Customer loyalty programs are hardly anything novel, and many rely on information you willingly share to mine data about your browsing and shopping habits to then refine your customer experience. What is new, then?
McDonald’s is jumping into the fray.
According to reporting by Samantha Bomkamp at the Chicago Tribune, a nationwide mobile ordering system will be in place by the end of the year at the fast-food giant which aims to customize your dining experience based on your choices. Faced with a continued pattern of declining customer traffic, this represents a large investment of both time and attention towards becoming competitive in digital innovation.
The plan is for McDonald’s to use the information to create a custom experience for diners, with the app providing personalized suggestions and coupons based on your previous ordering history.
They’ve had a smartphone app for the past few years, but there’s been no personalization involved, nor has it provided what they’ve been testing in international markets for some time: the ability to both order and pay through the app.
Not just for giggles
The ability to both order and pay through the app isn’t just a nicety. Their research has found that per customer sales have risen by an average of 35 percent in Japan.
Silvia Lagnado, McDonald’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, stated to the Chicago Tribune that customers return more frequently based on the ease of ordering through the app, and when customers take the app’s recommendations on adding other items to their order, those items are saved and then suggested to the customer on their next visit, driving spending higher.
In Singapore, a recently completed trial had McDonald’s using the app to use Google ads in places with lighter customer traffic, in an attempt to drive both in store sales and delivery orders.
Mostly unchartered waters
David Pierpont, an executive vice president at marketing firm Ansira, speaking to the Chicago Tribune, said that the ability to quickly and appropriately use data to improve the customer experience is largely unexplored territory with huge benefits.
“Consumers are willing to share data if the benefits are right,” he said. “I think you’re going to see more and more. [Millenials] say they don’t want to give everything away, but they’re on Facebook, they’re on Google…”
Measuring the difference
To track the impact of their digital efforts, McDonald’s is working with a new ad agency, We Are Unlimited, a spinoff of Omnicom, which recently won all of the national advertising business for the fast-food giant.
As a part of that work, they’re partnering with Facebook to track the effectiveness of their ad spend.
They can do that by taking Facebook’s location-tracking information and translating that to time it takes from when a customer sees a McDonald’s ad on Facebook and then walks into a restaurant. With approximately 90 percent of Facebook users utilizing location tracking services, this allows McDonald’s to have a relatively wide swath of data on the buying habits of potential customers.
Not without faults
Sometimes those buying habits are counter-intuitive. As we reported before, Starbucks had fantastic response to the unveiling of its app, which also allowed customers to place and pay for orders before ever entering the stores.
That convenience, however, also led to a reduction in impulse purchases, and thus revenue, leaving the coffee giant scratching its collective head.
When it comes to the bottom line, how much innovation and convenience can one reasonably afford?
Two birds, one stone
Some have posited that McDonald’s is really attempting to solve two problems at once with the roll out of the app: increasing store traffic and revenue and potentially using that data to decrease expenditures, such as labor costs. While McDonald’s is not publicly focusing on other avenues of use for granular data centered around customer purchasing habits, it does stand to reason that data analysis might also highlight menu items that are less popular, and can therefore be eliminated, or identify times that fewer staff simply aren’t needed, no matter the offers made, this eliminating jobs or hours worked for employees.
Brian Nienhaus, CEO of We Are Unlimited, is placing the agency’s focus squarely on improving customer experience for the present, however.
“What does the modern customer want?”, said Nienhaus, speaking to the Chicago Tribune. “They want to use technology to enable their convenience. They want to be able to pay with it. All those things that are going on, I think we’re just tapping into them.”
New Apple Watch is awesome, but past watches could be just as good for cheaper
(TECH NEWS) The Apple Watch Series 6 is a ridiculous display of self-flattery—but that doesn’t mean people won’t line up to buy it in droves.
The Apple Watch has been the subject of everything from speculation to ridicule during its relatively short tenure on this planet. While most have nothing but praise for the most recent iteration, that praise comes at a cost: The Apple Watch’s ghost of Christmas past.
Or, to put it more literally, the fact that the Apple Watch’s prior version and accompanying variations are too good—and, at this point, too comparatively cheap—to warrant buying the most recent (and expensive) option.
Sure, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a bevy of health features—a sensor that can take an ECG and a blood oxygen test, to name a couple—but the Series 5 has almost everything else that makes the Apple Watch Series 6 “notable.” According to Gear Patrol, even the Series 4 is comparable if you don’t mind forgoing the option to have the Apple Watch’s screen on all of the time.
More pressingly, Gear Patrol points out, is the availability of discount options from Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE are, at this point, budget options that still do the job for smart watch enthusiasts.
Not to mention any Apple Watch can run updates can utilize Apple’s Fitness Plus subscription—another selling point that, despite its lucrative potential, doesn’t justify buying a $400 watch when a cheaper option is present.
It’s worth noting that Apple is no stranger to outdoing themselves retroactively. Every year, Apple’s “new” MacBook, iPhone, and iPad models are subjected to extensive benchmarking by every tech goatee around. And the conclusion is usually that buying a generation or two behind is fine—and, from a financial perspective, smart.
And yet, as the holidays roll around or the initial drop date of a new product arrives, Apple invariably goes through inventory like a tabby cat through unattended butter.
The Apple Watch is already a parody of itself, yet its immense popularity and subtle innovation has promoted it through several generations and a few spin-off iterations. And that’s not even including the massive Apple-specific watch band market that appears to have popped up as a result.
Say what you will about the Series 6; when the chips are on the table, my money’s on the consumers making the same decisions they always make.
Microsoft acquires powerful AI language processor GPT-3, to what end?
(TECH NEWS) This powerful AI language processor sounds surprisingly human, and Microsoft has acquired rights to the code. How much should we worry?
The newly-released GPT-3 is the most insane language model in the NLP (natural language processor) field of machine learning. Developed by OpenAI, GPT-3 can generate strikingly human-like text for a vast range of purposes like bots and advertising, to poetry and creative writing.
While GPT-3 is accessible to everyone, OpenAI has expressed concerns over using this AI tech for insidious purposes. For this reason, Microsoft’s new exclusive license on the GPT-3 language model may be a tad worrisome.
First of all, for those unfamiliar with the NPL field, software engineer, and Youtuber, Aaron Jack, provides a detailed overview of GPT-3’s capabilities and why everyone should be paying attention.
Microsoft’s deal with OpenAI should come as little surprise since OpenAI uses the Azure cloud platform to access enough information to train their models.
Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott announced the deal on the company blog this week: “We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at Scale,” said Scott.
“Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, so we want to make sure that this AI platform is available to everyone – researchers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, businesses – to empower their ambitions to create something new and interesting.”
OpenAI has assured that Microsoft’s exclusive license does not affect the general public’s access to the GPT-3 model. The difference is Microsoft will be able to use the source code to combine with their products.
While OpenAI needs Azure to train these models, handing over the source code to another party is, to put it mildly, tricky. With the earlier GPT-2 model, OpenAI initially refused publishing the research out of fear it could be used to generate fake news and propaganda.
Though the company found there was no evidence to suggest the GPT-2 was utilized this way and later released the information, handing the key of the exponentially more powerful iteration to one company will undoubtedly hold ramifications in the tech world.
What is UI/UX? Take a little time to learn for free!
(TECH NEWS) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.
There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.
Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.
The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.
According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.
UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.
Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.
The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.
2020 probably isn’t the year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.
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