McDonald’s and IBM team up for a hyper-personalized drive-thru experience

Brands big and small have reached a so-called tipping point where key relationships with their customers have gone digital or moved online. As a result, companies are sitting on troves of consumer data. But these data are difficult to operate, which is why McDonald’s is turning to IBM, a global leader in business AI and AI-powered customer service, to help turn the iconic chain’s treasure trove of customer data into an engine of personalization and valuable personalization. In 2019, McDonald’s acquired a technology company Apprentice. The acquisition was part of the “Arches Acceleration” Strategic growth plan for innovation in digital, delivery and drive-thru by establishing an ecosystem of insightful information about customer preferences.

Along with growing consumer awareness of the value of data, retailers are offering clear benefits in exchange for shoppers participating in surveys, quizzes or product selection funnels and sharing sensitive or personal information. . By applying this insight to the end-to-end buying journey, retailers are better equipped not only to provide more personalized product recommendations on an individual basis, but also to respond to customers with relevant messages and offers based on their individual needs and preferences. The development and testing of AOT technology by McDonald’s in restaurants has shown substantial benefits to customers and the experience of restaurant team members.

In order to elevate and expand its AI and data-driven approach to optimizing the customer journey in its restaurants, McDonald’s is handing over the reins of McD Tech Labs, which transitioned from Apprente to IBM, which agreed to acquire all of the division’s assets and transform the world’s largest restaurant brand’s customer transaction history into a predictive tool to generate personalized recommendations, promotions, etc. The agreement will accelerate McDonald’s efforts to provide the most convenient and unique customer and employee experience possible.

It’s a win-win for the two world leaders, as well as for their customers. IBM’s expertise in building customer service solutions with AI and natural language processing will help McDonald’s evolve and implement automated order-taking technology in all markets and expand to new areas such as the inclusion of additional languages, dialects and menu variants. For IBM, the acquisition of McD Tech Labs will give IBM Watson a valuable pool of data to learn from and continue to run models and tests on as IBM continues its existing work to develop and deliver AI-powered business solutions for clients across industries, from financial services and healthcare, telecommunications and retail.

The approach takes into account historical transaction data, as well as catalog and menu items and marketing campaign KPIs, and analyzes the collected dataset using machine learning to separate the personal history of each customer and compare it to similar customers in order to then predict future behavior. In select drive-thru lanes across Chicago, McDonald’s is testing dynamic menu boards that recognize customers’ license plates to offer favorites and recommendations based on orders placed.


This article originally appeared in the PSFK iQ report, Consumer Data Integration.