Digital transformation is at the heart of McDonald’s efforts to improve customer experiences to retain current customers and bring back former customers.
RTInsights recently spoke with industry leaders who shared their AI predictions for 2020, including the expectation that there will be more artificial intelligence (AI) project deployments in 2020. Perhaps the biggest transformation to watch has been and will continue to be McDonald’s.
The fast-food giant made big investments in real-time AI and personalization technologies throughout 2019 and recently tapped global payments platform Adyen to support its in-app payments, which will begin in the United Kingdom in 2020.
The moves are part of the chain’s digital transformation strategy – called the Velocity Growth Plan – that was launched in 2017 to help it keep its edge as competition continues to heat up.
Personalized drive-thru menus
Faced with growing competition, McDonald’s has put an emphasis on improving the customer and employee experiences to help retain current customers and bring back former customers.
As part of its efforts, McDonald’s made its largest acquisition in 20 years in March when it acquired personalization tech startup Dynamic Yield for an estimated $300 million. The company is using the AI-powered technology in its drive-thru machines to personalize the menus in real-time based on individual customer preferences and other factors such as time of day and the weather.
“With this acquisition, we’re expanding both our ability to increase the role technology and data will play in our future and the speed with which we’ll be able to implement our vision of creating more personalized experiences for our customers,” Steve Easterbrook, President and CEO at the time, said.
As of September 2019, the technology was deployed in over 8,000 US restaurants and was expected to be implemented in “nearly all” drive-thrus in the United States and Australia by the end of 2019.
Conversational AI and the future
McDonald’s also announced in September that it purchased conversational AI startup Apprente. Aprente develops a platform intended for “complex, multilingual, multi-accent, and multi-item conversational ordering.” The technology will help improve orders at McDonald’s drive-thrus and can be used in the future in mobile ordering and kiosks.
The acquisition also brought about the establishment of McD Tech Labs in Silicon Valley and a team of engineers and data scientists that will join its Global Technology team.
“Building our technology infrastructure and digital capabilities are fundamental to our Velocity Growth Plan,” Easterbrook said at the time, adding that the Aprente team will help take McDonald’s culture of innovation “one step further.”
That step will be one to watch in 2020 as it embraces AI and other technologies more deeply.