July 11th is a big day for 7-Eleven® stores. Last year the leading convenience retailer gave away over 9 million free Slurpee® drinks on the brand’s adopted birthday. Few other customer engagement initiatives can claim as much success, and this year the brand projects 7-Eleven Day to be even bigger.

But even beyond 7-Eleven Day, 7-Eleven also offers a host of alluring products and promotions including an effective loyalty program called 7Rewards. Administered with the help of Brierley+Partners, a strategic CRM and loyalty-marketing platform, 7Rewards offers members an interactive way to collect points and earn free products.

Recently, Loyalty360 was able to speak with Robert McClarin, Loyalty CRM Marketing Technologist for 7-Eleven, and Jim Sturm, CEO of Brierley+Partners, about some of the exciting prospects in store for this iconic brand.

What kinds of customer engagement opportunities does 7-Eleven Day bring?

McClarin: 7-Eleven Day is a very high traffic day, so it is an opportunity to attract new people to the store to see all the great things that we are doing with fresh food, private brand, and high-quality snacks. It is also a benefit for our 7Rewards members because they get a free punch on their loyalty card if they scan in when getting their free small Slurpee. We know that a lot of members go store-to-store and track their progress online through Facebook and Twitter. And, it’s neat to see them post photos of their progress from one 7-Eleven store to others. As a matter of fact, one marathoner is going to lead a group of experienced distance runners on a course to hit all 45 of Winnipeg's 7-Elevens—the total distance of which is coincidentally 71.1 miles long.

Are the customers that go store-to-store on 7-Eleven Day your most loyal customers?

McClarin: Yes. They are our biggest fans. They are the Slurpee loyalists. They have the Slurpee gear, participate in the rewards program, and we can see that they are loyalists through their purchases. They love the brand and the beverage. This group of customers was also instrumental in helping us develop a brand new Slurpee flavor, Sour Patch Kids Watermelon, which was created after interest was generated online through social media.

How do you promote customer engagement beyond 7-Eleven Day?

McClarin: Following 7-Eleven Day, we have a special weeklong promotion for members. When they buy a 7-Eleven cup (coffee, fountain, Slurpee) they can get any 7-Select (7-Eleven’s private brand) food item that is under $2 absolutely free. This includes chips, candy, ice cream and fresh food. There are over of 150 different items they can get free just for doing what they already do. It is an opportunity to really thank our members.

Is this part of the strategy to get customers introduced to these fresh food offerings?

Sturm: Fresh food is now a strong objective for 7-Eleven. People go there for fresh food and coffee and drinks, so the program is essentially based around that, and it is going to expand. But supporting an initiative of free fresh food is key, so by giving members fresh food it becomes very promotional and engaging, and creates a loyal base. It supports their initiative to get a much stronger presence in the fresh food business.

How does 7-Eleven actively listen, understand, and respond to its customers. Is there a unique process that 7-Eleven uses?

McClarin: For us, Brierley+Partners is that hub that facilitates our communications with our most loyal members. Through the engagement we generate with the loyalty program, we get permission to reach out to them through email or push. We can say, “Hey, we noticed that you just tried this particular product, and we would love your feedback on it.”

Brierley then gathers that information, and those insights are aggregated. In addition, we use other areas of Voice of the Customer, and the app has additional feedback channels to allow customers to weigh in on the store, products, staff, and the loyalty program itself. And all of those recommendations go to our 7-Eleven product managers.

All of that is enabled by Brierley’s backend. We also have an entire social-listening team that is actively engaging those customers on social media and identifying suggestions or complaints and immediately addressing them. Every piece of customer feedback that comes in also goes into a central VoC repository, and cases are opened and closed as quickly as possible. It’s true customer engagement. We are listening, we are letting customers know that we are listening, and we are reacting to what they are telling us.

What is the biggest challenge that you face, and that you see other brands facing today?

Sturm: There is still a hurdle for brands to truly understand who their customers are from a complete view. Many still do not have the ability to tie transactions to consumers. Many are getting there, but then there is still opportunity to bring in VoC data, bring in attitudinal, and bring in social data. The biggest challenge is still the integration of all these things.

McClarin: The next opportunity for 7-Eleven is rewards for engagement. I just haven’t seen very many brands that are able to identify specific members and be able to reward and thank them in real-time for their interaction or social activity. That’s hard to do. And with millennials spending so much time in the social space, we have to follow them there because, in my opinion, it is less about email and more about the smartphone in their hand. You have to bring all that together. And we struggle like everyone else, but we are lucky, too. We are working from a great foundation.

About the Author: Mark Johnson

Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.

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