How McDonald’s is tech-savvier than most retailers

Posted by Tiffany Lung Tiffany Lung on Apr 11, 2018

Title Image Source: Echochamber 


In HK's traditional retail landscape, the only consumer-facing technology is often an iPad with a lookbook to flick through, and all of a sudden a retailer earns itself a line in the press for being "tech-savvy". (Newsflash, millennials did not even notice the iPad in the first place)

So when I speak of McDonald's you may shrug and think it's irrelevant to you since it's the food industry - but there’s more commonality between fashion and food than you think, and the sector is often a benchmark for innovation.

Supermarkets are on a constant drive to innovate in order to ease the shopping experience for their customers and keep them coming back. For example, Amazon Go kicked off the societal demand for check out-free stores, Walmart has a giant pick-up tower that automates order fulfilment and Alibaba’s Hema is on a 24 hours delivery push.

All three of these examples ultimately offer convenience as it results in getting products into the hands of customers in the quickest possible way.

Meanwhile, digital transformation in the fast food scene reveals two sides of the coin, whereby on the one hand digital initiatives are used to provide a remarkable service and the other to ultimately keep costs low and efficiencies high.


Here are three reasons how McDonald's succeeds in offering a first rate customer experience:


1. Mobile order pick up - “click-and-collect”

Source: Tofugear 


On top of its delivery system, McDonald's has just introduced a mobile order pick-up system in Hong Kong, the first city in Asia to have this feature.

Having now ditched its initial delivery app, the retailer has created a new app and fused the two services in one, allowing customers to order food items, pay through the app, and collect in store upon "checking in" by scanning a QR code at arrival. Customisation of food items is now also possible and the app recognises customer's preferences.

Click-and-collect is something that many Hong Kong retailers are still struggling with, let alone launching an app that can facilitate such a service. So there are definitely lessons to be learnt here.


2. Numerous payment methods

Source: Marketing Interactive


McDonald's offers ten payment methods, from cash to WeChat Pay, which is of importance seeing as the HK market hosts 16 digital wallets.

As mentioned in the past, it is critical to offer a multitude of payment options to your customers in order to prevent the loss of sale and offer a frictionless shopping experience.

If we look at McDonald's global operations as a whole, the company stated that it is in the process of “enhancing digital capabilities and the use of technology to dramatically elevate the customer experience,” as part of its 2017 growth plan.

Over time, the business has converted entire stores to self-order + pay systems, with little introduction or guidance to consumers, yet adoption has proven high.


3. Geo-located table service - pager & RFID

Source: Singapore EDB


In selected stores, McDonald's HK provides a pager service to alert customers that their orders are ready and it also acts as a signal for staff to deliver food to that location.

McDonald’s has taken this one step further in France, where they are trialing a more advanced method through a connected RFID card (RFID providers Frequentiel, Impinj and Tageos) to geo-locate a customer's seating area for table delivery service.

Retailers can mirror these initiatives by introducing a  “call for assistance” feature, where customer call points help to create a seamless experience.

Combined with other analytics, such as the ability to identify a customer as well as the products they have taken into the fitting room, retailers can enhance and improve the customer service experience and their ability to meet the demands of the customer.


Tiffany Lung is a Retail Tech Analyst at tofugear specialising in International Fashion & FMCG industries. In the past she has worked in both London and Hong Kong with numerous retailers, both front-line and back-end retail.

Topics: Omnichannel, consumer-facing, McDonald’s, retailers, tech-savvier, technology


Tiffany Lung

Written by Tiffany Lung

Tiffany is a retail analyst at Tofugear focusing on unified commerce, digital transformation, innovation and consumer trends across all retail sectors. Her insights have been featured in local and international media and she can often be found patrolling the streets to capture the most innovative stores for her #TiffanysRetailPatrol videos.

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