Rampant technology innovation continues to inspire c-store chains to offer faster, more convenient and individualized options and platforms for their customers.
Early on, Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven questioned how technology innovation could help it grow, and then wasted no time testing and implementing new innovations. Over time, the c-store behemoth has evolved to remain on the cutting edge of technological advancements in the convenience store industry.
CStore Decisions is recognizing 7-Eleven as part of our Tech Innovation Awards for its diligent focus on its delivery app, 7Next research and development projects, and its commitment to technological adoption.
“Our mission from a digital perspective is set up to deliver the vision and mission of the company: revolutionize convenience to delight customers, stores and franchisees — enabling 7-Eleven’s vision to be customers’ first choice for convenience, anytime and anywhere,” said Raghu Mahadevan, senior vice president and chief digital officer of 7-Eleven, which operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 13,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada.
Along with programs for customers, the chain also developed technology initiatives for its store leaders, associates and franchisees, such as its 7MD device. The 7MD mobile, handheld point-of-sale device brings speed to ordering, inventory control and checking out customers.
Delivery Drives Success
One of 7-Eleven’s biggest digital accomplishments is its 7NOW delivery app, which can provide access to 3,000-plus products. 7NOW was launched in 2018, and the service has expanded to reach throughout the U.S. Groceries, over-the-counter medicines, household goods and a range of food and beverage options, including pizza, Slurpee drinks, beer, wine and more are all available to customers 24/7.
“We believe we are in a unique position because of our proximity to the customer — more than 50% of the U.S. population lives within two miles of a 7-Eleven or Speedway store,” said Mahadevan.
Additionally, the delivery locations are flexible. Customers can receive delivery wherever they find most convenient using 7NOW Pins, including parks, beaches, sports fields, entertainment venues and other public places.
As it has with its 7-Eleven stores, the company plans to expand 7NOW delivery to Speedway stores across the U.S.
7-Eleven also launched the 7NOW Gold Pass, which offers customers the ability to have their delivery fee waived for a monthly cost of $5.95. With roughly three delivery orders per month, the service pays for itself.
“The introduction of the 7NOW Gold Pass is part of a company-wide commitment to bring value and delight to every customer experience, both in and out of the store,” Mahadevan remarked.
R&D Looks to Redefine Convenience
7-Eleven’s research and development (R&D) center, 7NEXT, provides a space for the chain to discover new ways to “expand digital touchpoints with customers while chasing disruptive ideas that will define the customer experience and store of the future,” said Mahadevan.
It aims to solve customer problems and develop a quicker and more personalized shopping experience in and out of the store with new products and services. Its proprietary technology allows 7-Eleven to test programs before scaling them to customers.
One example of 7-Eleven’s R&D work is its cashierless store at the Store Support Center. An assortment of products, including hot and fresh food and beverages, are supported by the frictionless tech.
After living with the pandemic and customers’ shifted perceptions and priorities, 7-Eleven knew one of the best ways to cater to its customers was by accelerating “critical technology initiatives within the 7-Eleven app to ensure customers can shop at 7-Eleven the way they want to shop: safe and convenient while also being rewarded,” according to Mahadevan.
In 2022 and beyond, 7-Eleven plans to capitalize on its goal of increased ease and access by expanding the delivery from Laredo Taco Co. and Raise the Roost, its two major restaurant banners. The chain is also working to provide further assortment options in popular categories such as non-alcoholic beverages, snacks, and beer and seltzers.
“We want to continue to provide our customers with what they want,” Mahadevan said.
In another move to use technology innovation, 7-Eleven partnered with U.S. robotics company Nuro to launch the first commercial autonomous delivery service in California.
“We’ll have more exciting autonomous delivery announcements to come in the future — so stay tuned,” Mahadevan revealed.
Mahadevan believes that personalization will be important for loyalty and convenience in the c-store industry regarding the increasing popularity of digital/virtual services.
“For our customers, the top priority is to deliver a delightful personalized experience and cater to immediate adjacencies, by making an already-convenient experience even more convenient,” he said.