The New Happy Meal: Beacons Drive Sales at McDonald's

Fast food locations are quickly becoming a hotbed of mobile commerce.

With millions of regular and repeat customers, savvy marketers are deploying the latest mobile innovations to enhance, or at least speed up, the dining experience.

Now beacons are hitting fast food and they’re helping increase sales, at least in a number of McDonald’s in Columbus, Georgia.

A group of 17 metro-area McDonald’s franchise locations deployed beacons and based on sales results over a four-week period are planning to significantly expand the program to other McDonald’s.

The stores reported 18,000 offer redemptions and an 8% increase in sales of both McChicken and McNuggets. As a result, plans are underway to expand the beaconing to an additional 263 McDonald’s locations.

McDonald’s customers who opted in to the program received location-based offers triggered by beacons from San Diego-based Piper, via the Piper app for Apple and Android phones.

“Customers could use the Piper app to receive the offers,” Jack Pezold, McDonald’s owner-operator in Columbus, told the mCommerce Daily.

McDonald’s promoted the app to its customers, which is one of the main challenges faced by many retailers using beacons.

“We posted digital and static signage all around the locations that let customers know about the promotions and how to download the app in order to receive the offers,” said Pezold. “Billboards also went up this week alerting customers to the program.”

“There were two beacons installed at each location, with some variety between locations as far as where we installed the beacons in order to gauge the most effective installation points,” Pezold said.

As is the case with some other companies, Piper pivoted from creating apps for businesses to leverage beaconing. “Once we saw beacons, we totally focused on that,” Piper CEO Robert Hanczor told me yesterday.

Offers sent to customers could be saved in Apple Passbook or in the Piper app for redemption at checkout.

A side use of the McDonald’s beaconing was the ability to push employment offers and customer satisfaction surveys to customers in the restaurant. Any employment inquiry was directed by automatic text messaging to the restaurant manager so they could respond before the person left the restaurant.

“I'm as excited about the hiring and customer service benefits as I am with the couponing capability,” said Pezold. “It gives us an opportunity to move one step closer to our customer and communicate on a real-time basis, while allowing managers to address issues when they happen, giving us a better opportunity to improve our performance. We plan to expand the program in 2015.”

From a usage standpoint, McDonald’s found that younger patrons gravitated to the beaconing. “Younger, tech-savvy customers in their 20s-to-early 30s turned out to be our most enthusiastic users during the roll-out, providing us with very positive feedback throughout,” said Pezold.

Like mobile payments rolling out at countless quick service restaurants, using beacons for regular customers is yet another example of a place where recurring use can ultimately drive behavior, as I wrote about here last week (The Quiet Growth of Mobile Payments in the World of QSR).

Beacons likely will soon be coming to a fast food restaurant near you.


Want to know more about beacons? Check out the second MediaPost IoT: Beacons conference in Chicago Feb. 10.




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