McDonald’s Showcasing Digital Chops at SXSW 2015

Since assuming the role of McDonald’s first-ever Chief Digital Officer, I’ve been asked many questions: When are you bringing back the McRib? Is there really a secret menu? Why did you leave Amazon to work for a burger company? But above all, what everyone seems to want to know is, what the heck does digital have to do with McDonald’s?

McDonald’s has always been a part of everyday culture — some say our golden arches are more recognizable than any other brand logo in the world. But ubiquity is only one form of convenience. Our behaviors and expectations are rapidly being set around a mobile first or even mobile only world, whereby services are reimagined around direct empowerment of each and every customer on their own terms. Restaurant and retail experiences are no exception. Sooner than you think, our dining and real world shopping experiences will be reshaped by new assumptions, including customer control, personalization and reduced — or even zero — friction. That may not sound sexy, but in fact, there is nothing more appreciated than taking a routine need like getting food and reimagining it to work around us. Given the scale of McDonald’s — we serve about 70 million customers PER DAY and operate in over 100 countries — the potential impact is huge.

There’s a lot that goes on when you unpack a typical restaurant interaction at McDonald’s. Our goal is to evolve a seemingly simple customer experience and rework things to provide ways for customers to direct each and every step of their journey. In some cases, you will experience new ways to use McDonald’s, like the interactive kiosks we already feature in Europe, or the personalized burger creation that is possible with the Create Your Taste option we are rolling out in the United States and Australia. And there’s more to come.

We launched the digital organization within McDonald’s about a year ago in true start-up fashion, and many of us have worked together to aggressively build our capabilities. We recently hired digital leaders in the U.S. and Europe to help pave the way, and brought in talent from companies such as PayPal, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft. With this talent infusion we are evolving how McDonald’s works — bringing in design lead thinking, prototyping and more innovative ways of exploring new concepts. And we’re continuing to develop our transformative group by aggressively hiring (really, check out our careers page). We’ve also opened a new office in San Francisco and will soon open another in downtown Chicago to make us a more attractive employer.

We recently partnered with Apple around the launch of Apple Pay, enabling customers to pay with their iPhone 6’s instead of cash or credit cards at our 14,000+ U.S. restaurants — and we are actually the only company to offer Apple Pay in the drive-thru. Since Apple Pay launched in October, we have seen a significant increase in cashless transactions. Another digital partnership we recently launched was with Twitter around Digits, a mobile identity system that allows users to sign up for new accounts using just their phone numbers.

We’re also working to develop a world-class app that will simplify the customer journey related to offer redemption, payment, ordering and more.

As one next step, we’re excited to announce that we’ll be participating as a sponsor of the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) — the premiere stage to showcase digital innovation.

As a business, we’re always putting our emphasis on the customer, and want to improve the SXSW experience for everyone. We’re planning to showcase how we’re using digital to enhance the consumer experience, and naturally add true value and reduce the inherent frictions for attendees that inevitably occur because of the event’s sheer size. The McDonald’s Lounge will feature our McCafé coffee brand, along with comfortable couches, Wi-Fi, charging stations and televisions streaming various sessions and events, and will be home to salon sessions, panels and hackathons. We’re focused on providing consumer convenience, including a “Fry-Fi” food truck offering attendees free Wi-Fi and McDonald’s World Famous Fries.

I look forward to seeing you in Austin, and hope you will enjoy what we have in store.