How a McDonald's Drive-Thru Order Lifted Our Ad Campaign Conversion Rate by 2%

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

Drive thru order at McDonalds
Effective communication is key, even in the most familiar circumstances.

Atlanta, Georgia is notorious for oppressive traffic and long commute times. My time traveling to work and back approached three hours on any given weekday and longer if the weather or other commuters let us down. Regardless, the super-regional bank that I worked for was located in the heart of the city and I lived in the suburbs and, well, I adapted. Leaving for work around 5:45am, I made it a point to stop at McDonald's on most days to grab something to drink on the way - it became a tradition. My drink of choice was a "large, unsweet tea with light ice and five Splenda." Remember this, you will be tested later.

At the bank, our marketing team was struggling with a new quarterly online marketing promotion. Our goal was to increase the number of accounts each new account holder applied for. We had success promoting our checking accounts but were lagging on savings accounts. The strategy was to advertise the benefits of these complementary accounts in an effort to persuade our online visitors to sign up for both products at the same time. Despite a solid value proposition for both account types, our conversion rate was underperforming relative to previous promotions.

The biggest problem was that we were attempting to promote two products simultaneously which added friction to the process and diminished the performance of the campaign. Visitors to our site became overwhelmed with copy and choices and had some anxiety with a single "Apply Now" button committing them to accepting of both. How could we streamline the process, create clarity and increase conversion?

It occurred to me that this was more of a communication issue and similar to one I had faced each morning on my way to work. Ordering at a drive thru is fairly straightforward. My order of a "large, unsweet tea with light ice and five Splenda" was not. It had four options and required the drive thru employee to memorize and key in all of them. Not surprisingly, the order would only be correct about half the time. Ignoring the fact that I was unwilling to change my order or divest myself of the comical amount of caffeine that I consumed daily, I started to experiment with how the order was placed to see if I could increase its success rate.


Q - "May I take your order please?"

A - "I'd like a large unsweet tea with light ice and 5 Splenda"

Q - "Will that be all?"

A - "Yes"

After several iterations, I landed on the following breakthrough:


Q - "May I take your order please?"

A - "I'd like a large unsweet tea with light ice"

Q - "Will that be all?"

A - "Yes, and please add five Splenda"

This made all the difference. By limiting the number of options in the first part of the order and adding the rest later, my order was nearly always correct the first time.

At the bank, I started to look at the checking/savings promotion similarly. We examined how the promo was being presented and concluded that, like the drive thru order, we were asking too much up front. So we redesigned the campaign around promoting our checking product first. If (and only if) the visitor converted, we would introduce the savings account. Each section was streamlined and sequenced in a clean, easily digestible order and displayed information on only one product. We incorporated a call-to-action button in each section and reduced the anxiety inherent in the single "sign up for it all" button in our previous iteration. The campaign went from a loss to a gain of over 2% thanks not to slick marketing but to the value of communicating with our visitors in a way that was simple and reassuring.

As for me, I switched to coffee and haven't looked back.

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