AUGUSTA, Ga. — Building an appealing brand identity is a crucial task for all convenience store chains, regardless of where they operate or how many stores they have.
The methods retailers use to do so vary, and Sprint Food Stores takes a less common approach to enhancing its brand identity: it appeals to the nose.
The Augusta-based chain partnered with Prolitec, a provider of ambient scent delivery systems, to launch a three-store pilot starting in 2017. After it received a uniformly positive response, Sprint rolled out the program to all 30 of its Central Savannah River Area convenience stores.
The key to the program's success lies in how it affects customers' emotions in ways that colorful signage or a good two-for-one deal can't.
"Our sense of smell is the only [one] of our five senses tied directly to the emotional side of our brains, making scent a powerful way for businesses to form connections with their customers," a spokesperson for Prolitec explained.
Today, Sprint customers will smell the Verbena Provence fragrance when they enter a store. The fresh citrus scent has a bright, crisp, modern feel. Thematically, it is intended to support Sprint's concept of "Next Level Convenience" with a touch of surprise for those walking inside for the first time. The fragrance's bright citrus notes pair well with the colors of the Sprint brand, while the youthful, crisp vibrance of Verbena Provence fits the lighthearted and fun spirit of Sprint's marketing.
Additionally, rolling the program out across the chain reinforces its place in Sprint's brand identity by providing continuity, ensuring that all customers have the same experience regardless of which store they visit.
The selection of a particular scent is the most important step in the process, before any in-store testing begins. Prolitec noted that another of its retail partners opted for a diffused coffee fragrance and reported a subsequent increase in in-store dwell time that led to a 5 percent boost in sales.
"Fresh, welcoming scents can be more appropriate for brands with less focus on foodservice," said Prolitec's spokesperson. "This concept is what Sprint employs. Their fresh citrus brand scent greets shoppers right at the front door, encourages them to linger longer shopping, and reassures them the space is clean and safe."
The diffusers themselves create "scent experiences" that are hypoallergenic, leave no residue, and neutralize unpleasant odors. Touchless technology enables remote monitoring and service.
Since launching the ambient scent program, Sprint has received widespread positive feedback from customers, and store managers unanimously agree that the program adds to a positive in-store experience for customers.
"Customers say it smells good as they walk in," said store manager Michael Thomas.
Customer comments highlight the "fresh," "spring-like" and "amazing" store scent. Multiple store managers report that customers have even asked where they can purchase the scent for themselves.
At a time when convenience store retailers are working to differentiate themselves from competition both within and outside the industry, adding an ambient scent program may be a particularly savvy way to make sure they stand out.
"The convenience store channel has challenges that are well addressed by ambient scent," said Prolitec's spokesperson. "High-traffic environments and a competitive industry landscape mean brands are looking for ways to maintain fresh, welcoming atmospheres that differentiate their stores."