7-Eleven will begin testing credit card driven Internet access stations in eight Seattle-area stores today. Consumers can access e-mail, the World Wide Web and on-line services from the stations without the use of a laptop computer. US West is providing the high-speed ISDN access stations which are activated solely with credit cards. Consumers will be charged 20-35 cents per minute depending on the block of time purchased. 7-Eleven says it believes the new service could be as successful as its phone cards, money orders and ATM services.
7-Eleven customers no longer have to carry a laptop and find a viable data port to stay connected. Instead, they can dial-in at their local 7-Eleven store. The convenience store chain that introduced Slurpee, Big Gulp and to-go coffee is opening Internet stations in eight Seattle-area stores in conjunction with U S WEST Communications.
The Internet stations allow customers to access e-mail, the World Wide Web and on-line services. The terminals are menu-driven, user-friendly and connected to the Internet via an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) line that runs up to 10 times faster than conventional modems used for Internet access.
Mary Kush, 7-Eleven market manager, said 7-Eleven is known for its ability to predict consumer trends, so it’s not unusual for the company to be the first convenience-store chain to feature the relatively new technology.
“Internet access at 7-Eleven adds a new dimension of convenience not previously available to the public,” said Kush. “Now Web access and e-mail are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just around the corner.”
Customers can activate the terminals with the swipe of a credit card. The cost is 35 cents per minute. They can also purchase blocks of Internet time for $2.95 for the first 10 minutes (30 cents per minute) and $1.95 for each additional 10 minutes (20 cents per minute).
Steve Dennis, manager for U S WEST’s public paid access applications, said it made sense to work with 7-Eleven, the nation’s largest retail site provider for payphones, on this trial program.
“We’ve been partners with 7-Eleven for a long time in the payphone-service area, so this is a natural extension of our partnership,” said Dennis.
Kush said 7-Eleven has had great success providing its customers with phone cards, automated teller machines (ATMs) and money orders, so Internet service is a logical next step for the company.
7-Eleven chose Seattle as the site for the test because of U S WEST’s experience in providing public Internet access to this area. The eight stores were selected on the basis of varying customer demographics.
Market studies of Internet use worldwide indicate:
— The current user base is estimated at 20 – 40 million worldwide, with approximately half of all users residing in the U.S.
— Annual growth rates are projected in excess of 100 percent, reaching a user base of 250 million by the year 2000.
— At a market rate of $25/month/user for access, the current usage market is approximately $6-12 billion worldwide.
— Domestic commercial spending on direct marketing and promotions through the Internet is forecast to grow exponentially to at least $5 billion by next year.
— E-mail is the largest single end-user application in the current market.
U S WEST Communications Group (NYSE:USW) provides telecommunications services to more than 25 million customers in 14 western and midwestern states. The company is one of two major groups that make up U S WEST, a company in the connections business, helping customers share information, entertainment and communications services in local markets world-wide. U S WEST Public Services serves the paid-access marketplace, which includes payphones, smart cards, pre-paid cards, public Internet kiosks and all third-party transaction products.
With approximately 16,600 convenience stores worldwide, operations of The Southland Corporation (Nasdaq:SLCM), operator and franchisor of 7-Eleven stores, include more than 5,400 7-Eleven and other convenience stores in the United States and Canada. 7-Eleven is the nation’s largest retailer of money orders, pre-paid phone cards and has the largest retail network of ATMs in the U.S. 7-Eleven’s home page is located at http://www.7-11.com .