Macca’s Goes Digital To Bring Customers The Big Mac Of The Future

Macca’s Goes Digital To Bring Customers The Big Mac Of The Future

McDonald’s is one of the most recognisable brands in the world, but now digital technologies are helping the company transform their services far beyond the traditional customer experience according to Daniel Lee (pictured below), senior director, digital experience lead APMEA, McDonald’s.

Lee joined McDonald’s two and a half years ago. He already had 16 years’ digital experience under his belt, largely on the agency side working with a range of clients like Nestle, American Express, Reckitt Benckiser and IBM.


During its first 60 years the company introduced some major innovations to its sector such as Drive Thru in the 1970s and McCafe in the 1990s. “But it has largely been an analogue and anonymous cash business.  Digital is enabling us to create new ordering experiences such as delivery, pre-ordering, and gourmet burgers that will set us up for the next 60 years for a new generation of customers.”

He described three of those experiences – McDelivery, Create Your own Taste, and the impact of i-Beacons – in an interview in advance of his presentation to the ADMA Global Forum in August next month.

McDelivery as the name implies lets customers get McDonald’s delivered to their door. It actually started in the US in 1993,  but now runs in 26 markets around the world. Australia is the latest to come on board.

“It is all about convenience” said Lee. “While we operate call centres in most markets, digital ordering is clearly what customers prefer with some markets completing over 80 per cent of orders digitally. So we’re actively working to make digital ordering even simpler and faster.”

Create Your Taste on the other hand is all about providing the “most awesome burger experience”.

According to Lee it brings together digital ordering with a totally new in-store and food offering. “The kiosk practically lets customers totally customise their burger and have some tactile fun to create it – versus having to stand in front of a cashier and try to order which is possible but less practical. Then with table locators integrated with the kiosk, we’ll actually bring the food to your table. As the team likes to say, very ‘un-McDonald’s.’’

Finally the fast food giant is in the early stages of utilising i-Beacon.

“It is a technology that we’ve been trialling for a couple of applications. The most obvious one is knowing a customer is in store so that we can deliver targeted offers or a timed offer after they have been in store after 20 minutes, such as a coffee or a dessert after your meal,” he said. “Another application is for ‘check in’ where customers may have pre-ordered and as they get closer in store, we can release their order for preparation so they can literally ‘grab and go’ with their order.”

Digital Transformation

McDonald’s of course is almost a poster child for incumbency with six decades of corporate heritage, a global footprint and market leadership around the world. So what does it see as its key digital transformations challenges?

The most obvious was simply having dedicated digital people to drive the digital ambition, as this skill set was not typically found inside the organisation, he said.

“With the appointment of a global chief digital officer in our head office in Oak Brook (in the US), and with executive support from the CEO and board, we undertook a massive hiring campaign and digital team structuring.”

And like many successful incumbents operating at global scale, the company can’t simply abandon its legacy systems. “Our back-end software and hardware systems that support ordering, pricing and stores are remarkably complex and were designed for operational efficiency rather than ‘real time-data driven’ marketing.”

This isn’t something that can change overnight, he said. “We’ve established cross-functional teams between digital, IT and operations to put together a roadmap and re-architect our platforms, while working with what we have today to deliver immediate results.”

According to Lee, “We’re also working on how do we become more ‘agile’ in our processes. Not necessarily from software development but from a cultural approach of moving faster to test new ideas and iterate quicker. This is very much being led by the digital team as an internal catalyst to effect a change in approach.”

With such a powerful brand and culture the company puts a lot of thought into empowering its people locally.

“We work on the principle of providing a core set of tools and software and allowing markets to customise for local needs. While the core could include things like ordering or menus, we need to cater for third-party map providers. Google Maps (for instance) does not operate in China.”

The company also has to work with a wider array of  social login providers such as WeChat, along with different and payment gateways. 

“Inevitably there is going to be some compromise, but this is where we operate a product governance process to ensure specific market requirements are built into the product roadmap.”

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