Why McDonald's new app might steal your customers

McDonald’s is hailing the local-marketing and customer-insight benefits of its new app as it expands the rollout to the key market of southern California.

The deal-making possibilities of the new technology are already being demonstrated in the 600-store territory. Patrons who download the app and register as a user will be rewarded with a free large-sized sandwich. They are also enrolled in a frequency program whereby the sixth McCafe drink they order is free.

McDonald’s has capped the sandwich deal at 8 million giveaways nationwide. But the app has been useable to date in few markets, and only since mid-August. The chain announced the start of the southern California rollout today.

Franchisees there are offering several deals of their own to early adapters, in addition to the incentives offered nationally. Each week another bargain will be offered, according to the local operators’ cooperative.

The rotating specials include a two-for-one offer on breakfast sandwiches; $4 off any order exceeding $20; $1 off on premium sandwiches; and, in a pitch to moms, a free Happy Meal with every premium salad.

“The app is fundamentally local and a way for customers to interact and engage with their everyday McDonald's restaurant," Julia Plander Voeg, McDonald’s USA’s VP of digital, said in a statement.

Officials also noted the research benefits of the app. "We look forward to gleaning insights that will allow for customized deals and exclusive promotions only available to users," said Clay Paschen III, president of the 600-unit McDonald's Operators' Association of Southern California.

The app is available for both Apple and Android phones. Leaked previews were met earlier this summer with surprise in some quarters because the new technology does not allow customers to remotely order and pay for a meal. That capability is already offered by a number of chains, to what they say is considerable success.

McDonald’s did not address those criticisms in its announcement of the southern California rollout.

The chain has stressed the importance to its turnaround campaign of localizing menus, marketing and decision-making. In another nod to that effort, not all U.S. units will offer a pumpkin-flavored latte this fall. 

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