McDonald’s launches Silicon Valley tech hub to fuel digital drive

McDonald’s is hoping to plug start-up creativity into its fledgling digital strategy with the launch of a technology hub in Silicon Valley.

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The company is hoping its Silicon Valley outpost will spark mobile innovation across its marketing offering.

The fast-food chain will man the hub with up to 20 tech specialists from companies including Yahoo, Microsoft Xbox, Paypal and AOL in the coming months. Jobs will range from digital marketing and media executives to designers and mobile experts.

Projects will initially focus on mobile with the business hoping to repeat the success of its partnership with wireless technology firm Qualcomm, which led to its World Cup augmented-reality campaign. McDonald’s also hopes the unit will help attract digital talent to the wider business.

The initiative is the brain child of the company’s first digital chief Atif Rafiq, who joined last October to kickstart its ecommerce and digital content offerings. The restaurant says the hub is “one of the first steps” on its foray into the technology world where it hopes to win back lapsed younger customers.

A spokeswoman for the business says it wants to use technology to bring an “entirely new level of everyday convenience and fun to the world”, while also lifting sales. McDonald’s has already been testing mobile payments in the US, a coupon app across Europe and a click-and collect service.

The spokeswoman adds: “We want a presence in the heart of the tech community enabling us to attract world-class talent.  Being in this epicenter will also help us establish key relationships in the digital space.

“We are focused on how we evolve and simplify our customers’ digital experience with McDonald’s through things like mobile ordering and we are also exploring how we further engage consumers through social media and digital marketing campaigns.”

McDonald’s is the latest global business to cosy up to start-ups in a bid to source new ideas. Nike, Unilever, Pernod Ricard and most recently John Lewis are all running incubator schemes to help shape everything from shopping experiences to social networks.

The company views digital as a key outlet in its efforts to combat marketing errors made during the economic downtown, when it looked to shore up short term margins rather than focusing on long-term customer insight. It revealed plans to increase its digital spend earlier this year to rectify the issue and make its marketing ‘less disparate’.

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