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Future of TV Subway Digital

Subway makes major investment in growing its digital group, an interview with the brand's chief digital officer


By Natan Edelsburg, SVP

June 20, 2016 | 6 min read

Subway recently announced a major expansion of its digital group. 'Subway Digital', the new division, will "build a comprehensive omni-channel strategy and implementation support team to enhance engagement and build loyalty."

Subway recently announced a major expansion of its digital group

Subway recently announced a major expansion of its digital group / Subway

The sandwich shop chain has gone through some major public relations challenges over the past year after having to end the relationship with its long-time pitchman. The launch of this digital group is a clear message to consumers that regardless of the past they are still innovating, still changing things up internally and have big things to come.

Found Remote interviewed Carman Wenkoff, Subway's chief information officer and chief digital officer about the new group. Wenkoff discussed the importance of being agile to meet consumers demands and plans for the future with its app, loyalty programs and social platforms.

Found Remote: Why did Subway decide to launch this new group?

Carman Wenkoff: We’ve been recognizing more and more over the last several years that customer expectations have really evolved. They’ve hyper-evolved over the last year in particular. As customers start to experience different things and different brands, in doesn’t even have to be in restaurant, their expectations are elevated. We figured that we need to structure ourselves differently to meet those expectations. In the past you’d have technology working in one department, marketing in another, operations in another. We really thought it was critical to work under one roof and have a team that’s entirely focused on the guest experience. That’s too difficult to do in a silo with just technology or marketing. We thought we’d physically change that structure and really bring on, a focused S.W.A.T team to do that.

FR: Will this group extend across your locations globally?

CW: Yes, it’s a global team. It’s going to be centrally organized in Connecticut, but we’re going to have what we’re calling a “partner enablement” team, which will enable all of our regions, starting with our major markets around the world, to deploy these technologies and also to localize them quite a bit. When we look at programs like introducing a new loyalty program, the foundational element may be similar, but we will add different layers to that to cater to local customer needs and to try to personalize it as much as possible.

FR: Will this affect any of the traditional marketing you’re doing whether it’s television, or out of home? Will there be new approaches?

CW: It will evolve the traditional marketing. Traditional marketing is what has built such an incredible base for Subway and that’s not going away anytime soon. But the mix on where we put the emphasis is just going to become further enriched. The core marketing strategy will still come from the same groups and the digital layers will just really enrich the strategy and provide another dimension to that. But the marketing mix is evolving quite a bit.

FR: In terms of social media and investing in platforms that aren’t your own platforms, anything specifically you can talk about - what you’ll be doing there (Snapchat, etc)?

CW: It’s a little bit early to solidify anything there, but we are keenly interested in how Facebook is evolving with their Messenger platform - how they’re looking to really create this enhanced experience with machine learning. We’re really interested in the evolution of payments. Platforms like Venmo and social payments and how that could integrate well with some of our strategies going forward to provide hyper-convenience to customers. It’s the same target groups. There are some amazing things happening on the social front and we will absolutely be tapping into those things for our customers.

FR: Any ways you will be working with social media influencers more?

CW: Yes. I can’t provide anything specific right now, but we have a whole strategy team - focused on all of the social media guest touch points now. We already do leverage some of that. We have influencers in the marketing mix too. We’re taking a fresh look at that too and how we can take that to the next level.

FR: Anything you can share what will be coming with the app and what the most popular features are?

CW: Certainly the ordering functionality has been the foundation for the app. We’re just about to launch an order ahead capability, where customers will be able to specify items in advance and put in custom messages and things like that. We are looking to significantly enhance what that user interface looks like going forward. In the future it will be a more personalized experience. We’re hoping to provide curated choices for end users as we get to know their history a little bit more and to really just remove any friction points at all in that mobile experience.

FR: How big is the team?

CW: Right now, the current size of the team is about another 150 people. The partnership with Accenture has allowed us to ramp that up extremely fast. Then we’ll be looking to recruit and develop top talent to join that team over the next few years. It’s very exciting.

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