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McDonald’s CMO: Why digital transformation is not an easy task

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McDonald’s USA is currently on a journey of complete digital transformation but the journey is by no means an easy one, admits Deborah Wahl, SVP and CMO of McDonald’s USA.Just 18 months ago, the company which services 26 million customers daily in the US alone, had zero digital interaction with customers. In fact, the fast food giant didn’t even own an app for the US market.“Back then, the predominant way to order was over the counter,” she said.That’s when McDonald’s decided to double down on its transformation. The transformation for the company meant changing everything - from food options, service experience, brand perception and value to digital. While the first bite was into the food department, change for the company simply meant a complete overhaul.(Read also: What it takes to create a great customer experience)“We are on a good start but we have a lot of things to do. There are so many different things to approach including digital. That’s where we made a commitment to move from mass discussion to mass personalisation,” Wahl said.Today, it has 2 million opportunities a month to respond directly to customers and using Adobe’s marketing tools, the company is at a 10% response rate. The fast food giant also saw over 10 million downloads over the last three months and also measures response time tightly.Another challenge for the brand was blending physical with digital."The core tenets of McDonald’s is quality, service and convenience. The question for us, then, is how do we take those tenets into the virtual world as well.  Our aim is to blend digital and physical realm seamlessly so that our brand experience remains consistent,” she added.Coupled with its large global footprint, change isn’t easy.In digital there are a lot of shiny toys. What then does a company such as McDonald's do is to step back and "focus on timing and balance” in integrating new services or digital tools.While moving into mobile payments early on in the game, proved beneficial for the company, it ensures it takes calculated risks when jumping on the latest gadgets and tools available in market.It also has a mention on social media every 1.5 seconds. This makes it almost imperative for McDonald’s to be a part of those conversations and enagage customers.The most important thing is having discipline, Wahl says."For us, it is about what we can do first and where our biggest customer need is and solving that. That takes discipline because in marketing you love new ideas and always want to do something exciting,” she adds.While McDonald's does from time to time delve into innovative products be it its Virtual Happy Meal box at SxSW or working with car brand Ford for future drive through initiatives to save consumers time, it is peeling back and now looking at day to day issues.One such area in where Adobe is assisting McDonald’s in is by using the Adobe Experience tool to see what consumers are saying about the brand on its wifi network. One market which this has been used in was Texas. From this, McD’s was also able to find that Texans really preferred local messaging and by tweaking its promotional offers the company saw a  350% increase in click-through.There is so much incremental power in those little things versus the big thrilling new ideas. “Our tasks and teams are rally focused on that day to day optimisation and areas that build the business,” she said.Adobe paid for the journalist’s trip to Adobe Summit 2016, held in Las Vegas.   

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