TECHNOLOGY

Convenience store giant makes a move to go cashier-less

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

7-Eleven is the newest retailer to throw its hat into the mobile checkout ring.

The convenience store giant on Monday launched a pilot program that enables customers to use their smartphone to pay for merchandise. Customers that visit 14 stores in the Dallas area can use the Scan & Pay feature in the 7-Eleven app to pay for merchandise that doesn’t require cashier assistance. (Merchandise including hot foods, financial services and age-verified products such as alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets are not part of the program.)

Here’s how the program works: Customers must be members of the 7Rewards loyalty program to participate. Once they are enrolled, they launch the 7-Eleven mobile app and tap “Start Scanning” at the bottom of the home page. As long as customers are within the geo-fenced area in or around one of the 14 pilot stores, they will be able to scan items with a barcode using the guides on their phone screen.

Items are automatically added to their basket, along with any discounts or promotional pricing. The program also enables customers to automatically earn and redeem any available 7Rewards points or coupons.

Users pay for purchases using Apple Pay, Google Pay or a traditional debit or credit card. Scan & Pay stations, which feature clear shopping bags, are located in the store. Once they pay for their purchases, customers scan the QR code that appears on the confirmation screen at the Scan & Pay station and go.

7-Eleven first tested mobile self-checkout at its Store Support Center store. The company plans to expand the service to additional cities in 2019.

7-Eleven calls itself the first c-store chain to develop proprietary technology to deliver “a full frictionless payment experience” from start to finish.

“Our customers are on the go, looking for faster, more convenient ways to shop more than ever before,” said Gurmeet Singh, chief digital officer and CIO at 7-Eleven. “7-Eleven continues to redefine convenience by providing frictionless experiences for our customers with Scan & Pay. Our customers can now use their smartphone to skip the line, every time.”

The program coincides with the convenience store retailer’s ongoing digital enhancements, including the launch of its mobile delivery app, 7Now, in New York City in August. The program, which enables customers to place orders for delivery or pick them up in-store, debuted at select Dallas in December 2017. 7-Eleven plans to expand the service to Washington, D.C., followed by a national expansion.

The retailer also continues to expand its 7Rewards app-based customer loyalty program, and in November 2017, the company integrated its 7-Eleven Bot on Messenger, which allows users to engage with the brand from within Facebook.

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TECHNOLOGY

Amazon heats up holiday delivery wars

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon is determined not about to let traditional retailers like Walmart and Target get the best of it this holiday season.

For the first time, the online giant is offering free shipping on all holiday orders with no minimum order required. (There is typically a $25 minimum for non-Prime members.) Amazon is making the free delivery service available until it can no longer promise items will arrive in time for Christmas with free delivery. Items shipped with free delivery typically arrive between five to eight business days.

Amazon’s free holiday delivery comes as traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have beefed up their own holiday delivery strategies. Target will offer free two-day shipping to all customers, with no minimum purchase and no membership requirement. The offer runs from Nov. 1 until Dec. 22.

Walmart recently announced that “millions of items” sold on its marketplace are eligible for free two-day shipping on orders over $35. The service, which does not require a membership, will launch in mid-November. This is in addition to the to more than two million items sold online that are also eligible for free shipping when orders surpass $35. No membership fee applies.

Amazon said its new holiday offer applies to “hundreds of millions” of items. This service complements free same-day delivery available to Prime members, as well as free grocery deliveries that arrive within an hour from Whole Foods Market through Prime Now.

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TECHNOLOGY

App glitch, low inventory puts a damper on coffee giant’s holiday promotion launch

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Starbucks’ mobile app has the company feeling some heat from customers.

The same day Starbucks launched its holiday beverages and cups, including a new free, reusable red cup, the coffee giant’s mobile app wasn’t able to accept or place mobile orders.

Many users eager to get their Friday morning coffee fix — and free reusable red cup — received a message stating, “We are currently down for scheduled maintenance. Check back soon.”

Unhappy customers took to social media, especially Twitter, to complain about the app and the long lines the outage caused at stores. “@Starbucks scheduled maintenance on #redcup day? Seems like poor timing,” according to @OneTiredMomma1

Meanwhile, @serennognos tweeted, “I feel like @Starbucks should extend their #RedCup giveaway cause with the app down you couldn’t place mobile orders to ensure you could get one, it was too busy on my lunch break, then they’d run out by 4 p.m.”

Starbucks apologized on Twitter, saying, “Our sincere apologies. This was not a scheduled maintenance and we are aware of the difficulties customers are experiencing. We’re working quickly to resolve them!”

The coffee giant’s mobile order and pay transactions represented 14% of U.S. company-operated transactions for the company’s fiscal fourth quarter.

Customers also took to Twitter to complain about selling out of their anticipated holiday cups. For example, one customer tweeted, “Very disappointed that my Starbucks was a hot mess this morning and made my drink and did not put it in the red cup! I waited 30 minutes for my drink. Only reason I went this morning was to get a #reuseable #RedCup #starbucks I want my cup please!

The coffee giant’s holiday cups and beverages launched on Friday, Nov. 2, which is anywhere from seven to 10 days earlier than in past years. Starbucks first debuted its holiday cups in 1997 and, over the years, some of the designs have sparked controversy among critics on the right for not being Christmasy enough.

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