The McDonald's approach to iterative innovation concept testing

Learn how McDonald's has partnered with Zappi to build its test-and-learn approach to innovation, rather than a "test to earn a good score" approach.

McDonalds Title image

Key outcomes

  • Consistency and high accuracy

    A standardized approach from early idea to late concept, using a platform that produces consistent data for accurate meta analysis

  • Moving faster than the competition

    Fast and cost-effective testing unlocked an explorative mindset to test, learn and iterate

  • Finding a winning concept

    Transitioned from “earning a good score” on concepts to getting to the best version of the idea

Opportunity

Speeding up the innovation process

As we saw across nearly every industry, COVID-19 changed the game for quick-service restaurants.

To be successful, the McDonald’s team needs reliable access to consumer feedback to help them understand which ideas have the strongest potential for in-market success and identify ways to improve each idea.

Traditional approaches to concept testing were cumbersome and slow, resulting in pressure to “earn a good score” for each concept, rather than learn and iterate on each idea. Plus, each concept test was conducted slightly differently so there was no way to compare across ideas to support continuous learning.

Approach

Systematic, smarter innovation

McDonald’s leveraged Zappi’s concept testing solutions to establish an innovation research system that unlocks fast iteration at different stages of the development process.

With the Zappi platform, McDonald’s was able to streamline its research approach through a tailored domain that included McDonald’s standard audiences, markets and recommended solutions. They were also able to tag all tested stimuli to classify concepts across a variety of metrics to setup a custom benchmark norms to put all of the results in context.

With a consistent tagging taxonomy and norms, McDonald’s could begin to test all their innovations in the same way to produce consistent data across tests. And since all that data is stored in the same place in the same way within the Zappi platform, McDonald’s was able to look at results across studies via meta analysis.

“For a new shake flavor, I analyze the drivers of interest & purchase in all the shakes we’ve tested before. I can see how consumers play those concepts back, & what they want us to do differently. There’s a lot I can do easily with the data set.”
Matt CahillSenior Director of Insights Activation
McDonalds logo in black on a transparent background

Research

A test-and-learn approach produces better innovation

Because the Zappi solutions are fast and cost-effective, McDonald’s can conduct many more tests with a turnaround time reduced from weeks to hours. As a result, the insights team has been able to shift the mindset of the organization so that testing has become seamlessly integrated into the innovation process with a focus on testing, learning and iterating on each idea.

Previously, if tests showed that consumers didn’t like a particular attribute or feature, it wasn’t easy to go back in to see if improvements fixed the issue and impacted overall interest. With the Zappi solution, it is quick and easy to test a range of alternatives, make a decision, optimize and move on.

We can fit in a round of consumer input at almost any phase now...it can really be about: ‘How do we take this thing & actually make it the best version and get the most out of it?’ That change from evaluation to optimization is really powerful.
Matt CahillSenior Director of Insights Activation
McDonalds logo in black on a transparent background

The Zappi difference

A strong relationship: With collaboration and trust threaded through the partnership, Zappi and McDonald’s work together closely and transparently.

A single platform: With all insights data stored digitally in one place, McDonald’s can easily compare results of different concepts to uncover higher-level findings about what works to apply to future innovation.

An innovation system: With streamlined processes and systems in place, the insights team can spend less time setting up tests and more time confidently influencing consumer-centered product design and serving as a strategic consultant to the business.

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