Transforming the McDonald’s UX

Digital DNA caught up with one of the speakers at this year’s event Karl Boyce, Director of Digital at McDonald’s, who hails from Belfast.

Walk into any McDonald’s restaurant and the company’s embrace of digital technology is plain to see.


That is because rather than try and keep up with consumer demands for an alternative digital user experience, McDonald’s has been leading the trend, and in many cases anticipating future demand before it emerges. It now firmly references itself as a true omni-channel business.


Ordering from the instore kiosk, via a mobile app or through delivery, are now all central to the quick service restaurant experience, which is being led by McDonald’s, according to Karl Boyce, Director of Digital at the company.


“McDonald’s has built its brand on consistently delivering great food, fast, regardless of channel,” he said. “Given the nature of our customers needs and wants, often timepressured or spur of the moment, it’s no surpise that many QSR brands have been leading on digital transformation and innovation in recent years.


“A lot of our focus is how can we use tech to improve the experience for customers, whether that’s ordering at our restaurants, the at home experience, or those added value exclusive moments’ through our mobile app or platforms, such as AR around Christmas and our Reindeer Ready campaign


“We’ve had exceptional success, particularly with our digital kiosk offer which has become the mainstay. McDonald’s pioneered that technology.”


“Often the challenge in Digital is improving on its already exceptionally fast fulfilment.  We often find we are competing with ourselves on new features or services that improves service times. 


While the digital kiosk system was being established in McDonald’s restaurants across the UK and Ireland, Covid-19 hit.


As with every sector of the economy, the pandemic acted as a disruptor to the quick restaurant sector, forcing a change in customer demand overnight.


In doing so, it also fast tracked the digital transformation journey which McDonald’s was already on.


“In many respects, McDonald’s became an overnight delivery business. Currently, delivery accounts for 25% of our business when lot long ago it was only 10%. 


We also introduced a contactless ordering channel ‘Click and Serve’ via our MyMcDonald’s App, where food is ordered and delivered to a parking space.  This was piloted and national deployed to over 1000 drive-thrus in just under 3 months.  It is now our highest scoring fulfilment channel bar none.


In total, kiosk, mobile and delivery make up nearly half of McDonald’s orders, up sharply from less that a quarter two years ago, and is expected to grow further in the coming years.


Such a shift from the traditional model has meant a rethink as to how restaurants are laid out. 


“The combination of higher volumes of couriers and the returning public to Dine in and front counter, mean that we need to consider how we deliver a frictionless journey when visiting, ensuring we are recomending the right order channel for that specific occasion.”


And while managing that transformation, Karl has also been anticipating the next digital innovation which will help to meet customers’ demands.  However this transformation will still be rooted on convenience, value and personalised experienes.


“Our focus in the coming years is how we operate the business with a higher level of customer expectation given how customers have universally adopted digital across multiple brands over the period of the pandemic. 


“We’re investing in technology which is improving integration with restaurants to make our offering even more convenient. For instance, ready on arrival, which ensures food is ready to collect as soon as you walk into the restaurant using geolocation.


It’s growing engagement across Digital channels has also meant the business has become more data enhriched, ensuring it is making smart decisions on content curation to support the order experience.


“We’ve introduced interactive menu boards using innovative AI technology which surfaces in real time products appropriate to that particular time period, but influenced at that specifc moment by the weather, previous order behaviour and local events.


A big driver will be how we activate our growing understanding of our customers order behaviours and preferences, to deliver enhanced personalised experiences, that are seamlessly connected across our digital channels – such as between Kiosk, App and Drive-thru – as well as our CRM activity and performance marketing.”


The value side is also hugely important, Karl said.


Within that focus, the business has digitalised its coffee loyalty scheme and is also offering added value experiences, such as concerts, delivered exclusively through the McDonald’s app.


“It’s about giving feel-good moments back to the customer.”


It’s clear McDonald’s has been at the forefront of harnessing digital to create a better customer experience and it’s also clear that such forward thinking and swift implementation is paying off.


The quick service restaurant experience today looks very different to that of 10 years ago How it will look in 10 years time is the question that Karl asks himself every day. 

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