— You know a lot about McDonald’s, but McDonald’s
doesn’t know much about you.
least not yet.
year’s end, the world’s largest burger chain will
roll out nationwide a mobile ordering system that will
collect a wealth of data about the habits of customers
— everything from what kind of burgers they prefer to
how often they swing through the drive-thru.
plans to use the information to customize the way it
interacts with diners. Imagine, for example, having the
McDonald’s app on your phone suggest a milkshake to go
with your twice-weekly Quarter Pounder order.
a management shake-up at McDonald’s last week that saw
the departures of the heads of marketing, menu strategy
and digital, analysts expect the chain’s innovation
plans to continue moving forward.
ability to collect data on customers is important to
McDonald’s, which is trying to reverse a yearslong
decline in customer traffic. The move also places the
fast-food giant, which lagged behind in the race to
introduce new technology like mobile ordering and
payment, as a leader among chain restaurant companies in
translating customer data into customized service.
loyalty programs and apps, companies have for years been
gathering information on customers to increase visits
and sales. But the chance to collect data and use it in
a way to make a customer’s experience better and
faster is still a relatively new frontier, said David
Pierpont, an executive vice president at marketing firm
are willing to share data if the benefits are
right," he said. "I think you’re going to
see more and more. Everyone’s trying to figure out how
can they leverage it."
and the younger Gen Z set tend to be more open to their
data being shared, but Pierpont believes acceptance of
data-sharing — with all its dangers and benefits —
is more widespread than many people admit.
say they don’t want to give everything away, but they’re
on Facebook, they’re on Google," he said, noting
that about 90 percent of Facebook’s users keep
location services on, allowing Facebook ads to target
consumers based on their location.
has had a smartphone app for several years, but it’s
primarily been focused on delivering coupons and store
location maps. The ability to order food and pay through
the app, which is expected at all U.S. restaurants by
the last three months of the year, is already in place
— and spurring sales — in some of the chain’s
Japan, McDonald’s has found that customers using the
app spend 35 percent more, on average. The app makes it
easy to place orders, so customers return more often,
McDonald’s Global Chief Marketing Officer Silvia
Lagnado said. And when customers do take the app’s
suggestions to add a milkshake or some McNuggets on top
of a value meal, those orders are stored and often
repeated as-is, leading to higher spending.
France, where order-and-pay is already up and running,
McDonald’s is collecting "behavioral
insight" from customers and using that information
to personalize the promotions they receive.
same technology advancements that are so dramatically
changing the way that we live are also transforming the
way we market today," Lagnado said at a recent
investor presentation. "We’re increasingly able
to measure things that we would have not dreamt of
measuring just a few short years ago."
also is participating in a number of pilot programs to
test technology and its effectiveness in getting more
customers in the door.
company recently completed a pilot in Singapore where it
placed Google ads in areas where its restaurants had
slower customer traffic at that very moment and so were
able to handle more delivery orders.
company is partnering with Facebook to measure the
effectiveness of its advertising on the social media
site. Using Facebook location-tracking information, the
chain can see the time between when customers see an ad
on Facebook and when they walk into a McDonald’s
restaurant. McDonald’s says it has similar pilot
programs running on other social media platforms.
new initiatives come at a time when the company is
trying to improve customer traffic in the U.S., which
has been in decline for years.
a sign of just how much change is taking place at the
burger giant, the company last week announced the
departures of three key executives: Deborah Wahl, chief
marketing officer; Lance Richards, vice president of
menu strategy; and Julia Vander Ploeg, vice president of
digital. The three are the first division leaders to
depart since the hiring of a new U.S. president at the
beginning of the year, former Kraft executive Chris
Kempczinski. Their replacements — veterans of PepsiCo,
Starbucks and Bank of America — start this month.
Tristano, president of food research firm Technomic,
said the personnel shifts are unlikely to slow the chain’s
think McDonald’s is recognizing that they need to
continue to bring in the right people and move faster
than they did in the past," Tristano said. "It’s
going to be about egos and experience and direction —
and you’re either onboard or you’re not."
he said the new leaders need to be open and aggressive
to push the burger chain to continue to evolve away from
its stodgy roots.
not saying they should operate like a dot-com, but they
just dumped a lot of years of experience," Tristano
said. "They need people who are going to break the
paradigm and speak to the younger generation."
use of this technology will tell McDonald’s where its
advertising dollars work, and where they could be better
spent. And a new stand-alone advertising agency has been
created to help put it all together.
Are Unlimited, a 4-month-old agency borne out of ad
powerhouse Omnicom, the winner of a monthslong battle
with Publicis Groupe for all of McDonald’s massive
advertising business, handles all of McDonald’s
national advertising, from TV and radio ads to digital
spots and social media efforts. Led by CEO Brian
Nienhaus, the firm will be on the front lines of taking
data gleaned from different initiatives and using it to
find ways to better convince customers to visit McDonald’s.
worry about the customer, and about our client. And that’s
really all we’re about: selling more burgers, building
the brand and doing it in very tight alignment with
McDonald’s," Nienhaus said.
includes everything from real-time ads to respond to
trending news on social media to planning the 12-week
run-up for Super Bowl ads.
you get to a perfect world, the experience that we
promise in a TV ad that they might see on ‘Scandal’
last night will be delivered in the mobile app, will
show up in the restaurant, and will guide (customers)
through a kiosk ordering process," Nienhaus said.
"And we might be able to say, ‘Yep, we brought
you in for a Big Mac, but wouldn’t it be great to have
a McFlurry as well?’ That’s all part of what we’re
said the agency is focused on improving the experience
of a McDonald’s customer.
does the modern customer want? They want to use
technology to enable their convenience. They want to be
able to pay with it. All those things that are going on,
I think we’re just tapping into them."