How Fast Food Is Learning About Billions of Customers
Fast food apps growing in popularity [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_D_F0MiPbM]
Call it the hyper-consumerization of the enterprise.
If you don't think we're in the midst of a consumer-focused boom, then consider what the fast food giant McDonald's is reported to be testing in certain markets. No, it's not a new sandwich - it's a new app.
If Mickey Dee's does indeed roll out this app after its initial test phase, I think we could be entering an entirely new era in which fast and consumer-friendly apps radically transform the customer experience. I am completely fascinated by a McDonald's app because we're not talking about a staid and conservative department store that is using apps to attract a new generation of customers. It's a global fast food enterprise that already excels in the marketing, distribution, and sales of its fast food products.
The 'McD Ordering' app is reportedly being tested in a local American market and is already being met with positive reviews. The idea is that today's digital consumer is so conscious of saving time as well as demanding a savvy response from the enterprises he does business with that a drive-through window is no longer fast enough for him. Nor is the handful of minutes that it takes someone to walk inside of a McDonald's restaurant and order an item or two from the take-away counter
The new app is devoted to the premise that a customer can scan a store code on his mobile device, place an order, and pay for it all within a couple seconds. The order is then beamed to the nearest McDonald's, where the cooks begin to prepare the food. By the time the customer arrives, the food is packaged and waiting for him at a special 'pick-up' counter that is separate and distinct from the traditional counter where people usually place their orders. The customer can also opt for a curbside check-in that allows him to bypass the drive-through window. A McDonald's employee walks out to the customer' car and deliver the food immediately upon his arrival.
Why this app is noteworthy is because its speeds up the process of an already speedy and ultra-efficient system that delivers food to hundreds of millions of customers around the world each day. Other notable fast food chains like Canada's Tim Horton's as well as Starbucks have been developing similar 'pay-and-go' apps for digitally savvy customers. Starbucks has reported that its payment app is used 14 percent of the time in its North American outlets. Short of developing science-fictional transporter technology right out of Star Trek, I can't think of how getting food to a customer can get any faster or efficient.
But wait just a minute. Could these apps be about more than just testing the limits of speed and efficiency in the restaurant industry? I think so. These fast foods outlets have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to designing and streamlining the customer experience. The aforementioned drive-through window is a case in point. At some outlets, there are now one microphone/speaker and two windows. The driver speaks her order into the microphone, drives up to the first window to pay, and then collects the meal at the second window before driving away. The fact that a new app would have employees running out to deliver a meal "curbside" in order to avoid an already efficient, three-part drive-through system suggests that the fast food industry is attempting to learn more about its enormous consumer base.
In the case of McDonald's, the company has also reportedly been testing a 'McD App' that is separate from the 'McD Ordering' app. The former allows consumers to receive coupons and special promotions instead of focusing on the actual ordering and payment process. It's quite obvious that the company would do well to combine those two apps. If it did, think of how it would be putting Big Data to the test. McDonald's could learn about each of its customer's ordering habits and begin sending them tailor-made email and text promotions for the next time they order. This would presumably be done on a global scale with potentially billions of people.
If such apps can pinpoint and customize a consumer experience within a global enterprise that is about standardization, volume, and speed, then think about what consumer-oriented apps can do for businesses that have less of a global footprint. By targeting special offers and helping customers avoid human cashiers altogether, any digitally savvy company can conceivably grow to become a global enterprise.