A reader pointed me to a fascinating piece in Forbes from back in April about McDonald’s that goes into how the QSR giant is using big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to drive sales on menu boards and the self-ordering kiosks that are showing up in many stores.
The piece is more than anything a round-up of previously published stuff, but interesting to see and understand why the big fast food guys have broadly adopted menu displays and are now aggressively going down the path of self-service kiosks and drive-thru displays.
The McDonald’s menu displays are using real-time analytics and data to change menus based on things like weather conditions. “For example,” the Forbes piece notes, “on a cold, blustery day, the menu might promote comfort foods while refreshing beverages might be highlighted on a record heat day. They’ve been used in Canada and resulted in a 3% to 3.5% increase in sales.“
The piece also notes:
Embracing a data-driven culture is also important to help McDonald’s better understand performance at each individual restaurant as well as uncover best practices that can be shared with other restaurants in the chain. Since McDonald’s uses a franchise business model, consistency of food and experience is important across the franchise. It’s important from the customer’s perspective to experience the same food and offerings from one restaurant to another no matter where they are located or who it’s owned by. The company looks at multiple data points in the customer experience. For example, when they look at the drive-thru experience they not only assess the design of the drive-thru, but they review the information provided to the customer and what’s happening for customers waiting in line to order. They analyze the patterns in an effort to make predictions and alter design, information and people practices if necessary.
Also, the McD’s mobile app can be highly influential on sales:
Not only can customers order and pay through the McDonald’s mobile app and get access to exclusive deals, but when customers use the app, McDonald’s gets vital customer intelligence about where and when they go to the restaurant, how often, if they use the drive thru or go into the restaurant, and what they purchase. The company can recommend complementary products and promote deals to help increase sales when customers use the app.
In Japan, customers who use the app spend an average of 35% more thanks in part to the recommendations they are provided at the time they place an order. Favorite orders are then saved by the app and offer a way to encourage repeat visits. App users can avoid the lines at the drive thru and at the counters, reason enough for many to share their buying data in exchange for convenience and perceived perks.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.