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An Interview with Kristy Cunningham, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Insights, McDonald’s USA

How does an established market leader facing digital disruption and fierce competition take smart risks, place big bets and move fast to deliver top and bottom line growth?

McDonald’s USA Senior Vice President of Strategy and Insights, Kristy Cunningham, shared her insights from enabling McDonald’s strategic approach with Eric Grossman, CEO of Softheon Technologies in the latest Analytics & Outcomes podcast. 

Excerpts from the interview with Kristy include:

Listen and move quickly

Consumer perceptions can spread very quickly, especially with technology. To shape those perceptions and show that you’re innovative, you need to demonstrate that you’re listening to the customer and meeting those needs better than others. That means you need to move faster.

Put simply, the fast eat the slow.

The power of analytics

Any strategy that’s worth its salt is built on a set of facts that drive great insights.

Analytics is a key enabler of everything that we do. It has proven effective in taking the emotion out of it, which is important. Analytics also helps us balance the risk and reward. It equips us to decide if the size of the prize is big enough to take on a little extra risk and move a little faster.

And, it helps build organizational confidence. The analytics and economics that have come out of test markets have been really important in showing where change had high impact. Testing gave us more confidence so that we could move faster and take on more risks.

It takes discipline to make better decisions

To make the most of analytics, you have to be disciplined. For example, we loved the idea of the breakfast Happy Meal, so we put it in the market. Yet, it didn’t drive incremental sales. It drove trade-off purchases instead. We really wanted this offer to work, but we let the numbers and the analytics lead us to the right conclusion. In this case, it was not the right time, not the right offering.

Test and learn empowers bold actions that deliver results

Competitors try to chip away at all levels, all of the time. So, it’s important to listen to customers and move faster.

There are different ways to use a culture of test and learn to make risk taking more acceptable. We apply this all of the time for our mobile order and pay offers. You can try this vs. that, and see which has a better result. Small adjustments can add up over time.

Where McDonald’s has seen quite a difference and therefore better results is being able to take bold moves. That’s the real risk-taking. It’s not just the incremental steps, rather it’s how you place some pretty big bets. To place big bets, you need a good, disciplined test and learn approach and culture that can help people get over what may have been more conservative approaches in the past.