7Eleven7-Eleven, Inc. is turning over the future development of its new smartphone application (app) to the public. Well, sorta. With hopes of making U.S. consumers’ lives even more convenient, the world’s largest convenience retailer is seeking public feedback as it expands features and capabilities of its recently released app.  Available for Apple and Android operating systems, the free 7-Eleven®app can be downloaded at the iPhone App Store and Google Play for Android.

In the short time since launching the original app, 7-Eleven has added the Idea Hub, where people can share ideas about how to build onto the app’s basic platform and add services that would enhance its usefulness. Found in the app’s Control Panel (located by clicking on the gear icon), the Idea Hub is divided into four categories for suggestions – General, Stores, Events and Coupons.

Users can submit an idea and/or vote on one previously submitted, and sort the list by popularity or most recent suggestions. Ideas that have risen to the top of the list include adding mobile payment capabilities, more coupons, individual store reviews, a membership loyalty program, nutritional information and local gas prices.

“We looked at how people shop our stores and patterned the app to improve their 7-Eleven experience,” said Jesus Delgado-Jenkins, 7-Eleven executive vice president of merchandising, marketing, logistics and innovation. “It’s all about building convenience on convenience, and we continue to want to hear what capabilities customers would like to see in the future.  We will add enhancements and refinements based on our customers’ suggestions.”

In addition to asking app users for ideas, the company’s digital team traveled to Austin in March for the 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) festivals and conferences. At the SXSW Interactive event, which focuses on emerging technology, the 7-Eleven team challenged tech-savvy attendees to come up with ways to improve 7-Eleven’s mobile experience.

7-Eleven was the featured project of SXSW’s HackATX hackathon, a relentless 12-hour competition pitting top technology minds to create a new mobile tool for 7-Eleven.Winner Sean Devlin focused on the 70 percent of the world’s population still using feature phones to create a text-message program that enabled non-smartphone-using 7-Eleven fans to access the app’s most popular features.

The original rendition of the 7-Eleven® app launched in February with a store-location finder, mobile coupons, selected products, and news on store events and specials. The initial capabilities were selected based on comments received from 7-Eleven Facebook fans. Mobile couponing was the top request. The recent update also added the ability to check in to stores with the popular Foursquare social media app. Frequent 7-Eleven visitors could even earn a Foursquare “mayorship” of their favorite store by using the 7-Eleven app to check in most often.

A store locator is the foundation on which most retailers build their apps, and 7-Eleven is no different. But while other retail and restaurant apps help find the nearest store, 7-Eleven has tailored its location app to identify stores that meet specified convenience needs.  Filters for key products and services work in conjunction with the 7-Eleven app’s store locator. Store results can be tailored by selecting filters,  like hot foods – chicken, pizza and egg rolls, for example; beer, wine, Redbox, lottery, ATM, fuel, diesel, propane, and whether SNAP (food stamps) payments are accepted.

Users may click on multiple filters or select the search option to pinpoint a product or service not included in the filters. Stores meeting a customer’s specific requirements can be starred as favorites.

Relevant by design, the app customizes products geographically, and by time of day and local weather.

“Right now, the app helps people find a store, solve a problem, get a deal and talk to us,” said Steve Holland, 7-Eleven chief technology and digital officer. “Future development of this app will be completely customer-driven, so this is their opportunity to tell us what they want, from mobile payments to rewards programs, and let us know about their experience in our stores.”

7-Eleven has partnered with product suppliers to get the word out about its new app, featuring free or value prices on popular products.

Coupons can be redeemed at the register by scanning an on-screen UPC code from a smartphone. Users also can share a coupon link on Facebook and Twitter as well as opt in to receive text offers and email updates from 7-Eleven.

The retailer partnered with T3, an Austin –based digital advertising agency, which also sponsored this year’s hackathon, to develop the work-in-progress app framework. Billed as a “technology-fueled” creative agency, T3 has built its reputation around creative problem-solving in the so-lo-mo (social-local-mobile) digital advertising platforms.

“We’ve developed a guest-centric mobile experience that surfaces the most relevant products for the consumer based on factors like time, location and weather,” said Ben Gaddis, T3 vice president of innovation and growth. “This technology further differentiates 7-Eleven from others in the industry and will continue to improve as we see how guest interactions grow.”