DALLAS -- In many ways, 2013 marked the year that 7-Eleven Inc. developed and executed an aggressive digital strategy. From introducing a new mobile app to experimenting with mobile payments, the convenience store giant found new and exciting ways to engage tech-savvy consumers.
One year ago, 7-Eleven launched the initial version of its mobile app, available for Apple and Android operating systems. Along with a store-location finder, mobile coupons and news on store events and specials, the app includes the Idea Hub, where consumers can share ideas about how to improve their experience in-store and digitally.
"We looked at how people shop [at] our stores and patterned the app to improve their 7-Eleven experience," said Jesus Delgado-Jenkins, 7-Eleven's executive vice president of merchandising, marketing, logistics and innovation. "It's all about building convenience, and we continue to want to hear what capabilities customers would like to see in the future. We will add enhancements and refinements based on customers' suggestions."
7-Eleven's app also includes the ability for customers to "check in" via the foursquare social media site. By expanding its social media presence, 7-Eleven is keeping up with its competition. According to the results of an exclusive social and digital media survey conducted by Convenience Store News and Balvor LLC, 49 percent of c-store retailers use Facebook, 47 percent use foursquare and 34 percent use YouTube.
The importance of social media marketing for retailers was further supported by a study conducted by Black Pearl Intelligence, exclusively in partnership with CSNews. According to the report, which provided six insights for c-stores to increase sales and productivity, firms that understand how to transform social media data into consumer insights and business intelligence are able to drive growth, productivity and sales throughout the c-store value chain.
Throughout 2013, 7-Eleven used a strategy on par with this report's insights, particularly through its promotions that appealed to the younger Millennial audience. For example, as part of the retailer's #AWESUMMER promotion, the 7-Eleven app supplied customers with coupons for free merchandise every week, including exclusive offers such as free Slurpee drinks and free Snickers Ice Cream Bars.
7-Eleven also boosted awareness of its mobile app over the summer by employing its Slurpee cups to ask customers to text the keyword “FLAVOR” to 711711. When customers opted in, they received a message with a link to download the 7-Eleven app.
Aside from promoting new products, 7-Eleven also looks to digital media to increase customer loyalty through payment and services.
7-Eleven has tested the Belly loyalty program at multiple locations. This service allows a retailer to set up a dedicated Apple iPad, typically at or near the cash register. Customers can receive a Belly card in physical form or via a mobile device, scan the information on the iPad at a store, and subsequently receive loyalty points and awards based on an individual retailer's rewards program. 7-Eleven also partnered with Belly at participating Chicago 7-Eleven stores to launch the "Give a Little & Do Great" program, which allows Belly members to redeem loyalty points for charity donations.
Additionally, the retailer signed an exclusive partnership with YooLotto to use its free lottery-management app. Under YooLotto's agreement with 7-Eleven for the app's launch, customers who redeem their lottery winnings in 7-Eleven franchised and company-operated locations are eligible to receive coupons and other deals.
Looking ahead, Seven & i Holdings Co. Ltd. -- parent company to U.S. division 7-Eleven Inc. -- has expressed an interest in turning the company's Japanese brick-and-mortar stores into an online retail empire. Seven & i Holdings CEO Toshifumi Suzuki has been in talks with major online players to create package pickup arrangements. Some U.S. 7-Eleven Inc. stores currently offer Amazon.com lockers, where customers can pick up goods ordered from the online site at 7-Eleven locations.
For more on 7-Eleven's latest initiatives to broaden its consumer base, check out the February issue of Convenience Store News.