Our inspiration comes from the type of people we always see in McDonald's in London. It is constantly full of tourists, people travelling across the world and people who have just arrived. While we previously assumed it was just a safe option for people to go to, we decided to look deeper into the reasons why people go to McDonald’s when abroad. We found academic papers (Osman et al. 2009, 2014) that looked into the issue of global corporate food chains and their relationship with tourists and travellers. We also conducted a poll which asked basic questions about the motivations people have for going to McDonald's when they are in a foreign country. The results were conclusive, allowing a main theme to emerge, familiarity - McDonald's have a heavy presence in the western world, and provide a consistent offering of amenities (e.g. clean toilets, wi-fi, some menu). This makes it an ideal place to take a break from 'cultural overload' when travelling abroad. The presence of McDonalds in forgien appears to genuinely remind people of home and provides a 'safe' environment for tourists and visitors to take rest, enjoy a meal and plan for the next trip.

This has implications for one of McDonald’s objectives, namely, an 'emotional connection' with the McDonald's brand. Clearly, an emotional connection already exists with this user group, and in a city where McDonald's restaurants are constantly busy with tourists and other visitors, we think it vital to capitalise on this opportunity. Our app, 'McTraveller', is designed to help McDonald's act on this emotional connection by helping them to engage with this user group more effectively.

How it works

McTraveller offers tourists a truly internationally focussed app. After connecting to McDonald’s WI-FI and opening the app, the user performs a one time registration and log in - after which they are taken to the home-screen. The home-screen presents 2 main options, 'Play' and 'Meet'. Play takes users through a fun, interactive quiz about the local area where the McDonald's restaurant is based. By answering questions, users are given fun facts about the topic in question and one point for each correct answer. After finishing a quiz of 10 questions, the user's points are aggregated and earn one of 3 ratings based on their score. Those with low scores of 0-3 are rated 'total tourists', medium scores of 4-6 are rated 'natural tour guide', those with high scores of 7-10 are rated 'laughing Londoner'.

After the user is presented with their score, they are offered an additional path to the social functionality of the app, 'Meet'. When users are given a score, it is attached to their profile. After completing their profile with tourist friendly information (i.e. activities for today and main languages spoken), they can then view the profiles of other users in the same McDonald's restaurant. If a user spots another user with similar plans for that day, who can speak the same language, they can tap to connect with that person. Only if both users connect to each other is a mutual match made. In this instance, the users can see each other on their mutual connections screen and an in-app message prompts the users to meet each other at a set point in the store. For this app we have used the collection point as a place for users to meet and start making plans.

By linking the Play and Meet functions together with the quiz rating, the users receive a smooth, flowing mobile application journey and immediately have something to talk about with the person they have mutually connected with.

Challenges I ran into

The project has had some issues with establishing user paths through the app. The main challenge was providing link between the Play and Meet functions so that the user could naturally transition between the gamified and social elements of the app. Ths also needed to be sorted without hiding either of the main functionalities or providing barriers. In order to complete this functionality by the deadline, we sacrificed features (such as a score-board and rewards) in order to simplify requirements and focus on the user journey; rather than features which did not meet the objectives of the app.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

The team was able to refine a large idea with ambitious objectives, to a tangible product in a short period of time. The app serves an altruistic purpose in giving tourists, and other types of users, a greater sense of familiarity and safety in a big city. At the same time, the app achieves the commercial objectives set out for Hackathon including gamification, family-friendly attributes, an emotional connection, and social media.

I am also proud of the way the team adapted to changing requirements. The work was intense and some of us stayed awake through the whole of the Hackathon so that any changes and re-thinks could be factored into the timeline and complexity.

The team also conducted extensive research. We researched academic papers, put out a survey online and one of our members went to a nearby McDonald’s to discuss the app with members of the public. Our extensive research has strongly justified our approach to this app and features we have chosen to implement.

What I learned

Teams are a repository of various experiences, perspectives and skills, and that bringing the best out in a team requires the ability to identify skills and allocate the right people to the right tasks. It is also important to facilitate honest conversation around technical feasibility and estimated effort.

What's next for McTraveller

Internationalisation - The app is geared towards tourists and other users in big cities where such populations are high. This provides opportunity for roll out in various languages including French, Italian, German, and further afield where cultures perhaps differ further, such as China and Japan. We have essentially provided the foundation for a template suite of apps that can be adapted to any location.

Media Integration - The app is designed to engage users who are looking for a sense of home and familiarity. This opens the door to many types of media which can prove effective for this user group. For example another feature called, ‘Discover’ could provide a dedicated space to educate users about local amenities, services and events. This could be relayed to users via video, image, RSS, sounds byte etc.

Outreach - One of the most important steps in embracing mobility is the internal organisation reflection and change to generate value and added productivity. That being said, McDonalds have a huge opportunity to capitalise of the tourist and traveller user base. By actively reaching out to these communities, whether through online forums and/or actual tour groups and international societies. By enhancing their ‘fame’ within this context, McDonalds could become recognised as a genuine friend of this user group, thereby encouraging further loyalty.

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