7-Eleven goes omnichannel with mobile, BOPIS and delivery

Source: 7-Eleven; Photo: Getty Images
Dec 20, 2017
Matthew Stern

Ordering by mobile, on-demand delivery and in-store pickup have been catching on throughout retail; in fact perhaps reaching the point of being necessary to meet customer expectations. Now one of the most recognized convenience store chains is getting in on the act.

7-Eleven is testing a new mobile app at 10 locations in Dallas that will allow customers to order items for delivery or pickup. The app, called 7-ElevenNOW, lets customers either place an order to pick up at their nearest participating 7-Eleven or have it delivered by courier. Customers can pay for both delivery and pickup via the app.

“The app will enable our customers to get the products they want, when and where they want them, quickly and conveniently,” said 7‑Eleven Chief Digital Officer Gurmeet Singh in a statement. “This is redefining convenience.”

Mobile ordering has gained the most traction with chains such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera that are known for their coffee. Taco Bell was the first major QSR to add mobile ordering in 2014. Domino’s and Chick-fil-A have since aggressively pushed their own programs. McDonald’s only rolled out mobile ordering this year.

7-Eleven is more associated with quick drop-ins and impulse purchases than planned trips (perhaps with the exception of planned Slurpee outings for families). Although stores do offer coffee and some lunch items, its yet to be seen whether the “wide selection of snacks, cosmetics, gift cards, home goods, beverages and hundreds of other products are available for purchase on the app” will hold broad appeal for mobile orders.

Writing for Mobile Marketer, however, Robert Williams said the emphasis on convenience with the 7-ElevenNOW app should appeal to younger consumers in particular.

He wrote, “The chain appears to recognize that providing convenience to customers in the mobile age means much more than opening additional stores near freeways and intersections that see plenty of car traffic.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see much consumer demand for mobile ordering for pickup or delivery from c-stores? What challenges do c-store chains face in getting such services to operate smoothly and take hold with consumers?

"[C-stores'] mobile ordering and delivery must be at par or better than Amazon — the gold standard. "
"It’s shrewd for c-stores to examine every possible way to improve customer convenience."
"Retailers are learning it's not enough to have a mobile app. There has to be a strong value proposition for customers to download and use the app."

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24 Comments on "7-Eleven goes omnichannel with mobile, BOPIS and delivery"

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Mark Ryski

I’m skeptical that there will be a big market for this, but that’s why testing is important. You don’t know unless you test it. I agree that c-store purchases are largely impulse and/or connected to a fuel purchase since many c-stores are connected to gas stations and, as a result, pre-ordering for pick-up or delivery doesn’t make sense.

Charles Dimov

Good for 7-Eleven for championing omnichannel practices. Well done. Whether there is consumer demand for pickup and delivery from a convenience store is to be seen. It probably won’t be as big a factor as omnichannel is to traditional retailers. However, as more consumers become savvy and used to the myriad of options — why not?

This is similar to Amazon’s Instant Pickup service tested earlier this year. Given that we have not heard much since, it could be an indication that it has not skyrocketed in demand. After all, am I really likely to pre-order my bag of chips, rather than just dropping in to the convenience store to pick it up?

But remember, when you have several thousand stores in your chain, even a small increase in sales or slight margin enhancement can make a big difference to the bottom line.

Zel Bianco

If it is working with Starbucks and Panera, why not 7-Eleven? So much of 7-Eleven store traffic is about making a fast stop. If this makes it even faster, then it should be a positive. My sense is that most of the regulars at 7-Eleven like their coffee a certain way and may try this, but if their coffee is not to their liking, they will go back to doing it themselves.

Bob Amster

The logic and effectiveness of this initiative in the c-store segment escapes me. Does every type of retail have to jump on the band wagon? Hint: No.

Sterling Hawkins

I’d look at this through the lens of the consumer. The easier it is to acquire and pay for goods/services the better. Most all retailers will increasingly need to have a unified channel experience where there are few (if any) barriers between in-store, mobile and online. There’s a difference between bandwagon and a new normal.

