A Microsoft Azure based system, developed at McDonald's Sweden, was named best-in-class across the global fast food organisation's global operation.
Users of the app get personalised offers based on their location, the time of day, the weather and personal purchasing habits. On a typical chilly Stockholm morning, a commuter might receive an offer for a free coffee with their usual breakfast order.
As bricks-and-mortar retailers face a battle to stay relevant, digital technology offers increasingly powerful tools.
McDonald's is not new to the world of customer engagement apps. For five years its Swedish app promoted offers and marketing campaigns, but the behind-the-scenes work was tiresome, said Kajsa Dahlberg, digital lead at McDonald's Sweden.
“Over the years a lot of bespoke solutions were developed to maintain and publish new content on the app, ranging from loyalty cards, vouchers and above-the-line marketing campaigns,” she said. "Customer interactions on the app were measured by Google Analytics, but not down to the level of detail required.”
Read more about Microsoft Azure
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McDonald's captures mobile data
The importance of simplifying the back end while exploiting cloud technologies led McDonald's to choose Microsoft's Azure cloud platform. McDonald's developed the system in partnership with local digital agency Apegroup and mobile personalisation experts VMob.
“The software development kit from VMob captures data from the app and from the devices of opted-in customers,” said Dahlberg. "This data gives McDonald's clues about the tastes and preferences of individual customers, so we can deliver a more relevant mobile experience.
“Millions of data points are stored in Azure and this data is processed in real time, using associated Azure technology including Machine Learning and Stream Analytics.
"The result is an app that adjusts its content based on who is looking at it, what they like, where they are, what time of day it is and even what the weather happens to be like at that exact moment.”
Business intelligence shows investment targets
Ultimately, this leads to increased offer redemptions and increased average transaction values. About 1.2 million Swedes (of a population less than 10 million) have downloaded the app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
“In addition to these powerful predictive tools, we also use Microsoft Power business intelligence for reporting and analysis purposes,” said Dahlberg. “It uses data from Azure to quickly create powerful reports and real-time queries based on natural language question – such as: 'Which store got the most redemptions at lunchtime today?'
"We could then overlay store sales volume data and see what percentage of traffic the app is driving at store-level. This gives insights on where we should target our investment promoting the app, so as to increase our overall market penetration.
“Azure gives us the flexibility to quickly add more virtual machines to support busy periods, whereas in quieter periods we can scale down to save money on infrastructure costs.”