DALLAS -- Across the retail sphere, businesses of all kinds are targeting Millennials, young adults aged 18 to 34, and for good reason: their purchasing power is on the rise, projected by some to outpace the Baby Boomer generation by 2017. Additionally, their optimistic outlook means they're more willing to spend their money, and their embrace of technology can make it easier for retailers to reach them.
The convenience store industry has taken notice of this, and 7-Eleven Inc. is leading the charge to win Millennials' loyalty. As far back as 2009, the chain began targeting this consumer segment through methods such as a mobile marketing campaign it conducted that allowed customers to send a text message and receive an offer for a free beverage at approximately 200 7-Eleven stores in the San Diego area. The campaign was specifically aimed at "the Millennials who don't go anywhere without their phones," according to then-Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Rita Bargerhuff.
Since then, 7-Eleven hasn't wavered in its focus. It is still aggressively targeting Millennials through promotions, partnerships and product offerings in multiple categories.
Craft beer is booming in part due to Millennials' appreciation for microbrews, but with generational tastes also shifting toward wine, 7-Eleven made a move to stay ahead of future trends in the fall when it added premium wines to 700 locations. Having previously offered bottles of wine at an average price point of $6, 7-Eleven added $19.99 bottles to markets in San Francisco, Newport Beach, Calif., select Chicago suburbs and parts of northern Virginia. Certain stores in more affluent areas also added wine for prices as high as $54.99 during this holiday season.
Snacks & Packaged Beverages
Millennials and the generation following them are leading increasingly on-the-go lifestyles that replace three square meals a day with snacking on an as-needed basis. "They were busy as youngsters, and life has gotten no less hectic for them as young adults," said Kelly Buckley, 7-Eleven’s vice president of fresh food innovation. "As even meals become more snack-like, 7-Eleven is adding smaller portions, mini-sizes and bites, and the public is eating them up, so to speak."
Corn dog bites, mozzarella sticks and chicken chipotle Go-Go Taquitos are among the items 7-Eleven has added to its menu to fill the need for mini-meals 24 hours a day. The company also partnered with Dr Pepper Snapple Group to bring an exclusive selection of Snapple Lemon Daze lemonades to 7-Eleven stores over the summer, and promoted them with its #AWESUMMER campaign.
Developing a strong coffee program is a priority for many c-store chains, but 7-Eleven went a step further and conducted research to show what features particularly resonate with Millennials compared to its overall existing customer base. As a result, since 2010, 7-Eleven has switched from glass pots to urns, redesigned its cups and coffee branding, and given its coffee bar a modernized look with a more functional layout. It also revamped coffee promotions to aim them at younger customers.
Gifts & General Merchandise
Shopping -- and holiday shopping in particular -- is increasingly conducted online for the convenience factor. 7-Eleven sought to offer similar convenience this Christmas by stocking merchandise that appealed to Millennials. "We know this age group already shops our stores and is more likely to treat themselves with an impulse buy," said Nick Triantafellou, non-foods merchandiser for 7-Eleven. "They won't just buy to be buying, though. They are looking for something different, something that speaks to them personally and also is high quality."
For more on 7-Eleven's latest initiatives to broaden its consumer base, check out the February cover story of Convenience Store News by clicking here .