Cathy Hotka

7-Eleven has been experimenting with nontraditional processes, including drone delivery, for a while now. It’s shrewd for c-stores to examine every possible way to improve customer convenience, especially for long-haul truckers and other core customers. They wouldn’t have rolled the mobile app out if they hadn’t thought it would improve sales and loyalty.

Adrian Weidmann

While the mobile device is our remote control for the world around us and there are literally millions of mobile apps, statistics tell us that brand-specific shopping apps simply aren’t sustainable. Shoppers don’t open and use brand-specific apps regularly. While there are some notable exceptions — Starbucks and maybe Target’s Cartwheel — in-store apps give retailers and brands a false sense of doing something meaningful.

Integrating mobile into the shopping journey is absolutely mandatory but processes that require the shopper to open a specific app are not frictionless and clearly not what shoppers want.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

Mobile ordering makes sense in some markets. Delivery? Who’s going to pay the freight for delivery of small items and small orders?

Results count. That’s why more retailers need to test rather than guess. It may turn out that success is situational. The model might work for stores in dense urban areas, or near college campuses. The customer votes with their orders and willingness to pay the prices. There just have to be enough of them. It will be an interesting experiment.

Ed Rosenbaum

I am not ready to jump on the mobile app for every retail establishment. 7-Eleven is in the category of “why” in my opinion; as are those others in the c-store category. I always thought that most of the purchases done at the c-stores were in the impulse category. If that is the case, what need is the app going to fill?

Art Suriano

I don’t know that I see mobile ordering as a must-have for 7-Eleven. However, there will be consumers who will use the service. If 7-Eleven focuses its brand on hot and cold foods for that quick lunch to take on the go, then the app will have greater appeal. I don’t know that 7-Eleven today has become customers’ first choice for a quick meal. C-store chains like Wawa, Sheetz and QuickChek, for example, have a greater emphasis on their food services and seem to be having success with it. So how 7-Eleven decides on who they wish to be in the customer’s mind will impact the success of the app. Otherwise, they’ll be for most customers as they are, another c-store to visit for a quick item or last minute need. If they can change that, then 7-Eleven and the app offering mobile ordering will be very successful.

Nir Manor

BOPIS for c-stores may work in neighborhood c-stores that have shoppers that buy there occasionally and may want a more convenient way to shop. If the app makes it seamless and easy to shop and pay it may work for the needs of specific shoppers.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Redefining convenience stores as a retail category offers the big win of defining a new category and then moving quickly to own it. Hats off to the vision and testing on this path because it holds such promise and benefit for all parties. The challenge will be that of moving beyond omnichannel as an internal focus toward an ultra-easy customer experience that can fuel new levels of success and service based on analytics related to the relationship.

Ryan Mathews

Every day I go to my local Starbucks and marvel at all the mobile-ordered lattes getting cold waiting for pickup, so yes, I’d say customer demand for these services is already high. When it comes to c-stores in particular, the challenges seem logistical — having space to stage the orders, requiring the often only employee to leave the register area to pick orders, security issues associated with stolen orders, etc.

Dick Seesel

7-Eleven’s omnichannel initiatives may mean nothing to the customer who buys gas or coffee and grabs a candy bar or lottery ticket on impulse on the same trip. But the chain would be foolish not to explore the potential, given that stores like Walgreens are also in the “convenience” business and are one step ahead on programs like BOPIS. Perhaps this will get 7-Eleven into the consideration set of shoppers who otherwise don’t have a need to buy that gas or coffee.

Joy Chen

Providing convenience must be the number one priority for c-stores. This means their mobile ordering and delivery must be at par or better than Amazon — the gold standard. The biggest challenge for c-stores is their limited assortment. This will require c-stores to better redefined their positioning on what they stand for and how they will win through their business model.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Experimenting with allowing consumers to get products where, when and how they want them is a great idea. Whether it works for all products and retailers is not really the important question. Figuring how it works for all products and retailers is the relevant question.

