McDonald’s admits app is ‘terrible’ but maps out plans to win back millennials and young mums

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee

A senior McDonald’s executive has branded its My Maccas app as “terrible”, but promised new technology is on its way as the fast food giant continues its quest to win back millennials and young mums.

Daniel Lee, senior director digital experience for APMEA, said measures to make the customer experience more attractive are on-going, with the re-launch of its app among the immediate plans.

He said McDonald’s is also looking to utilise its mountain of data to drive the business forward and create a more personalised experience for customers.

Speaking at the Association for Data Driven Marketing and Advertising global forum, Lee admitted McDonald’s has a “problem” after seeing millennials and young mums walk away from its restaurants.

“Millennials are saying McDonalds’s isn’t relevant to me, you don’t have the sorts of food that I like, it’s not very hip and cool, it’s not the place I want to go,” Lee said. “We are also missing out on mums with kids, who are saying I don’t really feel good about taking my kids there.

“So all of a sudden you’re locking out a whole generation of customers who are our future customers. We need to look at how we can be more relevant, to redefine our business and reach these people and build the next generation of customers.”

Technology will be one of the drivers, he told delegates, before admitting the current version of its My Maccas app had flopped.

“I don’t need to tell you it’s a terrible app because the one star rating in Google tells us so, and that’s ok,” Lee said. “It was an early beta that came through the corporate IT guys. The question is how quickly can we get a better app up. There is something coming and it’s much better than it is today.”

The app, in particular the new version that will include ordering, payment and cafe card options, together with self order kiosks, are capturing rich data for McDonald’s that is being used to match consumer needs and, in turn, improve the financial performance of the business, he said.

Until recently, McDonalds had been “completely anonymous”, Lee said.

But Lee ruled out the launch of a traditional loyalty scheme, saying coupons made available through the app are a form of rewarding loyalty.

Explaining the reason for steering away from a points and frequency-based loyalty scheme, Lee said people don’t like to be reminded of how many burgers they have eaten.

“Having a gold tier status at McDonald’s would not be viewed as great,” he said.

Lee described the introduction of its Create Your Taste – where customers design their own burgers on self-service kiosks – as one of most “transformative experiences that McDonald’s has gone through in recent times”, adding it has helped improve its social media presence as customers share photos of their burger creations.

“We’ve have been telling people for years about our burgers, that, yes its 100 per cent beef, there is no pink slime and the chicken nuggets do not contain chicken feet,” Lee said. “But when it becomes alive in the restaurant and you get burgers delivered to your table they say ‘wow, that looks good’. It’s changing the perception of McDonald’s food.

“Seeing your burger displayed on a 20 to 30-inch screen at the self service kiosks helps with appetite appeal. It’s not new technology, kiosk ordering has been around for a while, but we are taking it to scale.

“McDonald’s struggles on social and finally there is something really positive and people share it. It has been tremendously successfully and has been enabled by technology. It’s the difference between night and day when Create Your Taste hits a store.”

It is also driving up average meals costs, he said.

“You don’t need to be a data scientist to figure out that a meal that sells for $12 to $14 has a higher average cheque than a value meal which is $8 to $9,” he said.

Lee said the introduction of self service kiosks will continue at pace which, over time, will reduce the need for a large number of cashiers. That will free up staff to act more as wait staff, he said.

The addition of wireless charging facilities, music and a digital extension to toy giveaway were all adding to the experience, he said.

“We looked at how to make a functional toy more interesting so we have connected the physical with digital through optical recognition unlock,” Lee explained, adding that the toy can be scanned on a tablet to “unlock all extra content and games”.

“It’s about engaging content. If it’s not cool or interesting you won’t have their attention for very long.”

Lee added that plans were underway to improve the drive through experience with pre-ordering and delivery to vehicles among the proposals.

“If you have ever been to a drive through it’s probably the same style as the 1970s, it can be a really frustrating experience,” he said. “In some markets, including Australia, drive through is more than 50 per cent of revenue to the store.

“If we can make the process as efficient and smooth as possible it will be even more successful.”

Steve Jones



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