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eCommerce Awards judge Daniel Lee from McD’s on true digital transformation

McDonald’s Corporation’s Daniel Lee (pictured) has come full circle from his days working with ad agencies HAVAS Worldwide, Ogilvy and JWT to helming the role of senior director with McDonald’s for over four years now. A 20-year digital veteran, Lee is responsible for leading McDonald’s digital acceleration programs across 85 markets in Asia, Middle East, Europe and LATAM.

In his close to seven years with McDonald’s, Lee has managed the eCommerce, CRM and digital experiences which he was said to have delivered across multiple languages and multiple channels. As part of the global digital, he leads a globally distributed team that helps markets extract value from their digital investments through data, CRM frameworks and performance management. 

In his two decades long expertise, Lee is certain that while the hype cycles come and go, the enduring principle is this:

Digital transformation is business transformation.

Joining this year’s Asia eCommerce Awards as a judge, Lee shares his outlook for the eCommerce industry and some trends he has picked up. Here’s more.

Marketing: What is your perspective of the eCommerce industry?

Here’s the thing: If your parents do it, it’s mainstream. The eCommerce industry is not reserved for digital natives. It’s a natural and even preferred way of doing something we’ve been doing for centuries – the art of buying and selling. The impact in downsizing of physical retail space is unmistakable, and yet we’re actually buying more, not less! The world of eCommerce brings together the successful retail pillars of convenience and choice, no longer bounded by geography or time of day. It’s as much an economic revolution as a shopping transformation.

In a recent group exercise with 10 strangers, I was tasked to find something in common – the first one was  “in the last 30 days, we’ve all bought something from Amazon!” That actually wasn’t surprising at all!

Marketing: How have you witnessed the eCommerce industry evolve over the past few years?

The industry has made significant strides in four key areas:

  1. Commerce everywhere – the era of web based desktop-driven is now just one facet of how customers want to interact:  mobile web, apps, chat integration, selling through social platforms, and even partners. It’s moved well beyond  “visit”
  2. Accessibility – eCommerce is not just for big players with big budgets. The proliferation of online marketplaces, social selling, and off the shelf eCommerce tools has meant that almost everyone can have a piece of the expanding eCommerce pie.
  3. Customer experience – moving beyond the “add an item to the cart”,  the customer experience is multi-step journey which also includes the integration between the offline and online worlds.
  4. Logistics –  the “last mile” to getting shorter and faster to cross, and customer expectations are rising faster than the ability the delivery the “I want it now” experience.

Marketing: What comes to mind when you think of eCommerce excellence?

Ecommerce excellence is when the entire end to end customer experience is as friction-less and seamless as possible. It’s not just about taking an order through an app or website, it encompasses everything from a search to comparisons, to ordering, payment, the delivery and even the turn of an item. Excellence means you’ve thought through the customer experience and especially the hand offs between the digital and physical worlds. If you asked the question “How easy is it to return an item purchased online?” or; “What do I do if I have a problem with the item I purchased after one month?”, you will see many brands fall short of a customer’s expectations.

Marketing: What qualities will you be looking out for in the entries for Marketing’s eCommerce awards?

The #1 thing I’m looking for isn’t the sales result or how many customers they’ve served – though those things are definitely important.

I’m looking for entries that have truly impacted the customer experience and made it a pleasure and delight.

Ideally, the entry will have delivered customer noticeable change, where the customer actually thinks “that’s cool” or “that was so easy”.  Or even better, it’s so easy and seamless it barely even registered with the customer consciously! Pulling this off requires customer centricity, innovation, vision and the ability to execute – and that’s what separates the champions from everyone else!

Marketing: Why do you think recognising eCommerce players is important to the industry?

As the eCommerce industry expands with talent and investments, we absolutely need to recognise “What does great look like?”   Progress comes when we don’t just follow the standards, but instead we set new standards and lift the bar. The eCommerce industry in China has shown, it’s not about emulating Amazon – it’s about developing brand new customer opportunities and areas of growth. Awards and recognition help to propel the industry to even greater heights.

Marketing: Where do you think eCommerce will be in five years?

Much of the friction that exists today in the customer experience will be massively reduced with a massive leap in human-computer interaction. For example, customer effort in product research, comparison and recommendation will be driven by virtual assistants, artificial intelligence, AR and voice UI. Today, those customers are interacting with a keyboard and mouse/phone to complete a search, make a shortlist and a decision. In the near future,  that process will be highly assisted by a highly knowledgeable and expert friend who knows our needs and preferences – essentially your personal virtual concierge. You would tell your virtual concierge what you wanted and they’d some back to you with recommendations or even complete the transaction immediately. Shopping is as easy having a conversation with your friend who access to limitless products at amazing prices!

In five years, I’d really like to able to buy shoes online that fit my flat and wide feet and know they will fit!