How do they do IT? 7-Eleven keeps the motor running

7-Eleven’s point-of-sale system does much more than sell Slurpees. Georgina Swan talks to store systems manager, Tam McQuinlan, about how the company uses technology to stay convenient — and competitive

7-Eleven is using IT to do more than just sell Slurpees

7-Eleven is using IT to do more than just sell Slurpees

Flexibility sits at the top of every IT manager’s wish list, regardless of the project or the technology. Systems that allow you to take advantage of new business initiatives not only provide the ability to ‘keep the motor running’, they also provide a vital competitive edge.

With that in mind, convenience store giant 7-Eleven scanned the market worldwide before it chose Radiant Systems to replace its old point-of-sale solution in 2004. 7-Eleven is the largest operator and franchisor of convenience stores in the world. In Australia, it operates as a family-owned business under a successful franchise model with four guiding principles: Better for customers, simpler for stores, quicker for everyone and value for money.

Radiant had recently entered the Australian market with its acquisition of Australian software firm, Breeze, and its track record in both convenience and fuel allowed 7-Eleven and its franchise owners to remain competitive at a time when supermarkets were beginning to take over the bowser. The company also implemented its own DSL-based private network into its stores and integrated EFTPOS with its banking partner and fuel card providers.

“I think one of the reasons we were able to keep up with it all was because we had our technology where we wanted it,” store systems manager, Tam McQuinlan, said. “We were probably ahead of the game and it allowed us to remain competitive.”

After a major upgrade to its host systems in 2008, 7-Eleven turned its attention to electronic services. Its IT team worked with integrator, Touch Networks, to initially offer gift cards at the point of sale. By the end of the year it had become the first integrated retailer for Victoria’s Tattslotto.

“One of the key principles around integrated electronic services was keeping it simple at stores,” McQuinlan said.

“The other big thing for us was reconciliation. Services are generally done on separate terminals and, when it comes to reconciling those products at the end of the day, there’s just no way to do it accurately.Now, instead of using a Tatts terminal which is not integrated with the point of sale, it is integrated and, from an accountability perspective, it’s like reconciling the sale of a Slurpee.”

7-Eleven’s business model is unique in that the company helps franchisees manage their business.

“All the reconciliation is done through 7-Eleven. We provide accounting support, payroll and training support for the stores. It’s very much like running a corporate business but the franchisee owns their own business and they have a vested interest in supporting any new initiatives we come along with.”

McQuinlin and his team work with a franchisee council to discuss upcoming projects and initiatives.

“There’s a fair consultative approach,” he said. “If we are trying to implement a new initiative, getting the buy-in from the franchisee is equally as important as even its profitability.”

Last year, 7-Eleven upped the ante with electronic services, implementing a ‘barcode bank’ with Touch Networks that enables the company to offer vouchers with a single use barcode. It allows the company to run promotions such as a ‘free medium Slurpee on your next visit’ without people printing off 100 vouchers and giving them to their mates. But it also allows the company to target particular customers and feed that information back into its SAP business intelligence platform.

“We are doing a lot of reporting around products to find out what people are buying with other products and how voucher offers are impacting on sales,” McQuinlan said. “So the business intelligence is now being extensively utilised to measure promotions.”

Another key initiative in 2009 was the integration of the NSW lottery. The company is now looking to offer similar services in other states. McQuinlan and his team then used an EFTPOS refresh to add extra functionality to the platform.

“We had a couple of things up our sleeves that we wanted to do with EFT so we went to market again and chose ANZ as our provider. One of the key things was the pin pad. We chose to integrate with a touchscreen and contactless reader.”

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