McDonald's is tying in-store sales to digital efforts for the first time

McDonald's is judging its digital efforts against sales made in a restaurant for the first time following the roll out of its app in the US last year.

The restaurant chain’s boss Steve Easterbrook told investors today (25 January) that since the app’s launch in the third-quarter of 2015 it has seen over seven million downloads, “higher than the industry norm”, as well as promising frequency of use rates.

Downloads are encouraged with one-off offers as well as in-app services such as store locator, menus and nutritional information. After “building trust” through this basic content, McDonald's asks the customer for more details and using that is able to serve them personalised weekly offers which they can redeem in their local store.

“We’re able to follow consumer behaviour because we can read the data coming from it and as we build the capability that’s going to be increasingly compelling,” said Easterbrook.

For 2016 McDonald’s is looking to move beyond a picture of the customer journey and wants to more closely link its digital spend to cash coming through the till.

The challenge is one it has long-faced, as McDonald’s European media director John Thekanady explained to The Drum last year. Revealing the two-year road map to get its data working harder, Thekandy said that inability to link online activity to sales means that investment in its digital efforts have been so far measured against soft-metrics such as a click, view or some other form of interaction. The furthest it's come to building any solid foundation to accurately connect on and offline behaviour have come from click-and-collect trials in France.

But under Easterbrook's plans for the year ahead, for the first time McDonald's will build weekly and monthly in-store sales into digital KPIs, which he admitted are “a little modest in 2016”.

“We have an incremental sales expectation based on the digital platform,” he said. “We can see [the app] is an incremental business driver […] We do see it contributing to business growth and becoming a platform that will deliver for years to come.”

Easterbrook was bullish on the app’s continued success, saying it has a raft of other initiatives in the pipeline to scale downloads and improve the experience.

“It’s still early days but for us, what we can offer in the future is exciting. What we’re delivering now is only just the start but it signals the magnitude of we can build beyond the basic,” he promised.

The expectations it has set for digital were revealed during its Q4 results today (25 January) where Easterbrook also lauded the improvement across 1,200 of its UK restaurants which have driven the chain’s transformation into a “modern and progressive” burger company.

Close attention was also paid to the impact that the All Day Breakfast menu – backed by a hefty media spend – had on sales, which globally rose five per cent in the quarter.

Easterbrook said he was confident the in-store experience will continue to improve, revealing that it will soon ramp up its table service proposition, currently available at 14 locations, to “nearly all” of its 1,200 converted restaurants across the UK in the coming year.