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Responding to consumer needs
McDonald's Australia's approach has been to listen and learn. Market research is the key to ascertaining the needs of customers, and is composed of two key elements: qualitative researchand quantitative research.
Qualitative research refers to a technique that uses a relatively small sample group and probing questions. It is generally used as a first step, and its purpose is to define any problems and identify the relevant issues. In other words, it aims to answer the 'why' questions, for instance, 'Why do people use this product? Why is consumption falling?' etc. The research is transparent, meaning that the purpose of the study and the name of the organisation that commissioned it are disclosed to the people answering the questions. Various techniques are used; including interviews and focus groups, which attempt to unearth people's deeply held personal opinions and judgements.
Quantitative research takes things one step further, and is often based on information derived from the qualitative research. It involves a larger-scale approach and the collection of statistical data. By the use of questionnaires and opinion polls, information from a suffi ciently large sample can be used to identify and track matters such as market size, market share, and customer satisfaction. In other words, this type of research addresses the 'how many' questions, for instance, 'How many people use this product? How many people are potential consumers of this product?' and so forth.
In November 2005, McDonald's Australia undertook a major research project called 'Project Discovery'. The project made use of both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. The qualitative research involved two-hour, one-on-one interviews with 35 people; while the quantitative research involved telephone interviews with 2,602 people throughout the nation. The results showed some pleasing consumer perceptions, but also revealed areas that needed attention, particularly in the area of health. The following graph summarises the results obtained.
To supplement this major research project, McDonald’s Australia conducts regular tracking studies every quarter that measure the customers' point of view. Customers are asked questions regarding food image, brand image, quality, service, cleanliness and value.
By keeping the questions consistent, changes in customer attitudes can be measured and tracked over time. In addition, the customer service line provides much needed feedback. Its purpose is to answer questions from the public by telephone, and to receive complaints and comments. In 2005, the customer service department received 37,733 contacts from the public: a valuable source of information.
The end result of all this research is that consumers told McDonald's Australia what they wanted. They wanted more choice, with healthier and lighter food options. They wanted increased visibility in food labelling and more information about what they were eating: how much fat, how much sugar, and how much salt.