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7-Eleven takes convenience to a new level

7Eleven_lab5C-store chain 7-Eleven is redefining the convenience store experience with a new concept called a “lab store.”

The company recently opened the new concept in Dallas where shoppers can try and buy the retailer’s latest innovations. The store features a streamlined checkout process that allows customers to pay through their phones, indoor and outdoor seating, and a product assortment that ranges from handmade tortillas to craft beers to organic teas on tap.

Described as a “lab store and an experiential testing ground,” the outpost is the only one of its type in 7-Eleven’s portfolio. (The Dallas News reported that another lab store could open near Dallas later this year, and that additional stores are planned for San Diego and Washington, D.C.) It is located less than two miles from the original Southland Ice House in Oak Cliff where Dallas-based 7-Eleven pioneered the convenience retailing concept more than 90 years ago. No work, yet, on bringing the concept to Canada.

“Convenience retailing is light years away from the days of bread and milk being sold from ice docks in 1927, and the industry is changing at a faster rate than ever before,” said Chris Tanco, 7 Eleven executive VP and COO. “7-Eleven stays at the forefront by pushing the boundaries and being unafraid to try new things. This new lab store will serve as a place to test, learn and iterate new platforms and products to see what really resonates with customers and how we can use those learnings to influence future store designs.”

The lab store is the first 7-Eleven location to incorporate the Laredo Taco Company taqueria, and is Laredo’s first location in Dallas. The brand is known for its handmade tortillas made from scratch in stores every day. 7-Eleven acquired the taqueria along with Stripes convenience stores in South Texas as part of the 1,000-store acquisition from Sunoco in 2018.

Digital initiatives that enhance the shopping experience are woven into the store, including “scan & pay” technology that allows customers to skip the checkout line and pay for their purchases on their smartphones.

Other store features include:

• Indoor and patio restaurant-style seating in the Laredo portion of the store as well as bar-seating across the front windows in the retail space;

• Made-to-order coffee drinks, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and agua frescas that give customers the option to customize their drinks in a full-service beverage format, and such novelty beverages on tap as nitro cold brew, kombucha and organic teas;.

• “The Cellar,” an alcove dedicated to an expanded selection of wines and craft beers, with a nearby growler station that features a rotating selection of local craft beer, cider and ales on tap;

• A cold treats bar with frozen yogurt, ice cream and multiple toppings; and

• Cookies, croissants and more baked-in-store daily.

Many of the new items in 7-Eleven’s lab store are limited-time offerings, the company said.

“A lot has changed in retail and continues to change rapidly, especially the shopping experience,” Tanco said. “This lab store is customer-focused and will explore new ideas that weren’t even on the retail radar a few months ago.”

Based in Texas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 67,000 stores in 17 countries. In Canada, 7-Eleven has grown by 25 percent since the fall of 2016 and has 650 stores across the country.

With files from Michelle Warren. Originally published at Store Brands. 

7-Eleven’s digital strategy is about expanding customer interactions

As technology advances, improved hardware can make a big difference in retail performance, but equally critical — or potentially even more important — is data and how it is used.7-eleven-logo-500x400

“Disruptions are coming at the c-store industry everywhere you look,” Kimberly Otocki, content marketing specialist for Paytronix, said during a recent webinar presented by the company, titled “How 7-Eleven Is Changing the Game…Again.”

This includes regular convenience stores that are embracing new technology, as well as outside competitors like Amazon Go. Additionally, dollar stores are starting to rival c-stores as they try to claim the convenience factor for themselves.

“Convenience is changing, and that’s why 7-Eleven is reacting the way they are,” Otocki said, pointing to the company’s 7Rewards loyalty program as the centerpiece of its digital strategy.

The primary goal of 7-Eleven’s digital strategy is to expand customer interactions beyond the four walls of the store and the forecourt.

Customer data is the key to customer engagement, used as the foundation for how 7-Eleven communicates with customers, how it gets them to return and how it keeps their loyalty, according to the webinar.

Smartphones and mobile devices offer multiple paths to mobile engagement, including push and pull messages, customer surveys, mobile-responsive emails and geofencing.

Geofencing in particular is a way of ensuring that c-stores message customers at the right time through the right medium, according to Otocki. Based on GPS, retailers can set a certain distance from their store at which their mobile app will notify the customer of reward items they are eligible for or what items are currently being promoted. The messages can be tailored to individual customers based on their existing data.

SMS text messaging is another way to reach and engage customers — and a popular one, as 75 percent of consumers indicate they would like to receive offer messages through this medium. SMS apps are also one of the most frequently used types of smartphone apps. As a result, companies can send personalized messages based on data in a medium they know customers are going to be in.

One platform-specific digital initiative that 7-Eleven has launched is a Facebook chatbot, which customers can message to seek out the nearest store or investigate deals, promotions and rewards point balances.

The digital trend that may be most important in the future, though, is mobile ordering and payment, as well as delivery, Otocki said. 7-Eleven first moved into this area by utilizing Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Cash.

Mobile payments are a win-win scenario, offering customers faster-moving lines and offering retailers more data they can use to improve their customer experience.

Mobile payment can even give older stores a different feel, according to Otocki. “[Customers] see it as quicker and easier,” she said.

On the delivery front, she noted that it isn’t home delivery or nothing; c-stores can set up programs that deliver items to drivers at the fuel pump, connecting in-store purchases to out-of-store customers. Retailers can also designate pickup points for pre-ordered purchases.

7-Eleven is also experimenting with scan-and-go technology, simplifying the checkout process even further.

The key to success isn’t any one type of new technology, according to Paytronix. Retailers will likely succeed if they use data to help them change and stay ahead of the curve.

Paytronix provides loyalty programs and customer engagement solutions to convenience stores, restaurants and retail chains.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.

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