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A Banner Year

In any other year, the Convenience Store News Technology Implementation of the Year award would involve one special thing a retailer did to improve its business. This year’s winner cannot be lauded for just one thing, but rather a group of things.

7-Eleven Inc. has had a banner year in terms of technology and is being honored with the Technology Implementation of the Year award for its multifaceted efforts. “We are honored to receive this award,” Steve Holland, senior vice president and chief information officer for 7-Eleven, told Convenience Store News. “Joe [DePinto], our CEO, is very pleased as well. Thank you for the award.”

Most of the efforts involve 7-Eleven’s popular app. “We were very purposeful in our approach,” said Holland. “We saw the consumer changing and the marketplace changing even faster. We did a very thorough CSA [Current Situation Analysis] of where the consumer is at, where they are going, how they want to be connected and where they want to be connected. Our joint teams of Marketing, Innovation and IT led us to a mobile-first strategy.”

The 7-Eleven executive noted there has been an explosion in the usage of smartphones in the United States and Canada, which led the convenience store chain to ask how it could solve consumer problems. “The CSA led us to creation of our app, connecting with the app and learning more about the customer,” said Holland. “We’ve become much more relevant and can serve them more. This was clearly on our strategy map.”

The Dallas-based retailer has been quite pleased with its overall mobile efforts thus far. “7-Eleven is about being your convenient neighborhood store,” said Holland. “This convenience extends to the mobile device in your hand.”

Perhaps most notable among 7-Eleven’s mobile efforts was the c-store retailer’s launch of the 7Rewards loyalty program, which entitles customers to receive a free beverage for every six purchased. Having this program tied to the app is important, Holland relayed, because loyalty information updates in real time so customers don’t need to track anything on their end.

Many consumers are also familiar with 7-Eleven’s birthday promotion, entitling customers to a free Slurpee on July 11 (7/11). But the chain stepped up this promotion this year, making it an entire week instead of one day. Customers who downloaded the mobile app received a multitude of benefits, including free prizes, during 7-Eleven’s birthday week July 12–18.

“The 7-Eleven birthday week was a joint effort among our Merchandising, Operations, Marketing, IT and Innovation groups here,” recalled Holland. “So it was an all-hands-on-deck effort to not celebrate one day, but to celebrate a whole week. Working with our suppliers and manufacturers to create more value for the customers through the app, we saw dramatic increases in what we call digital adoption. Consumers were downloading the app, activating the information and then scanning products on a regular basis. And these customers kept on returning from a loyalty perspective.

“7-Eleven’s marketing department is top-notch and they really know how to combine fun, digital and knowing the consumer. We help provide the enabling technology to them,” he continued.

In late July, app users received yet another benefit when they got a free medium Slurpee drink offer by purchasing any Sour Patch Kids candy or Stride Sour Patch Kids gum. “Sour Patch became the No. 1 seller in our stores during this time,” said Holland. “This idea came from our customers. Our customers told us they would like to see certain things. One of them was Sour Patch Kids. It was a tremendous hit and continues to be a great seller for us.”

Yet another promotion involving the app was a sweepstakes held in May called the All Access Chill, where registered 7-Eleven app users were eligible for a bevy of prizes, including a meet-and-greet with teen pop sensation Austin Mahone.

“This promotion was also about listening to what consumers wanted,” the 7-Eleven exec explained. “Music is a huge way to connect to mainstay customers. Music lovers had a way to win more than 1,700 prizes, including tickets to top concerts and an once-in-a-lifetime experience with Austin. Delivering a bunch of value and fun with our app was really a key thing.”


7-Eleven’s marketing and innovation platforms certainly don’t end with its mobile app, however. For example, the c-store operator, led by its Innovation area, teamed up with San Francisco-based Postmates to offer on-demand delivery via the Postmates iOS, Android or web app. This service allows 7-Eleven customers to receive an assortment of the retailer’s items — including hot foods, snacks and other convenience items — delivered in one hour or less.

After initially offering this service to the San Francisco and Austin, Texas, markets, 7-Eleven was so pleased with early results from the program that it added it to select stores in New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle. Going forward, 7-Eleven plans to offer this service in even more cities, revealed Holland.

Through its CSA, 7-Eleven noticed a shifting marketplace in which customers have less time to do things they desire, making delivery service so important.

“Customers are demanding more convenience because they are trying to fit in more during the time they have,” stated Holland. “That extends from businesspeople to mothers with kids and anyone else who wants to declutter their day.”

The Postmates partnership allows 7-Eleven to meet the needs of these customers, who want the ultimate in convenience. “This is a great way to serve Postmates and 7-Eleven customers together,” he continued. “When we look at the data, we are delivering faster to 7-Eleven customers than other retailers because our stores are within those neighborhoods [in which customers request delivery]. So, we are closer to those customers. Thus, the consumer is delighted with the service.”


7-Eleven’s technology approach doesn’t only involve successful app-related campaigns, Holland stressed. The c-store retailer recently undertook a large project to better equip all of its 8,400-plus stores and franchisees in the United States and Canada.

“In March, we finished a complete technology overhaul of our back-end office systems for all of our franchisees and stores,” Holland relayed. “In fact, we replatformed 8,400 locations in a span of 189 days. We replaced the underlying programming language and databases that drive our store operations at each one of our store servers/in-store processors.

“So, we’ve migrated away from some old technology to using state-of-the-art Microsoft .NET programming, as well as an Oracle database with our key technology partner NEC,” he added. “It was an enormous effort and the team knocked it out of the park.”

Store processes are now faster; more predictive data is available to make better decisions; and the overall system is easier for franchisees and sales associates so they can focus more time on fresh food, product assortment and serving the customer.

“Customers are demanding more convenience because they are trying to fit in more during the time they have. That extends from businesspeople to mothers with kids and anyone else who wants to declutter their day.”
— Steve Holland, 7-Eleven Inc.

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