7-Eleven – Listening to Customers 24/7

Jan 31, 2005

By John Hennessy

A $500 million investment in technology over ten years doesn’t always deliver results. It has, it appears, changed 7-Eleven for the better. According to David Podeschi, 7-Eleven’s SVP of merchandising, “We’ve gone from having no idea what we were selling to predicting what customers want even before they know it.”

The changes at 7-Eleven include not only designer coffee such as chocolate-covered cherry coffee, but also its own innovations such as Coffee Wipes — “a towlette to remove coffee stains … At a chain where 10,000 pots of coffee are brewed each hour, it was a natural fit.” For kids, 7-Eleven came up with Trolli Road Kill Candies – gummies shaped like squished squirrels and such — a collaboration with Kraft that was based as much on sales data on gummies as it was on understanding what “gross” means to kids.

Beyond using technology to track sales, 7-Eleven started using their employees. Employees were trained, “to stay current on upcoming sporting events or school functions to prepare for a surge in beer runs or notebook purchases.” As Jim Keyes, current President and CEO, and at one time the head of the committee that began the changes explains: “There’s no replenishment model in the world that can respond like the eyes and ears of a retailer.”

Moderator’s Comment: What differentiates retailers who share 7-Eleven’s customer oriented marketing approach from those who don’t? Why do it any other

Jim Keyes and his 7-Eleven organization are actual practitioners of customer-based marketing. Fun to read about. Better still to benefit from — whether
you’re a shopper getting what you want when you want it, or part of the 7-Eleven team that’s having fun.

My favorite quote from Mr. Keyes: “You can supply all the technology in the world, and it won’t matter if they don’t think like entrepreneurs.”

Well put.
John Hennessy – Moderator

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