History of Firsts: Marketing Innovation From 7-Eleven

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    By Alan Miles, Chief Executive Officer, NCS

    At NCS, there’s not much we love more than innovating alongside retailers, publishers and advertisers. During this year’s Advertising Week New York, I was privileged to moderate a discussion between Marissa Jarratt, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer and Mario Mijares, VP of Insights and Analytics, both from 7-Eleven. 

    Convenience stores, like 7-Eleven, are essential to the shopper's journey. Understanding why consumers shop at c-stores and what they purchase is important for long-term brand growth. In a consumer sentiment survey we recently commissioned, we learned that 79% of Americans believe convenience stores offer a good shopping experience, and 77% enjoy shopping there.  Americans love convenience stores.

    Learning about 7-Eleven, I was impressed with the story of innovation throughout its 95-year history.  It’s incredible to think about how many firsts this brand brought to life in the world of convenience shopping. Not only did they invent the convenience store, but they were also the first to be open 24 hours, the first to offer self-serve fountain drinks and the first to offer coffee on the go. And the retailer continues to innovate and embrace technological advancements to enhance the customer experience.

    During my conversation with Marissa and Mario, we discussed how 7-Eleven innovates through delivery services via 7NOW, digital solutions like mobile checkout and its newly launched retail media network, GULP. We also had a chance to discuss what 7-Eleven marketing leadership see as significant opportunities for advertisers today. If you couldn’t join the session, we’ve put it all together here.  

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    ALAN: Over the past few years, we have noticed through our research that consumer buying preferences have shifted. For example, we have seen shifts to e-commerce and delivery services. Has 7-Eleven noticed any specific patterns in consumer shopping related to all of the disruptions we’ve experienced over the past few years?


    MARIO: We’ve seen some new patterns emerge. Today, consumers eat dinner earlier than they did a few years ago, which means more late-night snacking. Also, the consumption of comfort foods and nostalgic items has increased. For example, consumers are choosing more ice cream and chocolate treats. In addition, they have higher expectations for an even smoother, fun and more rewarding convenience store experience.


    ALAN: We believe the most effective way for CPG brands to engage with shoppers is by using a purchase-based approach for audience targeting—in other words reaching households based on their past purchase history. What is the 7-Eleven strategy for targeting consumers, and does your message change for different target audiences?


    MARISSA: Absolutely. Our first step in reaching our customers is understanding them. Like many brands, Gen Z and younger Millennials are important growth targets for 7-Eleven— many of whom think of the brand as nostalgic, even if they haven’t grown up with it. So we want to ensure that they’re aware of our deep history and heritage — but also show how we’re a modern brand ready to meet their needs. For the Gen Z audience in particular, we utilize social listening and often discover strong fandoms, which present a way to connect with our customers on their terms. 


    ALAN: I just read a new prediction from Group M that brands will spend $101 billion globally in retail media this year. The growth of retail media reminds me of the explosion of digital publishers and ad networks 12 years ago. The digital landscape quickly became crowded and complex for brands to navigate. What we learned in those times is the most successful media publisher companies were the ones who innovated and invested in their media business to differentiate themselves and grow.

    At NCS, we have been working with retail media for a few years. We help retailers differentiate and drive buyers to their stores. We also help support their advertisers with performance metrics and a comprehensive market view. For instance, we can show how a Retail Media ad drove purchasing in other outlets, which provides that rest-of-market point of view, which is critical for advertisers. How does your team work with brands to activate in your network?


    MARIO: One of the primary ways we’re planning to align with advertisers who work with our newly launched media network, GULP, is through a major focus on measuring return on ad spend (ROAS). Working together toward unbiased, measurable outcomes will remove a lot of subjectivity. And seeing how an ad delivered on our media network and drives purchasing in other outlets provides a rest-of-market point of view, which is critical for advertisers. We’re also doing a lot of consumer research through our C-Shopper platform, our Brainfreeze Collective, and also forthcoming Lab Stores, which will give advertisers a solid understanding of the shoppers who purchase in 7-Eleven stores.


    ALAN: According to our most recent consumer sentiment survey, 70% of Americans are likely to purchase a product they see promoted by a store on social media. We know that social media is great for reaching consumers, but we also recognize that using an omnichannel strategy is imperative.  What is 7-Eleven’s approach to omnichannel, and have you seen success?


    MARIO:  Like everything we do, it starts with the customer. Our ultimate goal is to know our customers and create personalized experiences that connect them with our brand. This happens across social media, on television and even in the store. We want to engage with consumers on their terms and wherever they want to engage with us.


    ALAN: It’s cool to see a brand with a long and storied history continuing to push forward with such a focus on innovation. What’s coming next that you’re most excited about?


    MARISSA: One thing we’re excited about is pursuing our goal of identifying a customer within eight seconds of entering a store – before they make a purchase – and playing a targeted video or audio ad that will influence the purchase in the moments before it’s made. We’re also excited about what’s to come with leaning into fandoms and cultural relevance - particularly with the Gen Z audience. We have our sights set on exciting collaborations in fashion, sports, music, gaming, and more.


    It was a pleasure to speak with Marissa and Mario at Advertising Week — we look forward to future collaboration and innovation with the 7-Eleven team.

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