Will shoppers thank heaven for mobile checkout at 7-Eleven?
7-Eleven knows that its customers in New York City are on the go, and the chain is looking to speed them on their way with the introduction of mobile checkouts at its stores in Manhattan.
“Our customers use their smartphone for all kinds of activities that save them precious time,” said Gurmeet Singh, EVP, chief digital, information and marketing officer at 7-Eleven. “Now with the Mobile Checkout feature, customers can control their entire 7-Eleven shopping experience. Not only that, but customers can earn and redeem points on a variety of products when using Mobile Checkout.”
7-Eleven claims to be the first convenience store chain to have developed proprietary technology to enable mobile checkout in its stores. Android and iOS device users can use the tech to check out with most items sold in stores that have a barcode. A few categories of products, including alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets, still require a cashier. Customers can complete mobile transactions using credit and debit cards, with Apple Pay and Google Pay also accepted.
The chain first began testing its mobile checkout tech with employees at its Store Support Center before rolling it out to stores in Dallas last year. The move to bring mobile checkout to stores in Manhattan is part of a broader rollout planned by the chain.
Customers can get mobile checkout by updating the 7-Eleven mobile app. When they visit a 7-Eleven store, they simply open the app and scan items into their basket (discounts are automatically applied). They then pay for their items and use the QR code that pops up to confirm their purchase at stations in the store. Cashiers know a purchase has been confirmed by a tone emitted from the confirmation station.
“Mobile Checkout is just one more way we can make someone’s day a little easier and give 7-Eleven customers a convenient checkout alternative to waiting in line during a store’s busiest times of day,” said Mr. Singh.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important is checkout speed to the success of convenience stores? Will mobile checkout become table stakes from a technology standpoint in the convenience channel due to steps being taken by Amazon, 7-Eleven and others?
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26 Comments on "Will shoppers thank heaven for mobile checkout at 7-Eleven?"
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Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
Checkout speed is especially important in the convenience category, and the implementation of an effective mobile checkout service will become increasingly important over time. There’s no question that Amazon’s Go format was a catalyst and the efforts by 7-Eleven will cause other players to step-up.
Scientific Advisor Kantar Retail; Adjunct Ehrenberg-Bass; Shopper Scientist LLC
And THIS is the “Amazon Go”-like technology that can be more immediately implemented in every store in the world! Bear in mind that supermarkets are “neighborhood pantries” with ONE SINGLE ITEM being the most common purchase in nearly any supermarket in the world. THREE is the most common in Walmart supercenters (then TWO, with ONE being the third most common.) It is a logarithmic function, NOT an arithmetic average-type thing – SHOCKING, eh? The shocking thing is the obtuseness of bricks retailers to their shoppers …
Founding Partner, Merchandising Metrics
I think it’s as simple as taking a cue from how this category of stores is named — convenience. And the evolution of app-driven retail in China. Faster + easier = better. Period.
Vice President, Brand Development - IGA, Inc.
It’s time to put the convenience back into convenience stores. Making the shopper faster and smarter makes the experience better and will engender greater loyalty. This is a shrewd move that serves as a point of differentiation today (but likely will be a point of parity in the near future).
Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe (retired)
Consumers define convenience as proximity and speed. Mobile checkout will increase speed — but only if the wait time to reach a cashier decreases noticeably will it matter.
B2B Content Strategist
Speed and ease are paramount for convenience stores. Amazon is conditioning consumers to expect and demand faster service across channels, and rival retailers are trying to catch up. Mobile checkout technology will eventually become table stakes, likely within the medium to long term because it’s a major investment in innovation and a superior customer experience.
Principal, Retail Technology Group
Checkout may be the number one or two annoying part of the shopping experience. Anything that speeds up or smooths out the process while maintaining inventory integrity and keeping loss to a minimum is a win for the establishment and for the consumer. In addition to which the younger generations of spenders will have it no other way.
President, b2b Solutions, LLC
Convenience store customers have one of the shortest shopping times of any retail format. This means the checkout time represents a disproportionate amount of the shopping experience. A number of research studies have shown their desire to have some form of technology shorten that checkout time.
A recent National Association of Convenience Stores (“NACS”) study asked how interested shopper would be in technologies that allow for instant pay, skipping the line, no cashier interaction. Forty-four percent of all shoppers were interested. More importantly 65 percent of frequent shoppers were interested in technology that speeds up the checkout process. The only question that remains is what technology convenience store retailers will select.
Professor of Food Marketing, Haub School of Business, Saint Joseph's University
That’s why they are referred to as convenience stores. It used to be that location was the convenience factor. No longer. Now speed of checkout is critical. Yes, this will be the “ante” going forward.
Principal, KIZER & BENDER Speaking
Mobile checkout is becoming the ante for retail. One thing, from the article: “Cashiers know a purchase has been confirmed by a tone emitted from the confirmation station.” If it is busy, and knowing that the checkout is not the largest in the world, will the customer have to wait for the tone approval?
EVP Thought Leadership, Marketing, WD Partners
Unlike Starbucks, who has control over their stores and can wave a wand and boom, done! 7-Eleven is all franchised so, this could take a long, long time to get done at scale. This story is the perfect case study for that, in that Starbucks has had mobile checkout for years and 7-Eleven is just now able to convince only a few franchisees to do it. It could take them a decade to get there across the chain. This is a good example of why franchised operations are beneficial to a point, but then not so much, especially during times of high disruption or even when it comes to simple changes like this.
One assumes that someone has calculated the total time it takes for a shopper to fire up an app and scan each item personally and compared that to the length of a traditional checkout experience. My guess is that mobile checkout (in this form) is faster only if the checkout line is a few deep or longer. So one might argue that this will take the onus off improving traditional checkout efficiency and put it on the consumer to do the labor him/herself. Is that more convenient for the consumer? I’m not quite buying it.
