7-Eleven Tests Cashierless Store to Rival Amazon Go
As former competitors like Borders and Circuit City found out the hard way, you’d best be wary when Amazon starts encroaching on your territory. It helps explain why companies like Walmart and Kroger have been pushing delivery. And now, it’s coming back full circle to brick-and-mortar. One of Amazon’s latest ventures has been its cashierless Amazon Go convenience stores. So now guess who's testing its own cashierless location? 7-Eleven, of course.
America’s most iconic convenience store brand announced it has debuted its first cashierless “test” store—though the 700-square-foot retail space is only open to a very select group of clientele: 7-Eleven employees. It’s a sensible choice: The pilot is taking place at the company’s corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas.
“Retail technology is evolving at a rapid pace and customer expectations are driving the evolution,” 7-Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto explained. “Our team is dedicated to continuing 7-Eleven’s legacy of innovation with industry-leading digital solutions. Most recently that has included our award winning 7Rewards loyalty platform, 7NOW on-demand delivery, mobile checkout, and now our new cashierless store.” (As a funny aside, the investing site The Motley Fool began its assessment of this news by stating, “7-Eleven has never really been seen as a technology innovator”—innovation must be in the eye of the beholder. Maybe they didn't see the 7-Eleven sit-down cafe concept?)
The operation of the new cashierless store sounds strikingly similar to how Amazon Go runs: Shoppers need to download an app to their phone which, once they’ve signed up, allows them to check in at the store, shop, and then simply walk out the door. A digital receipt is then available in the app. According to 7-Eleven, “A proprietary mixture of algorithms and predictive technology enables the store system to separate individual customers and their purchases from others in the store.”
“Introducing new store technology to 7-Eleven employees first has proven to be a very productive way to test and learn before launching to a wider audience,” Mani Suri, 7-Eleven senior vice president and chief information officer, added. “They are honest and candid with their feedback, which enables us to learn and quickly make adjustments to improve the experience. This in-house, custom built technology by 7-Eleven engineers is designed for our current and future customers.”
Creating a cashierless approach in a single test store actually makes a lot of sense for 7-Eleven. Unlike Amazon, which has to acquire and build locations across the country, 7-Eleven already has a nationwide network of retail spaces. So while Amazon Go goes through the growing pains of seeing how customers and governments (some of which have been fighting back against cash-free locations) react to cashierless stores, 7-Eleven can simply bide its time to determine whether it’s worth rolling out their system into existing shops.
That said, they may not want to wait too long, either. Just ask Borders and Circuit City.