7-Eleven ‘All In’ on the Customer Experience

Annual franchisee conference showcases the future of convenience at 7-Eleven stores.

February 10, 2020

By Chris Blasinsky

LAS VEGAS—More than 8,500 7-Eleven franchisees, vendors and corporate employees convened last week in Las Vegas for the 2020 7-Eleven Experience, an annual conference hosted by 7-Eleven Inc. that showcases new products and services, innovations inside the store and the forecourt, and strategic initiatives for the year ahead.

Snacking and Private Brands

With more Americans eating snacks than meals, convenience stores are the destination of choice to satisfy almost any food and beverage craving.

At the expo, 7-Eleven showcased its new snacking offers in hot prepared foods, including the three sliders announced last November for the Dallas-Fort Worth market: cheeseburger, pulled pork and smoked turkey sliders. Customers also sampled a fresh pizza concept that is currently being tested in select markets, where the dough is hand-stretched, never frozen and baked in-store.

Self-serve innovations are putting a spin on traditional merchandising. New fresh and full food displays for 7-Eleven stores empower customers to make their selections before queuing in line. Customers can choose their own roller-grill items and customize with condiments and toppings, and pullout drawers for food cases make it easier for customers to choose their items and for employees to restock. By choosing what they want and when they want, customers can continue shopping the store and adding additional items to their food purchase.

The Laredo Taco program that 7-Eleven brought into its fold with the purchase of Sunoco LP's retail assets in early 2018 continues to deliver excitement for the company’s foodservice portfolio. (Sunoco took ownership of the foodservice offering through its acquisition of Susser Holdings Corp. and Stripes in July 2015.)

Enhancing the fresh food experience, a new bakery program is tapping into consumer senses with baked-in-store items such as breakfast pastries, cookies and other indulgent varieties. 7-Eleven notes that its fresh bakery program will enhance the store atmosphere with the smell of fresh baked goods and redefines how consumers experience fresh offers in a convenience store.

The 7-Select private brand is also receiving a heavy lift from the retailer, with hundreds of new merchandise, health and beauty products, and packaged food and beverages items coming to stores within the next year, including a healthier snacking option in collaboration with a leading CPG brand. The company sees a strong future with its private brand products, which allow stores to stock quality products at a competitive price and continue building trusted relationships with customers.

Winning Customers with Coffee

Coffee drinkers are fiercely loyal when it comes to their hot beverage of choice and will go out of their way to visit a retail location that consistently provides them with fresh coffee—a reality that 7-Eleven is going all in on.

The industry has felt immense pressure for the coveted coffee consumer: NACS State of the Industry data for 2018 showed that coffee subcategory sales and gross profit dollars declined compared with 2017, and loyalty programs were unrealized when it came to coffee. However, the potential to attract customers to c-stores for a high-quality product at a competitive price-point is 7-Eleven’s mission: Be the No. 1 coffee retailer in the United States.

7-Eleven is tapping into consumers’ experiences and relationships with coffee by bringing expanded choices delivered via high-end Franke, Bunn and Melita equipment such as bean-to-cup, single-origin, nitro and cold brew, and gourmet and specialty offers such as lattes, cappuccinos, espressos and macchiatos.

Digital Developments

As technology innovations continue to redefine how people shop, 7-Eleven is leading the innovation space with its loyalty program, delivery, frictionless checkout and a new store concept that is leading the future of how customers interact and experience convenience retail.

Here’s a look at 7-Eleven’s innovations:

  • 7Rewards Loyalty Grows: 7-Eleven announced late last year that since expanding its 7Rewards loyalty program three years prior, membership in the app-based platform had almost tripled (278%) from 9 million to 25 million members. This explosive membership growth has translated to increased store visits and a larger, more loyal customer base. “7Rewards members visit our stores more often and spend more when they shop. That means increased store traffic for franchisees and our corporate stores—an added eight customers per store each day,” said Joe DePinto, 7-Eleven president and CEO. 
  • 7NOW Delivery Demand: Delivery via the 7NOW app is available in more than 200 cities, serving more than 30 million households. 7-Eleven franchisee Bekele Tilahun, operator of three stores in downtown Dallas, has implemented 7NOW and says the program is reaching new customers. He commented that delivery is popular from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. and is bringing customers back to the c-store channel to fulfill their evening food and drink needs, a daypart code that many convenience retailers are trying to crack. Deliveries are made via DoorDash or Postmates and will expand to more marketplaces and delivery vendors soon. 
  • Time Counts: 7-Eleven is expanding Mobile Checkout, a frictionless shopping experience that allows customers to scan merchandise via the 7-Eleven app, then skip the line and pay with their mobile device. Mobile Checkout was introduced last year in New York City to great success and is expected to expand to hundreds of new stores in 2020.

During the event, 7-Eleven President and CEO DePinto announced the latest step in the company’s digital and customer experience transformation: a cashierless concept store stocked with an assortment of popular products sold in 7-Eleven stores, including beverages, snacks, food, groceries, over-the-counter drugs and non-food items.

The 700-square-foot non-traditional store, located at its corporate headquarters, in Irving, Texas, is being tested by 7-Eleven employees, where they download an app, sign up, check in at the store, enter the store, shop and exit. A detailed receipt appears in the app automatically after the customer exits.

The concept store utilizes a proprietary mixture of algorithms and predictive technology that enables the store system to separate individual customers and their purchases from others in the store.

"Ultimately, our goal is to exceed consumers' expectations for faster, easier transactions and a seamless shopping experience," said Mani Suri, 7-Eleven senior vice president and chief information officer, in a press release.

This year’s 7-Eleven Experience took place at the MGM Conference Center in Las Vegas, February 5-6.

Chris Blasinsky is the content communications strategist at NACS. She can be reached at cblasinsky@convenience.org.