DENTON (UNT), Texas — Convenience store competition is stiffer than ever. With that, 7-Eleven is re-strategizing toward the future with help from University of North Texas marketing students.
“Millennials are the next generation of business, and college students have a different mindset on how to accomplish goals,” said Mallory Minnix-Smith, a 26-year-old MBA student in strategic management. “When you get a bunch of 20-somethings into a room together, we can come up with crazy, yet creative, ideas that may actually work.”
The collaboration paired business students with 7-Eleven executives and experts from one of the biggest names in consulting, the Boston Consulting Group, for a unique opportunity to learn from professionals and get experience with real consulting work for a top international company. Student teams competed to see which group could create the best concepts.
“The hands-on experience sets this class apart,” said Delaney Green, a first- year MBA student studying organizational behavior. Her group came in the top three. “Working closely with 7-Eleven and the Boston Consulting Group on a real-life case study has opened our eyes to what it takes for a business to thrive.”
The goal is to help the Irving-based chain take on impending challenges. New technology such as self-driving cars and shopping apps, the influx of new retail players into the sector and changing demographics are expected to revolutionize U.S. consumption patterns and the convenience store industry.
“The competition is just amazing,” said marketing professor Ken Thompson, who co-teaches the project as part of an Applied Marketing Problems course with principal lecturer Michael Gade. “There are a number of large convenience chains – corporate owned, private, hybrid. Yet there’s only so much market.”
For the project, teams met with C-level executives to identify 7-Eleven’s top targets. Background research into industry trends, changing demographics and other metrics helped groups create business blueprints complete with income statements, marketing data and cost analysis.
Minnix-Smith, whose group won the challenge, noted that teams had to “really think outside of the box” because 7-Eleven’s own experts were already developing many of her team’s early ideas.
“We’ve had to allow for the new things 7-Eleven and its competitors are coming out with. Of course, our ideas are just the starting point. They will take these ideas and turn them into reality,” she said.