This September, McDonald’s announced its intention to acquire Apprente, a voice-based conversational technology company, in order to facilitate drive-thru ordering today, and kiosk and mobile ordering in the future. This acquisition comes on the heels of the company’s March purchase of Dynamic Yield, McDonald’s largest acquisition in 20 years, and marks the third large investment into customer experience technology the company has made in 2019 alone.
Such a step by a company like McDonald’s continues to call into focus an increasing movement by the quick service restaurant (QSR) landscape to invest in technology solutions that engage customers and improve their dining experiences—regardless of if they choose to eat in the restaurant, at their homes, or on-the-go. More and more, such efforts are transitioning from the physical restaurant, which historically constituted large areas of investment, to the digital realm, led by the point of sale.
Since 2014, digital ordering has grown 300 percent faster than dine-in traffic. And every day, more and more QSRs invest in personalization technology designed to optimize customer experience across various channels. Let’s evaluate how QSRs are deploying personalization tactics across channels, from the drive-thru to the kiosk to the mobile device.
The lion’s share of McDonald’s investment in personalization technology has revolved around the drive-thru—a logical decision considering nearly 70% of QSR sales originate from the drive-thru. In its acquisition of Dynamic Yield, McDonald’s will enable its outdoor digital menu boards to update depending on external factors like weather, time of day, or season. What’s more, the menu boards can update based on real-time items already ordered for more effective up-selling and cross selling. With the addition of Apprente, McDonald’s can also focus on refining the ordering process, allowing customers to have natural conversations with customers through an AI-driven customer service agent. Critical to these conversations will be the agent’s ability to leverage suggestive selling. Studies have found that customers will eat 85 percent more when servers offer more, meaning AI-driven customer service agents must be able to intelligently analyze items already ordered to recommend complementary items to round out meals. Better still, these items will be informed by historic data—pulled from geo-tracking data that’s gathered from customers when location-services are enabled—and environmental factors.
At the self-order kiosk, customers have opted to forgo lines, and as a result, the human interaction typically required for memorable and engaging experiences. However, 63 percent of consumers expect personalization as a standard of service, requiring QSRs to deliver individualized experiences to each patron. To accomplish this at the kiosk, BurgerFi has adopted facial recognition technology that enables kiosk customers to reorder and pay for their most frequently ordered menu items in under 10 seconds. This technology takes advantage of the customer loyalty program in order to expedite the ordering process. Yet, while they elevate speed of service, a core tenet of QSR, they leave an opening for even greater levels of personalization in the form of timely rewards and offers, dynamically updated based on ordering context. For instance, if Alex belongs to a loyalty program, the QSR may recognize that he only ever purchases a drink when offered as a reward. When he steps up to the kiosk and adds a meal from his favorites to his order, the kiosk will then serve up a notice: “Alex, thanks for you loyalty! Get $1 off your purchase of a large drink with your meal.”
Considering 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone, mobile devices are one of the most accessible channels for customer engagement in the food landscape. Taco Bell, the fourth leading QSR chain with systemwide sales of approximately $10.36 billion, is known for its interactive app that stores order history, allows users to pay with the Taco Bell Card, and offers detailed customization for every order, creating a convenient and personalized hub for customer engagement on a 1:1 level.
According to a 2017 estimate, millennials spend an average of 223 minutes per day on mobile devices, creating hours of opportunity for QSRs to engage with customers. Say Joe’s favorite coffee shop is running a promotion for a free donut when customers download their app. Joe downloads the app—enabling location-tracking for greater service—which empowers the coffee shop to send push notifications directly to his phone when he penetrates their geo-fence in order to encourage him to stop by. Beyond this, his mobile app adoption equips Joe for more seamless use of delivery options, which can leverage his real-time context, environment, and historic purchase data to inform relevant in-order offers as well as intelligent push notification promotions and outreach.
The evolution of personalization technology offers a myriad of benefits to the QSR landscape to satisfy customers, capture additional sales, and stand out in a saturated market. Are you interested in discovering how an AI-powered solution can optimize each customer engagement at your QSR? If so, contact ZineOne today to learn more about our Intelligent Customer Engagement (ICE) platform that extracts real-time, historical, and environmental data to personalize every customer journey.