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McDonald’s needs right message, products along with mobile to drive sales

McDonald’s is a mobile marketing leader but with same-store sales dropping 3.3 percent in the most recent quarter, the chain’s experience highlights the need for mobile to be paired with the right message and products to be successful.

While the fast food conglomerate has seen disappointing sales in Asia and Europe, many reports are placing some of the blame on its increasingly complicated menu.  An aggressive advertiser on mobile, McDonald’s has announced plans to roll out mobile ordering in the near future, and recently introduced mobile payments to its app.

“As McDonald’s rolls out the McD App and ‘Create your Taste’ campaigns nationwide, the customer experience should drive the mobile strategy instead of the mobile strategy driving other strategies. It is all about the customer experience, not the technology,” said Brian Brunk, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston, MA.

Marketing to millennials
The brand is aiming to bolster its mobile strategy in order to market more effectively to the millennial demographic: consumers under age 34. However, while mobile is an important strategy for that age bracket, consumer loyalty generally stems from an emotional message or creative.

McDonald’s has steadily been losing clients to other quickly growing fast food places such as Chipotle and Panera Bread, which claim to house healthier foods and use daily fresh ingredients. Consumers have been shown to react more positively if a food brand is perceived as being healthier.

This has led to the company reportedly considering offering organic foods in some categories. While McDonald’s does offer organic products in some regions, such as organic milk in German locations, the brand is looking to expand its more health-conscious products across all markets in order to entice more guests.

“A well-defined mobile strategy and execution is a good thing, but it is not the key to improving business at McDonald’s,” Mr. Brunk said. “The reasons why customers are choosing other fast food alternatives than McDonald’s is more about menu options and dietary trends than technology.”

Streamlining menu options, serving healthier food items and connecting emotionally with consumers are three key strategies for McDonald’s to consider when trying to stay afloat in the competitive food sector. If the consumers are not pleased with their experiences at the restaurant, the brand will see that dissatisfaction manifest in significantly lower revenue.

App enhancements
The McD app, which allows guests to locate the nearest McDonald’s restaurants and browse menu items, introduced an NFC payment option in September in an effort to make ordering faster for the consumer. The brand has also announced plans to simplify its menu, remove low-selling items and give McDonald’s locations in various regions more autonomy in serving relevant food items.

“Incorporating Apple Pay and enhancing mobile ordering functionality may impact some consumers’ perception of the brand, but for QSR’s like McDonald’s, this is an enabler to improve the experience but it is not the reason for the visit,” said Tom Edwards, senior vice president of digital strategy at The Marketing Arm, Dallas, TX.

McDonald’s is rumored to be introducing the “McD Ordering” platform in 2015, which will allow customers to link debit or credit cards to the McD app and order food prior to arrival. However, this also means that all McDonald’s employees will have to be trained in the new technology, something that will require more capital and time.

A coupon feature is also reported to be part of the platform, although the electronic deal only appears for two minutes and can only be redeemed when shown to a cashier. Ultimately, the brand needs to pinpoint consumers’ needs, and be able to get their products to them when they want, and how they want.

“Granular targeting that covers both behavioral and emotional targets is essential,” said Joline McGoldrick, research director at Millward Brown Digital, Washington, D.C. “The mobile strategy potentially signals that McDonald’s is going after a new type of consumer.

“Making sure that they understand those consumers from a preference, psychographic and emotional profile is essential. It is also necessary to reach these consumers as geographically and time oriented as possible.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York