#Shoptalk19: 7Eleven predicts the future of grocery convenience

Already ahead of the curve with its scan-and-go trial and a 7Now fulfilment programme delivering products to consumer’s doors in under 30 mins, 7Eleven’s VP of digital customer and store experience, Tarang Sethia, took to the stage at Shoptalk 2019 and shared his vision for the future of grocery convenience.

Sethia said artificial intelligence (AI) is going to play a big part in the future of the store. “We think AI should be like electricity, it powers everything so we can serve the customers in a way they’d like to be served and to take the friction away.”

He said AI and sister technologies like computer vision will help retailers understand what the customer wants and what the store should stock in order to serve them.

Sethia pointed to a future where a local convenience store will know that a customer likes cream-filled donuts and ensures they are in stock. While one step further is the store recognising a customer walking into the store and knows what they like and has products ready for them to pick up. “You might be filling gas and things will be bought to you that you always buy. Things will be prepared for you before you even order them,” said Sethia.

But AI is already playing a part in 7Eleven’s technology toolset. Right now, 7Eleven is trialling a scan-and-go solution within its mobile app in select stores in Dallas. Customers can use the app to scan an item’s barcode and pay on their mobile. The phone is then placed on a reader situated near the exit which then flashes and makes a noise to alert associates to the sale. 

While Sethia admitted the company is looking at just-walk-out technologies, similar to Amazon Go, the retail VP wouldn’t say when the retailer would roll out its own offering.

One step 7Eleven has taken to make its scan-and-go technology as frictionless as possible is by personalising the app experience. Customers who regularly buy the same items will be prompted with those products when opening the app so they don’t have to find the barcode and scan the product.

Meanwhile in a later session at Shoptalk in Las Vegas, Sam’s Club said it was looking to update its own scan-and-go proposition with computer vision technology. The technology it hopes to roll out this year would remove the need to scan a barcode, instead customers simply use their smartphone’s camera to identify the product.