Why 7-Eleven is one of today’s most innovative retailers

They’re not going to win any cool awards, but let’s give them some recognition for leveraging digital technologies to augment the physical retail experience.
21 September 2018

7-Eleven stores are more high-tech than you think. Source: Shutterstock

The company is, for instance, rolling out support for Apple Pay and Google Pay at a majority of its US stores throughout September, adding to other mobile payment options such as Samsung Pay.

According to Gurmeet Singh CDO and CIO at 7-Eleven, frictionless experiences are the future, and digital payments play a key role. The ability to pay with their smart devices gives people one more reason to shop with a retailer. 

Other recent tech initiatives include:

  • 7-Eleven NOW – A proprietary smartphone app, currently being rolled out into select US markets, which enables on-demand ordering of products from local 7-Eleven stores, and offers Apple Pay as a payment option.
  • 7Rewards – An app-based customer loyalty programme that allows customers to earn and redeem points upon checkout. It also provides “unique and exciting” customer experiences in and out of stores.
  • 7-Eleven Bot on Messenger – Customers can engage with the brand from within Facebook via a bot on Facebook Messenger.
  • Amazon – The in-store package pickup service, Amazon Locker, is in approximately 1,100 7-Eleven stores, and Amazon Cash may be used at more than 8,000 locations.
  • BillPay – The app powered by PayNearMe enables cash users to pay a variety of bills at participating stores.

This week, it’s also participating in a UK trade mission to New York and Chicago, headed up by European retail, consumer and leisure investment and innovation firm, True, in collaboration with the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) and Capital Accelerate & Scale Tech Superstars.

This will see senior 7-Eleven executives being introduced to 15 UK disruptive retail and consumer technology startups.

Reclaiming personalities 

‘Online retail booms as high street struggles’ is a popular headline these days. But there is much more to the story than that. Physical store sales still account for over 90 percent of total sales in most large markets globally across developed and developing countries.

The hugely successful Apple Store retail experience and Amazon’s Amazon Go initiative provide evidence against the bricks and mortar doomsday predictors.

Nonetheless, many physical retailers are in the midst of an identity crisis. Dr. Andres Coca-Stefaniak of the University of Greenwich, told the High Streets and town centers in 2030 inquiry last week, that town centers go for a ‘me too’ approach, resulting in people trying to create an open-air shopping center.

Town centers need to reclaim their personalities‎, Dr. Coca-Stefaniak argued. They are losing their souls by copying each other and focusing too much on shopping, but you can’t compete with the internet.‎ It’s ridiculous to try.

Which brings us back to 7-Eleven, a good example of a retailer with a distinctive personality that is adopting technology to enhance the customer experience both in and out of stores, as well as the technologies that work behind the scenes to ensure seamless and effortless interactions.

Times are undoubtedly tough for many high street retailers. But the approach taken by 7-Eleven shows a way forward. And don’t believe the hype.

Shopping will never fully go online as there will always be a need for physical touchpoints. Bricks and mortar retail isn’t doomed – it’s just getting started.