Convenience store chain 7-Eleven is debuting a new feature for customers that allows them to pay for gasoline by voice through Apple's Siri and only get out to fill the tank.
"This is an innovation that lets customers come to a gas pump and not take their wallet out, just talk to their iPhone," Tarang Sethia, the chief digital officer at 7-Eleven, told Cheddar Friday. "You don't have to worry about spending five minutes to interact with the station to fill gas for two minutes."
Less contact with surfaces is the request 7-Eleven has been hearing from customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"This innovation has been in the works for a little while," Sethia said. "We accelerated it based on customers' needs."
When the disease began spreading, 7-Eleven installed protective plexiglass at cash registers and provided gloves at gas pumps for customers, according to Sethia.
The new gas-by-voice feature also allows 7-Eleven's 33 million loyalty members to rack up rewards. Members will get 11 cents off per gallon for their first seven trips, then a 3 cents per gallon discount thereafter. But rewards aren't limited to the pump.
"As they spend more on gas or they come inside the store, they also get points," which he notes are redeemable for items in the store, including the chain's signature Slurpees.
7-Eleven says it has locations within one mile of half the American population, and with that in mind, Sethia stated the company's focus on innovation is driven by what the customer asks for.
Joining Cheddar via Skype from Salt Lake City, Sethia said that the company is working on self-checkout there before rolling it out to the rest of the country. Self-checkout is already available in Dallas and Manhattan.
"You walk into a 7-Eleven store, get your favorite coffee, get your favorite food," Sethia explained. "All you do is scan those products, pay for it, confirm at a confirmation station, and leave. You never have to wait in line for it."
While convenience stores may not seem like hubs of innovation to the average road tripper, Sethia says 7-Eleven has been leading this category by sticking to a simple guiding principle.
"We were the first ones to do a to-go cup of coffee. We were the first convenience store chain to have a gas station. We were the first ones to open 24/7," Sethia said. "All based on what the customer wanted."