7-Eleven is the latest retailer to test the "cashierless" store concept, following Amazon's big push into the market with its Amazon Go convenience stores that use technology, instead of people, to monitor stock levels, track purchases and process payments. This week, 7-Eleven announced it's piloting its own take on the cashierless concept with a 700-square-foot store at its corporate HQ in Irving, Texas, open only to company employees.
The store stocks 7-Eleven's most popular products, including beverages, snacks, food, groceries, over-the-counter drugs and non-food items. This product mix may be refined over the course of the testing.
Similar to Amazon Go, the 7-Eleven pilot store will involve a mobile app that customers use to check into the store, pay for items and view their receipts.
Meanwhile, to differentiate shoppers and their purchases, 7-Eleven is using a proprietary mix of algorithms and predictive technology, it says.
"Ultimately, our goal is to exceed consumers' expectations for faster, easier transactions and a seamless shopping experience," said Mani Suri, 7-Eleven senior vice president and chief information officer, in a statement. "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. 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. We continue to innovate, and coupling fresh, innovative, healthy food options with a frictionless shopping experience could be a game-changer," he added.
The company has been working to adapt to the changing needs of customers in other ways, before now, including through its on-demand delivery service and mobile checkout, for example. But given Amazon's intention to directly compete in 7-Eleven's market, it likely had no choice but to begin experimenting with cashierless technology sooner, rather than later.
7-Eleven is not alone on that front.
Since Amazon introduced its Amazon Go concept in 2018, other retailers have followed suit. Walmart and Walmart-owned Sam's Club and supermarket chain Giant Eagle are testing AI technology similar to Amazon Go, among others. And several companies sell cashierless technology to retailers, including Standard Cognition, Zippin, Grabango, AiFi and Trigo, to name a few.
The pilot program at 7-Eleven is underway now, but the company didn't give any indication as to how long the tests would run or if and when it would expand to the public. It also didn't detail the proprietary technology it's using. But typically, cashierless stores use a combination of sensors, cameras and AI.
The retailer today operates, franchises and licenses more than 70,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.