Cate Trotter

This idea raises questions about the nature of convenience — when is it more convenient to place a mobile order with your local c-store for pick-up or delivery than it is just to walk into the store? Perhaps you may want to place a mobile order on the way home for work if you need some bits for dinner, so you can dash in and out again. And I wonder if the delivery option will go down well at gatherings when you’re out of snacks and drinks and no one wants to go to the store — assuming the courier works on instant delivery. I suspect though that there isn’t going to be a massive need or demand for this for most customers, but I’ll be intrigued to see the results of the test. I think the BOPIS piece that makes the most difference in c-stores is ordering from other companies for local pickup as a much more convenient option.

Steve Montgomery

C-stores are about convenience. 7-Eleven’s test adds another layer of convenience to shopping at their locations. However, I agree with those that have stated their doubts about the app gaining widespread use for ordering ahead or delivery. The cost of delivery for small low-cost purchases generally makes them unattractive to the consumer. The idea of ordering ahead makes sense if ordering a made-to-order sandwich, etc. but for a roller dog and a Coke not so much. Good media buzz though.

Ken Cassar

I just don’t believe that 7-Eleven has the order sizes to support the expense of delivery, whether that expense is covered by 7-Eleven or the consumer. And I’m skeptical that any time will be saved with mobile pre-ordering, given that the whole store is set up to get the shopper in and out in the time that it takes to fill a gas tank. With that said, 7-Eleven is doing the right thing. It’s an experiment where the outcome may be obvious, but there will be critical learnings along the way that will lead them to the truth, whatever that is.

Ken Morris

As the world’s largest convenience store chain in the world, 7-Eleven knows convenience. Consumers are coming to expect online ordering and flexible delivery options to make their lives easier. While it may take a while for consumers to get in the habit of using the new app features, it will likely be welcomed by busy consumers.

The biggest challenge for 7-Eleven will be smooth execution. Training store employees on new processes and additional tasks for BOPIS and home delivery has been a stumbling block for traditional retail and it is imperative to make the program a success. Good luck 7-Eleven!

Bill Hanifin

Retailers are learning that it is not enough to have a mobile app. There has to be a strong value proposition for customers to download and use the app. Smart retailers like 7-Eleven realize this and are building “inside out,” by focusing on core functionality like mobile ordering, delivery, etc. The new delivery service from 7-Eleven is a solid step towards building engagement with its app.

That said, this strategy will surely have more traction when deployed by the likes of QSR and casual dining chains. It is questionable if the fundamental needs of convenience store customers are being served by a digital ordering service. Many big corporate chains (WAWA, Sheetz, Cumberland Farms) are focusing on improving the in-store experience to drive traffic and sales. This might be a higher priority than offering digital ordering and it will be interesting to see if 7-Eleven knows something the others do not.

Jeff Miller

I applaud 7-Eleven for testing this idea along with other ideas like their new private label makeup line to better connect with consumers. I am not sure this idea will take off or bring a game changing value to the company, but I also don’t think a test as they have described it is that heavy of a lift and, if they capture data correctly, they should gain some valuable insights.

The main concern I have is that the execution of this will be in the hands of the store associates and will be something else stacked on to their existing duties. I don’t have any real insights into 7-Eleven staffing, but whenever I go there, I feel like the place is understaffed, so I can’t imagine them having the time to package up a bunch of Slurpees, nachos, beer and cigarettes for the late night mobile orders.

Min-Jee Hwang

The only downside I can think of is that this could decrease the amount of impulse buys. Walking into a c-store for one thing and coming out with four is quite easy. Mobile app ordering is worth a shot for 7-Eleven if it allows customers to get what they want even faster. Saving customers time will keep them coming back, as long as the experience overall is seamless.

Michael La Kier

The need for convenience knows no boundaries. If any retailer can make their shoppers’ lives better, faster or easier (let alone save them money), they will be rewarded.

"[C-stores'] mobile ordering and delivery must be at par or better than Amazon — the gold standard. "
"It’s shrewd for c-stores to examine every possible way to improve customer convenience."
"Retailers are learning it's not enough to have a mobile app. There has to be a strong value proposition for customers to download and use the app."

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