Revolutionising convenience retailing: Think food, think 7-Eleven

The afternoon included a fireside chat with 7-Eleven CEO Danni Peirce and Rakesh Mani, Partner at PwC.

Peirce was appointed Chief Executive Officer for 7-Eleven in November 2023, responsible for a network of 3,300 stores across Hong Kong, South China, Singapore and Macau. She commenced her career with Deloitte before moving into retail, joining Tesco in the UK in 2006. She subsequently joined Coles, the supermarket chain in Australia, where she held several commercial leadership positions.

Mani is a Partner at PwC, leading the Retail and Consumer sector in Asia Pacific. Currently based in Malaysia, he previously served PwC in the United States and Japan. He specialises in developing commercial strategies and in leading complex transformation initiatives.

Danni explained that she led the 7-Eleven portfolio of stores across Asia and that her main focus was a pivot into ‘Food on the Go’.

“We see great opportunities in what was always traditionally embedded in the fast food sector. Those lines are blurring. So, just as you may have picked up a pizza, or a BBQ Chicken on the way home from work, we think that could happen in one of our stores today.”

“Convenience, as a business, is set to outpace all other formats of retail. We see supermarkets moving into convenience and now, we are seeing traditional convenience looking to up-size. However, pleasingly, I don’t think we will ever see a supermarket get very small.”

Convenience will move away from sugary teats, salty snacks and tobacco products and move to food-on-the-go, ready-to-eat options.

Rakesh asked, “Convenience has traditionally been an in-store experience – what is shifting?”

Peirce suggested, “During COVID, the narrative was that physical retail will die. Well, it hasn’t, it lives on, but it must evolve to survive and grow.”

“The most important driver for customers when it comes to convenience is speed. They will say in focus groups, ‘help me find what I’m looking for’ and ‘get me in and out quickly’. In these groups, customers love to tell us how quickly they can get in and out… in seconds.”

Technology will help us do this.

Our e-payment is at 95% penetration in China. We adopted Facial Recognition Payment Technology across all of our 1700 stores.

“However, we did find an issue. If you happen to duck down, to grab something, often the person behind you ends up paying for your purchases. We are now moving to Palm Payment”.

In collaboration with WeChat Pay, 7-Eleven announced that its palm payment service was now available at over 1,500 7-Eleven convenience stores in Guangdong province.

Currently, users wanting to use the payment method can activate it on WeChat’s digital payment devices in offline 7-Eleven stores. Once activated, users will be able to pay by simply placing their palms above a palm-reading device in the participating stores.

The payment technology, unveiled in May this year, is able to confirm consumers’ identities and complete their payments by scanning the vascular patterns on consumers’ palms. Its introduction into 7-Eleven stores marks its initial launch in the retail industry in China.

“We see ‘biometric payment technology’ as the future for convenience. Asian consumers are more willing to try innovative payment methods. They are risk tolerant.”

We are also revolutionising range assortments, which were traditionally cluster-based. Now, we are going to store-based, localised planograms. This will be a game changer for convenience.

“We successfully launched our ‘YUU’ Loyalty Program. It is now the third favourite brand in Hong Kong. Now, 70% of the 7.5 million people who live in Hong Kong have it downloaded. This gives us an incredible data set and will help us individualise planograms for our stores.”

We have partnered with Meituan Drone for drone deliveries. Our normal delivery time was 29 minutes. We can now deliver in under 10 minutes.

“Customers can select from over 3,000 different products at the drone landing site in the Xinghe commercial circle in Longgang, Shenzhen. Items can be delivered to the landing site in as little as 4 minutes after being boxed.

“Our next venture is robots. We are trailing these technologies now.”

Workers can now get purchases such as ready-to-eat meals, drinks and snacks from a nearby 7-Eleven store delivered directly to them by a robot. The fleet of seven robots, owned by QuikBot Technologies can navigate the maze of lifts, walkways and office gantries autonomously, and even hand items over to one another along the way.

“We will continue to innovate and learn. If you’re going to fail, fail fast, but know why you failed.”

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