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7-Eleven invites users to develop app features for future use

The Idea Hub initiative aims to make 7-Eleven customers’ lives more convenient, especially when they are on the go. Through the effort, 7-Eleven is seeking public feedback to expand the capabilities of its app.

“We’re not going to have the corner on all the good ideas and innovations and we want others to innovate on our behalf and do things that we would not dream of,” said Mike Debnar, senior director of guest experiences at 7-Eleven, Dallas.

Mobile innovation
The new 7-Eleven mobile app is available for Apple and Android devices for free download in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, respectively.

Shortly after launching the app, the company has decided to roll out its Idea Hub, where users can share ideas about how to build onto the app’s basic platform and add services that would enhance its worth.

The Idea Hub can be found in the app’s Control Panel – located by clicking on the gear icon. The Idea Hub is divided into four categories for suggestions – general, stores, events and coupons.

From there, users can submit an idea or vote on one previously submitted, and sort the list by popularity or most recent suggestions.

According to Mr. Debnar, ideas that have risen to the top of the list include adding mobile payment capabilities, more coupons, individual store reviews, a membership loyalty program, nutritional information and local gas prices.

In addition to inviting users to help innovate future app capabilities, 7-Eleven also held an event at the recent South by Southwest show, and challenged tech-savvy attendees to come up with ways to improve the company’s mobile experience.

The company chose Sean Devlin, who focused on the 70 percent of the world’s population still using feature phones. Mr. Devlin created an SMS-based program that let non-smartphone-using 7-Eleven fans access the app’s most popular features.

“Our roadmap is like this, we loved all the ideas, but above and beyond that we want our guests to help reinvent and innovate for us as well,” Mr. Debnar said.

“Mobile customers like offers and deals – they like to find a lot of good value,” he said. “They’re really looking for value when they’re out and about.

“That’s why the mobile app is so valuable to them.”

Mobile app
7-Eleven originally released its mobile app last month, which features a store locator, mobile coupons, selected products, as well as news on store events and specials.

The initial capabilities were selected based on comments received from its Facebook fans.

According to 7-Eleven, mobile couponing was the top request.

Moreover, the recent app update also added the ability to check-in to stores via foursquare.

The store locator is a big feature for 7-Eleven. Through it, consumers can filter their search for key products and services. Store results can be tailored by selecting filters, such as hot foods, beer, wine, Redbox, lottery, ATM, fuel, diesel, propane, and whether food stamps payments are accepted.

In addition, the app customizes products geographically, and by time of day and local weather.

“I don’t think it’s any secret, this notion that the Web is disintegrating into smaller screens and more people are accessing Web data through tablets and smartphones, as well as through connected devices,” Mr. Debnar said.

“Our connected device strategy is to help customers and serve them better,” he said.

More key features
7-Eleven has partnered with product suppliers to get the word out about its new app, featuring free or value prices on popular products.

Coupons can be redeemed at the point-of-sale by scanning an on-screen UPC code from a smartphone.

Additionally, users can share a coupon link on Facebook and Twitter, as well as opt in to receive SMS offers and email updates from 7-Eleven.

“The big thing is not only the customization of the data that’s available, because we are looking at every store, but also seriously wanting the users to tell us what they want from us,” said Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for 7-Eleven.

“And that will help us in many different ways to best serve them,” she said.

Final Take
Rimma Kats is asscociate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York