Tech in check: McDonald’s Malaysia digital director Muhamad Zaid Hasman

Digital transformation is all the rage nowadays, with companies jumping on board to keep up with the fast paced industry. In this new series, A+M speaks to the digital leads and experts to find out what their common challenges are when working in this fast evolving field.

Kicking off this series is Muhamad Zaid Hasman (pictured), digital director, McDonald’s Malaysia who joined the team in January this year to expand the McDelivery business. This is done by leveraging e-commerce as well as develop a growth strategy across other digital touch-points. He is also responsible for driving the omni-channel marketing strategy for McDonald’s business.

Previously head of digital at Domino's Pizza, Malaysia and Singapore, he helped develop social media and growth strategies across various consumer touch-points and he also worked collaboratively with the company’s stakeholders. With 15 years of digital experience in various sectors including food and beverage, telecommunications, software development, retail and creative agency, Zaid is well-versed in both the technical and business aspects of the digital world.

A+M: What was your first digital role like?

I started my career as a multimedia designer in a boutique agency where I produced digital designs for various companies in multiple platforms including web, mobile applications and sites. I then took on a role as a digital content creator providing services mostly to telco and media companies. As a newcomer in the digital industry back then, I had the opportunity to work with various industries where each had different approaches when integrating digital technologies in growing their businesses as well as improving their operations and processes.

A+M: What was your biggest tech booboo?

As a multimedia designer and digital content manager in the early years of my career, I was too focused on creating attention-grabbing content with the purpose of fulfilling client demands. Customer needs became secondary.

The truth of the matter is, we must understand customer needs more instead of being overly-innovative in terms of content.

Technology should be used to deliver what the customer wants. Here at McDonald’s, I’m proud and glad to say that we’re customer-centric business. Meeting customer requirements is the end-goal through our approach of customer-led innovation.

A+M: How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?

I learnt the value of placing the customer first. Take the recent launch of the new McDonald’s app. The holistic approach we took was to make it easier for customers to enjoy their meals and ultimately to have their experience with McDonald’s enriched in more ways than one. This is precisely our approach on McDelivery, to provide a more personalised experience for customers.

With this, we make use of data like historical purchases, demographics and interests to provide the most suitable offer and messaging to each of our customers. Additionally, the app, which gathers relevant data about our customers, will also function as the most important medium for us to improve our customer engagement, customer satisfaction and eventually improve our business performance. Comparing the same period between January and June last year, McDelivery has already recorded a growth rate of 80%.

A+M: What are some of the common challenges you face with digital today?

In the digital space, talk is always centred on big data. There is a tendency for data to be over used or over analysed to the point that what matters to customers the most, which will impact the business needs, are overlooked. Data is without a doubt the main tool for us to utilise in business, but we also need to look at the right data to make an informed decision that will in the end benefit those we serve.

Analytics gives us the opportunity to be better at personalisation and meeting customer needs. At McDonald’s, I strive to ensure that technology is an enabler, not the main tool in connecting with our customers. There is a need to blend technology with the human touch and interaction as this will provide a great customer experience that can help sustain customers’ loyalty.

A+M: Are there any digital trends which excite you or that you are wary of?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning make tasks easier for businesses, increase productivity and reduce operational inefficiencies. We are excited about the possibilities that AI has in the future, but at the same time, we believe that there’s a need for this new technology and human talent to co-exist.

For example, McDonald’s values the need to retain our Guest Experience Leaders (GEL) in our restaurants, in addition to the latest instalment of self ordering kiosks (SOK) at selected McDonald’s restaurants in Malaysia.

GELs are our guest experience ambassadors as they provide the emotional quotient in dealing with our customers. SOKs instalment - the technology - is not just about making them more efficient but empowers McDonald’s employees to connect with our guests in an even more meaningful way and to always ensure a memorable experience.  All in all, having both GELs and SOKs drive a wholesome guest experience to make families feel welcome at our restaurants.

A+M: Any top tips for marketers and brands to embrace digital?

As entrepreneurs or business owners, despite living in this ever-changing world of digital disruption, we should not measure it as a sign of success. When it comes to digital approach, the most important learning I can share is that we need to listen and understand what customers want first, rather than what we think is best for them. Also, the human element in businesses should not be replaced with digital technology – it should be used to enhance experiences, rather than replace them.