Wendy’s: A Fresh Approach to Creating Digital Experiences

Wendy’s: A Fresh Approach to Creating Digital Experiences

December 4, 2018 5 minute read
Wendy’s Michael Mancuso shares his approach to personalized digital experiences that delight customers, improve profits, and drive in-store sales.
Wendy’s: A Fresh Approach to Creating Digital Experiences
Wendy’s: A Fresh Approach to Creating Digital Experiences

If you’ve ever sat in a drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant you know how it feels.

The massive menu, the kids clamoring in the backseat and somewhere in the back of your mind, snippets of a recent TV commercial advertising a “saucy” (“S'Awesome”?) burger that sounded good. But one glance in the rearview at the line of cars behind you seals the deal – you recite your “usual” order and pull forward to the first window.

And this experience, Michael Mancuso, head of digital analytics for The Wendy’s Company, told the crowd at Acquia Engage, is one that creates anxiety and regret.

The pressure of making a quick decision without really having the time to explore the menu, and the feeling that you didn’t get exactly what you wanted – you didn’t have the chance to try that saucy burger or request your Baconator without cheese – leave room for improvement in the customer experience.

Wendy’s Journey Toward Personalization

Wendy's fries and Frosties

Wendy’s is ultimately working to eliminate this friction point as part of its journey toward delivering personalized digital experiences. Its initial focus, Mancuso said, is on its website, which the company has worked to streamline in terms of technology and content.

The company has been engaged in extensive A/B testing of featuring different product combinations, colors and other assumptions on the website, and lets the data guide its decisions.

“The website is where the brand team learns new lessons,” Mancuso said, indicating that although around 80 percent of people like fries and Frosties, and 30 percent like chicken nuggets, the nuggets dramatically outperform the fries/Frosties on the website.

“The brand team would’ve defaulted to fries and Frosties if they weren’t testing,” he said.

The Wendy’s team is also personalizing content based on different user criteria, including:

  • Daypart: Late night equals hungry gamers and others looking for big delivery orders, especially of Frosties and fries. That’s why simply featuring a S’Awesome Bacon Classic Cheeseburger to a user at 1 a.m. without a call-to-action of “get delivery now” would be a missed opportunity. Understanding how the time of day (or night) impacts your users and their habits can help drive your personalization efforts.
  • Geo-targeting: How will a new product work in a new market? In the past, rolling out a completely new product (like the S’Awesome Bacon Classic Cheeseburger) was extremely hard to do. Not every new product warrants a national media buy, leaving much of the new-product promotion to the stores. Geo-targeting on the Wendy’s website allows the company to advertise new products to potential customers in specific locations, helping them spread the word about the S’Awesome new burger beyond the store walls and ostensibly drive sales.
  • Behavioral: By combining behavioral and session information with UCPs, the Wendy’s team can develop a clearer understanding of users’ motivations and preferences for further personalization. For example, are there trends for users in a particular area regarding kids meals? And do users navigate the site differently on payday than they do other days? Insights like these will help inform personalization efforts as they mature.

Lessons Learned on the Journey

Although Wendy’s is still on its personalization journey, Mancuso shared a handful of lessons learned thus far with the audience at Engage.

“Start small,” he said. If someone asks, “Do we turn it on or not?,” his suggestion was to “Just do it” because the reward outweighs the risk. After all, if a user clicks your Investor Relations link, there’s a good chance they may be an analyst – so give them relevant info front and center. On your personalization journey, focus initially on executing small things that are quick, tangible and measurable.

Additionally, Mancuso said when it comes to personalization, marketing teams should:

Move fast: “If you’re not pushing the envelope forward and failing, you’re not moving fast enough,” he said. In other words, turn it on, let it sit for a couple of days, gather the data, turn it off, iterate, and improve.

Share often: Make this a process that involves all of the members of your company by regularly communicating your successes and failures so they know what’s happening. This isn’t going to have a crazy impact on day one, but Mancuso said, “You are likely to get people to buy in, understanding what you’re doing and how."

Keep focused: There’s no denying how easy it is to go down a rabbit hole of good ideas that don’t actually contribute to the core mission. To avoid becoming fragmented, he suggests a simple litmus test – in the case of Wendy’s, it is “What does 'good' look like for our company?”

At Wendy’s, the answer is customer satisfaction, franchisee profitability, and improving in-store sales – and if the personalization idea doesn’t impact one of those areas, it is set aside.

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