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An Interview with Will Burns

Director of Digital Acceleration, Foundational Markets at McDonald's

Will Burns joined McDonald’s in 2015, and as director of digital acceleration for foundational markets, his responsibilities sit within the corporate global digital function. Burns, who is based in London, works on digital strategy, including mobile and social media, for 13 European markets, including Austria, Belgium, Portugal and Hungary. Some of his efforts have included working with regional teams on in-store kiosks, music streaming and mobile applications.

Before McDonald’s, Burns held various digital strategy-related roles at L’Occitane en Provence, Premier Farnell, Marks and Spencer, and Google.

What are your business priorities over the next 12 months?

Will Burns: We’re in the midst of a large digital transformation. There’s a focus now around customer relationship management and how we communicate with the customers, whether through loyalties or through offers that we have in applications. So with that comes the improvement of our mobile applications, and of course, continuing expansion and further movement of our marketing span from offline to online.

What are the biggest challenges today for your business?

Burns: Our challenge is being able to move as speedily as we want to. We’re a very large organization with lots of different functions, and we’re in a time where a lot is changing in digital on a daily basis.

With respect to social, we have a very large number of consumers mentioning McDonald’s every day. We have social practitioners around the world with global functionality, but a lot of work that also gets done at a local level, too. There’s continual improvement with that. But we’ve made big steps to be able to improve.

Then, from a mobile applications standpoint, we have different stages of development throughout the world. We offer delivery across a lot of our markets in Asia, and it actually makes up a large percentage in some of those countries. For example, in Singapore, nearly a third of sales are home deliveries through the mobile application or online.

In contrast, with the UK, we haven’t quite gotten to the stage where we have offers in a mobile application that are not just informational. Our major focus is about starting to join the pieces together and improve what we do across the entire world.

How does eMarketer PRO compare to other resources?

Burns: eMarketer is much more focused on marketing, and unsurprisingly, especially within digital.

I also use Euromonitor as well, which is quite different. In comparison, Euromonitor’s focus is on macroeconomic trends and the wider industry, including quick-service restaurant (QSR) insights, but not in marketing, like eMarketer.

I use them both in tandem because I find them complementary. They rarely duplicate each other.

What are some of your favorite features within the eMarketer PRO platform?

Burns: I don’t have much time in my day to do much of the proactive stuff within eMarketer, so I find it really helpful to be in touch with the onboarding team. They’ll send me an email digest with top stories of the day that are relevant to the markets I work with.

While I like to speak to my markets on the phone on a regular basis, I also like to share a monthly email with them. I’m able to add these eMarketer stories and insights in there.

I also find it helpful to get reminders from the team that let me know I can request specific research because it’s not something that’s always top of mind for me.

What value does eMarketer PRO represent to a business like yours?

Burns: While I mostly work with markets outside of the UK and US, I am surprised at the value I do get from eMarketer’s coverage. It’s honestly always useful.

I’m able to see where things are headed, and therefore can be prepared. The US and UK are at the forefront of digital, and so getting articles about where they are gives me a leg up. Then, I can postulate that this is where Austria might be in a year or two, and where the Czech Republic will be in three or four years. There’s also quite a lot of coverage on Germany, France and China, too.

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Will Burns

On eMarketer:

“eMarketer PRO helps me keep up to date. I have a number of daily and weekly alerts that come into my inbox and are focused around the general restaurant industry.”

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