Understanding the impact of McDonald’s loyalty program
August 20th, 2021, Hoang Nguyen

Understanding the impact of McDonald’s loyalty program

Brands that launch reward programs have the opportunity to increase customer loyalty and purchase frequency, while also creating a direct line of communication to consumers. In today’s world, these programs offer brands a communication channel that’s just fingertips and a mobile app away on their customers’ phones.

In July, McDonald’s became the latest quick-service restaurant chain to launch a loyalty program nationwide in the U.S. YouGov data reveals the launch of the loyalty program gave McDonald’s a much-needed boost in ad awareness, especially after consumer awareness fell in May.

A new YouGov analysis also looks at the intersection of McDonald’s customer base and how this audience feels about loyalty programs. We also examine attitudes toward rewards programs among customers of other fast-food chains and measure the potential impact of loyalty schemes on customer retention and whether they build an emotional connection between customers and brands.

How do McDonald’s customers feel about loyalty programs?

It’s critical for businesses to offer loyalty members something valuable in return. In the case of McDonald’s customers, they welcome the chance to join a loyalty program for several reasons. Data from our advanced audience intelligence tool, YouGov Profiles, shows that customers of the popular QSR chain agree loyalty programs are a great way for businesses to reward their customers (78%). Specifically, members of the MyMcDonald’s loyalty program earn 100 points for every dollar they spend, with the lowest tier to redeem points starting at 1,500 points and the highest tier to redeem costing 6,000 points.

We tracked McDonald’s brand health through the last quarter and found that the brand’s launch of its loyalty program helped its ad awareness amid a difficult period. According to YouGov BrandIndex, which measures consumer perceptions of brands on a daily basis, the QSR franchise saw a decline in ad awareness coinciding with the McDonald’s employee strikes for higher wages in May.

News of the debut of its MyMcDonald’s Rewards program appears to have helped the brand, and its ad awareness has since climbed back close to where it was in May. So far this year, McDonald’s enjoyed it highest level of ad awareness at the beginning of 2021.

Loyalty programs are a powerful tool in the current data privacy climate

When used correctly, loyalty programs can serve as an ethical way to understand a brand’s customers, measure how customers engage across the brand’s ecosystem and identify how the customer experience can be improved using first-party data collected with direct consent. Rewards programs offer brands the ability to scale the collection of first-party data by accelerating consumer interactions and incentivizing engagement through promotions.

Loyalty programs are aimed at gaining repeat customers rather than one-time shoppers, and first-party data can be used to improve future personalization and customer experiences for those returning consumers.

In fact, data from a YouGov Direct study conducted earlier this year reveals a clear consumer expectation for brands to use their information and personalize the shopping experience. Most U.S. adults (68%) say they enjoy when brands send them personalized offers and discounts based on their purchase history, rising to 74% among those who are willing to share their personal data in exchange for something of value.

It’s important to remember why marketers are evaluating loyalty programs as a solution to growing privacy concerns today. For brands such as McDonald’s, Chipotle and Starbucks, there’s a clear value exchange in offering free food to reward accumulated spending. These rewards programs offer brands an opportunity to improve the customer experience using first-party data collected with direct consent.

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