Liquid Barcodes


All You Need to Know – McDonald’s

Paula Thomas, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes


It’s been a long time coming for the world’s leading global foodservice retailer, but McDonald’s is finally rolling out its mobile order and pay app nationwide throughout the US and key international markets following its initial trials early last year. The company is a surprisingly late arrival to the party, almost three years behind retailers such as Starbucks, with the casual dining giant taking its time to launch the platform in order to avoid some of the operational headaches and frustrations that other brands experienced.

“It’s better to be right than to be first to market,” McDonald’s Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook said recently, and this carefully planned approach has now allowed the brand to rollout the technology to almost half of its global store footprint, including all of their US restaurants, and internationally in Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Australia and China, with 20,000 locations live globally.

Here are the key things you need to know about McDonald’s mobile order and pay platform:

  1. Orders are placed in advance on the McDonald’s app and credit card details stored as part of the account/transaction.
  2. The order is not prepared, nor is payment taken until the customer checks-in at their preferred collection point.
  3. The meal collection options include either picking up the order in any McDonald’s restaurant, at a drive through point or even at a designated curbside meeting point.
  4. Payment options within the app include Visa and Mastercard but currently exclude the brand’s gift card known as the “Arch Card”.
  5. The brand used cartoon-style characters and creative gaming techniques to train staff on the new mobile order and payment process, as well as encourage customers to “be a mobile order ninja”.
  6. McDonald’s are positioning their app as a key channel for future direct communications with customers, with prize winners required to have a valid email address saved in their app preferences for notification.

McDonald's gamified

McDonald’s gamified their staff training with four levels of achievement.

Launch Campaign:

To celebrate the national roll-out of mobile order and pay function, a two-week competition featuring the “McGold Card” has been launched – which offers the winner a lifetime of meals in McDonald’s in the form of a “McGold card”. The game can be played once per person each day from August 10th to 24th, and simply requires customers to download the app and place a mobile order to be entered in the draw. One lucky winner will be awarded credit on the gold card to cover the cost of a “lifetime of meals” – defined as two meals, twice a week for fifty years, with an additional cheque added to make a prize value of over $50,000 in total for one lucky winner.

Only a handful of “McGold cards” have ever been given out, including one to the mayor of St. Louis at the ceremony introducing The Gateway Arch in 1965, another to the King of Sweden – giving us a sense of how significant the app functionality is as a milestone in the history of the business.

While the campaign is leveraging the same “legendary” idea, for the first time ever, and to maintain the focus on mobile, the “McGold Card” for this campaign will be presented to the winner in the form of a customised 24-carat golden phone cover  – “just for using the app”.

The creative execution is relevant and compelling, ensuring a clear focus on the brand’s strategic intent throughout this exciting game.

McDonald's mobile order and pay game

The 24 carat gold phone cover prize on offer for the McDonald’s mobile order and pay game.

New Restaurant Experiences and Future Innovation:

It seems McDonald’s are no longer waiting patiently to respond to customer demands but instead have placed an increased business focus on the use of innovative technology to improve customer experiences. A year-long global process to source technology partners concluded in 2017 with the appointment of an agency team tasked with designing the “restaurant experience of the future”.

The results of this approach are already evident, with the recent announcement to overhaul and modernize over 5,000 stores in the US, including more digital kiosks and more curbside locations for mobile order and payment, with a total investment in excess of over $6 billion across 17 states. The overall project will be completed by 2020 and is expected to  “transform.. the customer experience inside and outside the restaurant.”

Even more excitingly, the first “Experience of the Future” restaurant has already opened just last week in Chicago, featuring environmental and operational improvements such as an enhanced McCafe, a focus on guest experiences (including table service) and over seventy trees, to create an exciting new dining experience for customers.

McDonald's New Flagship Store in Chicago

McDonald’s New Flagship Store in Chicago

Global Growth – Driven by Digital:

Alongside these restaurant and experience improvements, McDonald’s growth strategy is now clearly led by digital developments that include localised solutions to solve market-specific needs. For example, although the brand had two decades of history delivering McDonald’s meals throughout Asia and the Middle East, it took until 2017 for McDonald’s USA to develop a solution to tap in to the delivery market. Realising that delivery orders accounted for almost 40% of sales in top delivery restaurants abroad, the brand eventually partnered with Uber Eats to launch “McDelivery” and take advantage of the global food delivery “explosion”.

In closing, while some have questioned how much time is actually being saved for customers if the meals for mobile pre-orders are not prepared until you arrive, what’s absolutely clear is that customers want to engage with retailers on their phones and are demanding these digital options. Even at this early stage, McDonald’s have confirmed massive adoption and usage of the mobile ordering option, with over 100,000 transactions daily already coming through. No doubt this digital strategy will continue to offer many exciting retail innovations for customers, and drive growth and valuable returns for shareholders in the months and years to come.

About Us:

Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty technology company specialized for the convenience store and foodservice industries. Our proprietary cloud-based technology platform allow retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a proprietary process we call the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers activities in real-time across digital and media channels.

How we do it:

We have developed the most advanced loyalty and digital marketing technology platform specifically for convenience store and foodservice retailers globally.

Retailers use our self-service dashboard to create and manage loyalty driven marketing campaigns that increase purchases with their existing customers, as well as effectively target and acquire new customers through partners or paid media channels.

One core component of live loyalty is gamification. We have gamified branding, loyalty and promotions. We believe this approach is essential in order to get customers’ attention and ultimately truly engage them with repeatable actions thereby winning their loyalty.

Check out some of our exciting/proven results here:

About Me:

Paula Thomas – MBA. CLMP (Customer Loyalty Marketing Professional)

Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes and Independent Loyalty Consultant.

With over twenty-five years marketing experience, I specialise in loyalty marketing consulting, managing consumer loyalty propositions, strategy and operations. In addition to working with Liquid Barcodes, my clients have included Telefonica O2, Three Mobile, Electric Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Entertainer, as well as Avios – the global points currency for some of the world’s top airlines. I am also a judge for the Loyalty Magazine Awards and hold an MBA and CLMP loyalty certification.


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Convenience retailers all over the world have engaged and rewarded consumers with our tailor-made loyalty programs.

To our case studies →

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