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
I think you’ve hit on an important factor, Rick. How often when visiting a c-store is the checkout line more than 1 person deep? If the answer is “most of the time” then mobile checkout should give shoppers a time-saving option. If you’re like many shoppers (myself included) chances are by the time you’re out of the car and walking in through the door, you’ve already opened the app and have it ready to scan if you know you’re going to use it. I suspect shoppers inclined to use 7-Eleven’s mobile checkout will fit this model.
Chief Customer Officer, Incisiv
Well, since “convenience” is in the name of the format – I would say it’s pretty important. Mobile checkout in this environment just makes sense – the demographic is right and it can apply to 90 percent of purchases. I’m not sure it will engender loyalty but it is a good business practice to pursue.
Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School of the Univ. of Pennsylvania
Beyond the obvious benefit of speed/convenience, there’s the more subtle (but equally powerful) one: granular customer-level data.
Traditionally, c-stores have been at the tail end of the data-driven retail revolution in their ability to really understand their customers and find ways to build better relationships with them. Mobile checkout can be a huge step forward to enable them to finally embrace customer-centricity and better align their offerings with the wants and needs of their best customers.
So it’s not just the shoppers “thanking heaven” in this case — but even more so for the c-store retailers themselves!
Co-Founder and CMO, Seeonic, Inc.
Checkout speed may be the number one success factor to a convenience store beyond offering the right products and service to the consumer. C-stores are positioned in markets for speed of transactions, and 7-Eleven’s use of mobile technology will enhance their service by speeding the consumers through the checkout process. Mobile checkout will become table stakes in c-stores and other retail outlets due to consumers getting more comfortable with their cell phones and desire for speed of checkout.
Director, Growth Marketing for Wizard
Checkout speed is critical for c-store shoppers. 7-Eleven has a long history of setting the standard for innovation in convenience, and other convenience retailers will be eager to follow suit. Given the success of the initial pilot, coupled with the overall success of 7Rewards and 7Now, we can assume this will be a hit.
Co-founder, RSR Research
C-stores are the one place that mobile and cashierless checkout make absolute sense. As long as c-stores can manage the shrink (this is questionable in my mind), it’s a great idea. Less care and feeding than Amazon Go type technology, with the same result.
Partner, Simon-Kucher & Partners
Mobile checkout has so many benefits. It’s faster and more convenient but in addition reduces the number of shoppers that abandon purchase when they see long checkout lines. It might even have 7-Eleven steal share from other similar retailers in addition to c-stores like Duane Reade.
Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC
7-Eleven, a convenience store, just became more convenient. Not sure if this technology is “table stakes,” but the concept of speed and convenience, especially at checkout (online and intore) will always be important in all retail businesses.
Vice President, Research at IDC
For 7-Eleven and other convenience stores this is more about loyalty and bringing customers into the store. Around 70 percent of c-stores are attached to gas stations which is the bulk of the business. Driving customers into the store is the primary focus of such tech and in 7-Eleven’s case, the focus is really about fostering loyalty. The checkouts at convenience stores are by design short because basket sizes and number of items purchased are few. The value is there, but the convenience factor here is not speed as in an overcrowded grocery – it’s still immediate 24/7 access or late hours access to products customers need – e.g. motor oil, antifreeze, basic tools, beverages and snacks. This is more of a loyalty builder to encourage repeat customers (think morning coffee or weekly gas) to expand share of wallet.
Director, Solutions Marketing with Alteryx
It’s a tremendous solution, especially since it reinforces the business’ position as a convenient shopping experience relative to all the other competing shopping options available to consumers. It would be cool if they could dynamically assess market basket building in real time to propose complementary products or offers on the consumer’s mobile device.
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
Head of Trends, Insider Trends
7-Eleven was built on the idea of being convenient so this is a fitting development. I think it will be interesting to see how it actually works in practice though. It says that customers have to scan a QR code to confirm purchase and that cashiers know that’s happened by a tone — in practice I can imagine some customers feeling as though they need to be “released” by the cashier before they leave. This may just be a temporary thing as people get used to the shift in model.
I think checkout speed is important to customers but technology doesn’t always help that much — take self-service checkouts. Often you’ll see three or four customers stood waiting for an assistant because there’s some issue with the transaction (they’re buying something age restricted, the scale hasn’t detected an item — or detected the wrong thing, a reduced item won’t go through, etc).
Hopefully 7-Eleven’s implementation is slick enough that it doesn’t just create congestion at a slightly different point in the journey.
Global Industry Architect, Microsoft Retail
Speed of checkout is going to become a key differentiator against Amazon Go. Mobile checkout will become table stakes but there is potential for a high risk of fraud-associated loss, as is the case with any form of self-scanning. Retailers MUST include that in their business case and overall planning – training staff appropriately and having clear processes to be used by staff (my usual mantra of people/process/technology) is essential. Pilots with AI and body language cameras may lead to something more automated – but until then the human approach is the best defense.
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, IRI
Given that 80 percent of convenience stores also sell gas, most consumers want to gas up, buy a snack and be on their way. Mobile checkout makes that quick and easy. Mobile checkout offers three other benefits to convenience stores (or any other type of retail): Retailers can communicate with shoppers through the mobile app they must download to make mobile checkout work, it frees up valuable floor space for additional aisles and displays, and it enables employees to focus on helping shoppers or maintaining the space. All of that said, it will be important to test mobile checkout for acceptance among their shoppers. It is possible there will be resistance, perhaps from shoppers who are less comfortable or unable to use apps.