7-Eleven Inc.'s ambitions extend beyond selling Slurpees and Big Gulps. The convenience-store chain wants to provide financial services and E-retailing at 3,500 of its more than 5,000 U.S. stores. It began installing Vcom kiosks in U.S. stores late last year and now has 1,000 of these units performing the functions of a typical ATM, as well as verifying cash deposits, dispensing coins, cashing checks, and providing money orders. Last week, the company added shopping features to the "virtual commerce" systems that let customers buy selected products from E-retailers, including 1-800-Flowers, eBags.com, and TopWebBuys.com.
The goal is to eventually have two kiosks in every store, says Jim Keyes, 7-Eleven's president and CEO. And the company sees more potential; the systems, for instance, could be expanded to sell additional products such as auto insurance.
NCR Corp. builds the Vcom machines, which run the Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 operating system and Mosaic Software Ltd.'s Postilion ATM transaction-processing software and eSocket telecommunications software. "The screens are browser-based, everything is Internet Protocol-connected," says Bill Sass, director of Vcom operations at 7-Eleven.
For 7-Eleven, Vcom started out as a way to provide a channel for delivering "financial services to the masses," Keyes says. The idea was inspired from a meeting he had years ago with Sandy Weill, then a rising star in the brokerage business who would go on to become the chairman of Citigroup. He was impressed with Weill's idea of creating a "financial supermarket" offering banking, insurance, and investment services under one roof.
Originally appeared in InformationWeek, Dec. 15, 2003.