) increased, and marketers anticipate that mobile spending will continue to grow over the next 12 months. Firms have primarily been using social media for brand awareness and to attract and retain customers. Additionally, a segment of those dollars (7.5%) have been focused on online influencers — such as on LinkedIn, company blogs, Instagram, and Facebook — and they anticipate large gains in the use of influencers in the next three years (up to 12.7%).
When it comes time to rebuild, marketers believe smaller companies will rebound faster, likely due to their ability to be nimble. Additionally, marketers report increased openness among customers to new digital offerings introduced during the pandemic (85%), increased value placed on digital experiences (84%), and greater acknowledgements of companies’ attempts to “do good” (79%).
Also, the report outlined that marketers’ key objectives during the pandemic has been to build brand value that connects with customers (34%), and retain their current customers (33.5%), more than improving ROI (3.5%) or even customer acquisition (14%). Marketers have been shifting resources toward building better customer-facing digital interfaces (61%), transforming their business models (56%), expanding into new offerings (42%), and building partnerships (41%), believing these strategies will be important long-term opportunities.
Interestingly, small companies (less than $25M in revenue), are least likely to build better digital interfaces, at only 48.4%, but are the most likely to build partnerships, at 61.3%. B2C companies are more likely to build better digital interfaces. B2B Services companies are significantly more likely to expand into new offerings (at 47.1%, compared to the 39.5% of all of their counterparts), while Product companies (both B2B and B2C) are much more likely to transform go-to-market models.
E-commerce (or sales over the Internet) have grown to the highest level in the survey’s history (19.3%), marking a trend in more companies selling online. Small companies (with fewer than 500 employees) are taking the biggest advantage of selling online, at 26.1%.
With the increase in digital — mobile and social advertising — this begs the question: but what about print? This is when omnichannel or multi-channel marketing — and the ability to execute on it — becomes even more important to PSPs. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen print campaigns decline sharply in all markets. But for companies well-versed in executing multimedia campaigns — and even creating storefronts for their customers as e-commerce increases — they will become much better positioned when we enter the “next normal.”
The pandemic might have derailed the plans everyone had for 2020, but from those proverbial ashes, new opportunities are rising up. The question is whether or not your shop is prepared to meet them head on, and how you will continue to serve your customer base through the rest of this year and beyond.
Denise Gustavson is the Editorial Director and Special Projects Editor for the Printing & Packaging Group, which includes Printing Impressions, packagePRINTING, In-plant Graphics and Wide-Format Impressions magazines, among other brands. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Wide-Format Impressions.