KFC Is Taking Inspiration from Crowdfunding Platforms and Netflix for Its Next Innovations
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The restaurant space is going through big changes right now and brands the world over are looking for new ways to improve the experience for their customers.
For some, this means leveraging extra services offered by third-party delivery facilitators, which allow more restaurant brands to offer home-delivered takeout food than ever before - without a big investment in vehicles or drivers. For others, it's unique methods of ordering, whether in-restaurant (as with McDonald's huge touch screens, for instance) or online.
However, as a brand which loves trying new things, even if they may seem a bit wacky on the surface, KFC is looking to the online world for inspiration to improve its customers' dining experiences.
The popular southern fried chicken brand is never short of a few off-the-wall ideas to help promote itself. Previous "innovations" have included a firelog which smells like fried chicken and a fairly disturbing bearskin rug with the countenance of Colonel Sanders himself woven into the fabric.
The latter was used as a marketing gimmick - offered as a prize to promote an in-restaurant competition on Valentine's Day.
These offbeat ideas are normally the product of the chicken brand's own innovation department and its team of dedicated staff who are tasked with thinking this stuff up. However, now, the KFC Innovation Lab has found a new home on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and is looking to its audience for help with bringing the next big idea to market.
Three of the five ideas initially opened for crowdfunding include a Colonel Sanders on Ice show, a smart walking cane remote control, and a KFC Hot Tub.
"The company created the KFC Innovations Lab to bring more of the company's craziest and most innovative marketing ideas to life," said KFC US Director of Media and Digital Marketing, Steve Kelly. "KFC was founded with the spirit of innovation and, with the launch of the KFC Innovations Lab, non-Colonels can now be part of that process and support important projects, such as a hot tub that looks like a bucket of fried chicken, so we can keep focusing on making actual buckets of fried chicken."
Anyone voting on the crowdfunding page receives KFC-related goods such as Innovation Lab-branded clothing or sheets of stickers. Any of the innovations which are successfully backed by hitting their funding goal will be put into production and turned into a real-life item which can then be used for promotion and competitions.
Upon reading that subheading you may be wondering if KFC is starting up its own film and television streaming service. Although it would be exciting to see what original content a chicken restaurant may come up with for such a service, this is not what's happening here.
In a bid to improve the drive-thru experience for its takeout customers, KFC is presently trialing a new digital ordering service in the UK, dubbed "Call the Colonel".
Customers using the new app can phone ahead to their local KFC and be presented with an audio recording of the menu. They can then pre-order from the app and have their food ready for them once they arrive at the restaurant. The Netflix inspiration comes in through the app's ability to offer recommendations and special deals. These can be personalized to each customer based on their previous ordering history, much in the way that Netflix suggests films and shows based on what subscribers have watched before.
"We needed to shift away from thinking of ourselves as a quick service bricks-and-mortar restaurant to the mindset of an ecommerce company," said KFC's Senior Digital Product Owner, Lisa Bowen-Dawes. "We needed to be more customer focused and data driven. We feel the game changer is to build a recommendation engine that will ease the ordering experience for our customers in the drive-thru, via Alexa, online, and through our app. In the same way, customers already experience recommendations on services like Netflix or Amazon."
As you can see, the service is not limited to smartphones, with customers able to order their favorite food items via Amazon's smart speaker technology and through the KFC website. Should the service prove fruitful, it's likely we'll see KFC roll it out to other countries in the near future.
Many of KFC's ideas are tongue-in-cheek, and the brand has garnered a reputation for its quirky marketing. However, these ideas, such as the crowdfunding gimmick, serve to create new marketing devices which can then be promoted in-restaurant. Couple these with more serious innovations such as Call the Colonel, and KFC is set to be pushing the restaurant experience forwards for years to come.
You can hear KFC's Global Chief Finance Officer, Gavin Felder speak at Future Restaurants 2019, taking place in September in Austin, TX.
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