Getting customers to break from entrenched habits is one of the biggest challenges facing brands. 

The pandemic has forced change on consumers – for example, getting more of them to shop online or to use remote servicing channels. ‘Forcing’ people to change is an option if there are no other choices, but as markets and consumer choices return to normality, customers will need more encouragement to adopt change.

In 2022, McDonald’s Singapore introduced a new Mobile Order and Pay (MOP) facility that allows customers to order on their mobiles for instore dine-in, takeaway, or drive thru. The challenge to McDonald’s was that 80% of customers were using the convenient self-ordering kiosk, itself introduced to McDonald’s stores a few years earlier to encourage more customers to use self-serve ordering within the stores.

Kiosks have their limits (e.g. the number that can be accommodated in any one store at a time), whereas MOP can vastly increase the ordering channels available to a single store, allowing customers to save their favourite orders on their app for convenience, and allowing McDonald’s to tailor promotions to individual customers.

McDonald’s wanted to understand how best to drive widespread adoption of their MOP app – this included conducting research into both the user experience and how to sharpen the marketing message for the associated campaigns at launch.

McDonald’s engaged BVA BDRC Asia and the specialist behavioural science unit BVA Nudge Consulting to undertake an extensive research programme. This involved recruiting a range of McDonald’s customers to try out the self-ordering app in order to highlight any glitches or ‘frictions’ in the user interface with the app. Self-ethnographies also recorded interactions within the customer journey with McDonald’s staff and other members of the dining party. In parallel, nearly 3,000 MOP users were surveyed from the app itself to identify the app’s key benefits, usage patterns, and any barriers to further usage, and to segment the market into different user personas. Qualitative research via in-depth interviews expanded the understanding of the user journey and found inspiration for the marketing.

The research uncovered some of the micro-stresses of kiosk usage that could be alleviated via the app. One of the main benefits of the app is not having to queue to use the kiosk, especially as customers sometimes get stressed when there are people queuing behind them. Hence, one of the main benefits of the app for customers is their ability to order in their own time, and to take as much time as they need to search, select, and customise their orders.

BVA Nudge Unit applied their behavioural science analysis framework the ‘Drivers of Influence’ to identify what would be the optimal ‘nudges’ that McDonald’s could use in their product optimisation and campaigns. The behaviour model shows that three elements must converge for an action to occur for initial adoption: 

1. Motivation: a psychological drive to want to do something

2. Trigger: e.g. a cue or prompt from the environment the consumer is in

3. Ability for the consumer to complete the action: e.g. making it easy for them to do so

Thereafter, the app must also provide benefits, rewards, or stimulation to encourage repeat usage and ultimately to create the ‘habit loop’. 

BDRC and BVA Nudge Unit convened a workshop, or ‘Nudge Lab’, to identify how and where the app needed to be refined to remove any usability issues, and to leverage insights from the research for the constructs of the campaign. These included targeted positionings and ‘reasons to believe’, catering to relevant customer need states at various touchpoints with the MOP app and the customer journey.

A key finding from the research is that customers liked the functionality of the kiosk and wanted to have this replicated as much as possible in the MOP app such that they would already have a level of familiarity with the app prior to first using it. ‘A kiosk on your phone’ was a phrase used by one respondent in the study, and this became a very simple message that could be used in campaigns that would resonate with consumers. To encourage stickiness to the MOP app, some McDonald’s promotions were made exclusive to MOP users (i.e. a ‘reward’ to encourage the habit loop). McDonald’s also developed a series of energetic advertisements that communicated the key benefits of the new app and built excitement around it.

The outcome was that the McDonald’s MOP app was the number one MOP app within 4 months of launch, with about three times higher than average adoption across other markets per store per day.

Behavioural science is increasingly being used in user experience research as it provides a framework for understanding consumer psychology in service interactions and customer journeys, which is often missed in more traditional customer research.

This article was first published in the Q4 2022 edition of Asia Research Media

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *