How 7 Eleven responded to COVID-19 using technology
7 Eleven is a global success story in the convenience store category. In Australia, the business has over 700 locations. That makes it the retailer with physical stores closest to everyday Australians. These locations are mainly franchise-operated although some are company-owned.
When COVID-19 struck and lockdowns got instituted, they were deemed to be an essential business and would continue to operate throughout. Keeping its employees and customers safe was paramount, as well as remaining compliant to constantly changing.
According to Stephen Eyears, General Manager Strategy and Technology, 7-Eleven Australia just keeping up with these community, regional, state and national requirements consumed a large amount of time.
In addition to safety and compliance, many stores did very well in 2020, some trading well ahead of previous years.
As an Australian management team, they decided early on that they didn’t want to look back and see these years as a lost opportunity. Prior to COVID-19 they were a fast-growing business and they didn’t want this to let up.
One of the primary ways to keep growth on track was maintaining and even accelerating investment into technology. Below are the six key innovations:
A new digital experience
One of these investments was to transform their digital loyalty app into the new My 7-eleven app. The new app was built on a whole new platform with a new experience, discounts and ways to be rewarded. At the same time, they reinvented their website. Both the app and website are built on the Adobe Experience cloud platforms, giving the convenience store a common technology foundation to build on.
A new in-store experience
Secondly, they have invested in a new pay n’ go concept store in Richmond, Melbourne. Based upon new retailing concepts from the USA, the store makes it much faster for regular shoppers to grab products and leave the store. Plans are underway for this trial to expand shortly.
Online delivery service
The company purchased a majority stake in the on-demand alcohol delivery start-up Tipple back in 2018. Pre covid small Australian trials were underway to deliver 7 Eleven products using this Tipple experience and learnings. When the pandemic really came into force, this trial was accelerated to many more locations and has nationwide potential.
Experimentation is underway with two new locations. These are in the corporate offices of a logistics firm and a call centre. These new locations wouldn’t be viable for full-scale stores and a new micro-market concept has been developed. This also uses much of the technology and approach developed in the pay n’ go concept stores.
Prior to covid, the business was on a transition to cloud-based infrastructure. This has been accelerated during the pandemic and there is no better example than transitioning its SAP instance into Microsoft’s Azure Cloud.
Eyears sees this migration to cloud-based infrastructure as having been instrumental in many of the recent digital transformation projects.
Within 7 Eleven, the digital team had long been using the Agile methodology. Over the last 18 months, the Agile methodology caught the attention of the CEO. This has culminated in the entire head office organisation recently adopting the practices.
As of April 2021, they’re on their second sprint. Eyears sees enormous potential for the move to speed up decision-making, project delivery and push more decisions closer to the store and community level.
All in all, 7 Eleven are on an incredible digital transformation journey with the help of both Adobe, Microsoft and some very talented individuals.
“Our critical assets are the people and our stores. We are primarily a physical retailer. Technology is about empowering those stores,” says Eyears.