Guest Column: Predictive personalisation - offering customers what they want

Gaining a better understanding of customer preferences can enable the delivery of personalised services that will lead to greater customer satisfaction, says McDonald's Rameet Arora

e4m by Rameet Arora
Published: Oct 11, 2013 3:34 PM  | 4 min read
Guest Column: Predictive personalisation - offering customers what they want

As the science of data analysis becomes more cost efficient and sophisticated, and consumers generate more measurable data than ever, brands will increasingly be able to predict what a customer needs or wants – and will therefore, be able to tailor their products and communications very precisely. It is interesting to study how McDonald’s has used the concept of predictive personalisation and given it new connotations.

The world over, McDonald’s is known for its focus on standardisation – in terms of quality and type of foods that it makes available to its customers. Yet, in many parts of the world, it has successfully used data to analyse and predict ways of melding international tastes with local cuisines – in the process creating innovative menus that over time have grown to become icons in their own right.

Gaining a better understanding of customer preferences can enable the delivery of personalised services that will lead to an increase in customer satisfaction and thereby, improving customer loyalty. Global brands such as McDonald’s have taken the casual, functional eating occasions to a new level altogether. At a cross-cultural platform, they have brought in standardisation of products and services, hygiene, transparency of process, branding and a very contemporary ambience – all this at great value.

Today, as innovations in menu are rolled out quicker than ever before, and greater value is offered to customers, food retailers will need to heighten their speed to market in order to establish themselves as leaders in an already crowded market space. Most food retailers are cognizant of this situation and those hoping to keep pace with today’s consumers require the foresight to consolidate necessary data and optimise operations for quick decision-making around marketing, promotions and merchandising – often in real-time, to successfully obtain and retain customers.

While using data to undertake predictive marketing, it is important for organisations to trade on the strength of its brand to retain a certain consistency, while simultaneously bringing new innovations to customer experience and offering a heightened value proposition. The fact that things are coming in more real-time makes the predictive models more accurate, and that’s a great advance. When we went from postal mail surveys to Internet-based surveys, we gained a lot of accuracy, because we could get those answers sooner.

At McDonald’s, we use data to make product-related decisions about promotions, pricing and location in the stores. We also use predictive data to ensure that we give our customers what they need – the now iconic McAloo Tikki Burger and the introduction of paneer into our menu were decisions taken post intensive customer feedback and review. Today, our McAloo Tikkis are being exported to markets such as the Middle East, which house large Indian populations.

We use predictive analytics to study how the introduction of a new addition to our menu affects sales in one store before introducing the product to the entire chain. The analytics also allows us to examine performance of the product/ promotion in isolation as well as gauge its impact on the category. For example, were we able to bring in new or more customers than before? The analytics can go a step further by providing information on the role the new product plays in the customer’s overall menu choices. “Am I getting customers to add-on a drink or upgrade to a larger meal?” The new product could be driving loyalty, particularly if it’s not available elsewhere.

Today, consumers are more empowered than ever before as they incorporate new technologies and actionable information into their daily lives. With the Internet and social media, consumers now have instantaneous access to a wealth of content about retailers and their products. This gives them the power to seek a more personal and smarter dining out experience. Organisations should be able to harness this information and use it to ensure that customers get what they want, whether in terms of products, services or communication. And thereby, making the brand truly come closer to the customer.

The author is Senior Director - Marketing, Communications & Menu Management at McDonald’s HRPL.


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