Modern consumer, modular tastes

Fast food giant McDonald’s has entered an era of introspection as its CEO announces a slump in annual global sales of 15 percent and their strategy to remedy it. And a new report from Barclays claims the U.S. car industry – celebrating something of a comeback in recent times – could lose 40 percent of market share due to the inexorable arrival of self-driving cars.

The rapid pace of technological change looms as the disruptive factor for the automotive industry. For the fast food industry it is the influx of competition from smaller fast food outlets competing at a similar price-point but seen in the market as cooler, sexier and more contemporary.

While the underlying causes of these two factors – the impact of technology and proliferation of competition – are markedly different, for the consumer the effect is the same: a greater degree of choice. And with choice, comes empowerment.

Certainly, consumers are more empowered today than ever before.

They have become accustomed to mixing and matching the products and services that best fits their needs or wants at a particular time. Look no further than the current upheaval in the pay and subscription TV market – consumers are interested in content, not platforms, and make their choices accordingly.

The theme repeats in other, disparate, areas. IKEA is building a modular kitchen that can be swapped around depending on what, who and how many you are cooking for. You could fit it in your modular home.

Modular technology will change the way we purchase and use our personal devices. Why buy a mobile phone with hard features you will never use when you can put one together based entirely on your personal specifications?

As for cars, a compact runabout would be nice for the working week but what about an SUV for the weekend? In the foreseeable future, you won’t need to own both. Using your modular mobile, you can simply dial up a connected self-driving car to meet your specific needs at the time.

It is this future that threatens the current operating model of the automotive industry; a future driven by three imperatives for the consumer: convenience; scalability; affordability.

McDonald’s is responding quickly to these imperatives with its latest pilot, being rolled out in Australia, Singapore and Kuwait.

“Create your taste” allows customers to create their own burgers using in-store kiosks. You punch in your choices and the staff cook and assemble your meal according to your specifications. The early numbers are encouraging for the company, with increased demand seeing McDonald’s placing up to 20 extra staff in outlets offering the service.

On the face of it, the pilot is simple if not gimmicky. But delve deeper and the approach reveals itself to be a little more sophisticated and subtle. It shifts creative control to the customer. Suddenly, instead of just buying a burger they’re investing in something they had a hand in creating.

The philosophy of the approach – tapping into the contemporary consumer’s modular tastes and appetite for control – could yet provide a blueprint for reinvention. And not just for the fast-food industry.

Feature Image Copyright:  / 123RF Stock Photo
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One thought on “Modern consumer, modular tastes

  1. It’s sure going to be an interesting future in retail from a consumer’s perspective. Maybe the choices will overwhelm us? There’s echoes here, too, of what the music industry went through not so long ago with technology causing a disruption that totally changed how people bought, compiled and listened to their music collections. And a semi-related article in the Guardian today on that point too – http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/may/28/how-the-compact-disc-lost-its-shine

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