New 7-Eleven Pilot Program Targets Blue-Collar Hispanics


DALLAS -- 7-Eleven Inc. recently launched a comprehensive pilot program based on the findings from focus groups it conducted last year to determine how blue-collar Hispanics perceive the brand.

The pilot includes adding bilingual signage and "authentic products from home" to its stores, according to Irene Sibaja, the chain's senior director of multicultural marketing, who presented at this year's Hispanic Retail 360 Summit, held Aug. 8-10 in San Diego.

"What we heard from this customer is 'make me feel welcome in your stores,'" Sibaja said of the focus groups. "If we make our stores friendlier and more culturally relevant, we'll make ourselves a better destination for this consumer."

7-Eleven's Hispanic strategy calls for the following:
-- Improve product assortment;
-- Community involvement;
-- Franchise recruiting program (less than 2 percent of its franchisees are Hispanic);
-- Grassroots marketing (ex. brand ambassador van in the Chicago market); and
-- Cultural awareness training (for sales associates).

The c-store operator also is arranging one-on-one meetings with vendors to identify which products over-index with Latinos. "There's a myth that 100 percent of the products that go into a Hispanic's basket are Hispanic – and we've found that's just not the case," said Sibaja, who is the first employee at 7-Eleven to be given multicultural marketing as a full-time job.

Another falsehood, she said, is that Hispanics only want to be communicated with in Spanish if the speaker is fluent. In fact, Sibaja said 7-Eleven's research uncovered that Hispanic customers don't care if associates mispronounce words. "They appreciate the effort," she said.

7-Eleven has found in-store sampling to be an effective tool as well. The retailer did a sampling program with Lala yogurt in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, and now months later, Sibaja said Lala sales in stores that took part in the sampling continue to outpace those that didn't.

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