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Domino’s outwits Pizza Hut with digital strategy

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Written by Aziz Hassan

A weekly commentary by Dave Avran

PIZZA chain Domino’s last week achieved the distinction of becoming the largest pizza company in the world, besting long-time rival Pizza Hut, based on global retail sales. Domino’s generated US$12.2 billion in 2017 compared to Pizza Hut’s $12.03 billion.

While Domino’s ascendancy to the global pizza throne was expected, given Pizza Hut’s late digital start, the milestone is a demonstration of just how important digital can be to businesses, that even little more than a decade ago might have seem far more insulated from digital disruption than others.

Let’s have a look at some of the key ways Domino’s embraced digital and then used it to grow.

Domino’s recognised early in the game that the internet would be critical to its business and launched digital ordering a decade ago, in 2008. Today, it has a large portfolio of digital ordering tools, including a tracker that provides customers with real-time tracking of their orders from start to finish and a Pizza Profile feature that gives customers the ability to save all their personal information, such as delivery address and payment method, to speed their orders.

Customers can also create an Easy Order profile, which represents their favourite order. Once created, customers can place their favourite order in less than a minute. The most important thing about Domino’s digital ordering tools is that they’re not just available on desktop and through common mobile platforms like iOS and Android. They’re available across a multitude of platforms, including SMS, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Slack, Apple Watch, Android Wear, Pebble and Samsung Smart TV.

Domino’s calls its cross-device and cross-platform technology Domino’s Anyware and its purpose is simple: make it possible for customers to order pizza anywhere, anytime with as little problems as possible. Whether a customer wants to order using a popular voice-driven smart speaker or with an emoji on Twitter, Domino’s has them covered.

That has proven critical to keeping Domino’s popular with younger consumers, many of whom have demonstrated a preference for brands that allow them to seamlessly engage across platforms.

If you’ve been following my column you will recall that in 2009, Domino’s got a crash course in social media crisis management when two of its employees filmed a disgusting prank while on the job. The video they posted to YouTube went viral, putting Domino’s in a very tough spot.

Despite the fact it was no master of social media yet, the company did what many companies have failed to do when faced with a crisis: it responded aggressively as quickly as it could. It took quick action to fire the employees in question, set up a Twitter account so that it could engage in the conversation customers were having on the then still nascent social platform and published a video in which its CEO directly addressed the issue.

Domino’s would go on to use social to good effect later that same year when it launched its Pizza Turnaround campaign, which incorporated the #newpizza hashtag. The campaign generated a lot of buzz and for good reason: in it, Domino’s admitted that its pizza sucked and wanted the world to know that it had reinvented its product to make it not suck.

While obviously bold in a risky way, the campaign was lauded for its honesty and was an overall hit with consumers on social platforms.

According to Domino’s CEO, they are as much a tech company as they are a pizza company, and that is evidenced by the fact that at Domino’s headquarters, half of its 800 employees work in software and analytics.

While having a large digital staff doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a company will be innovative, innovation is hard to achieve without adequate talent and Domino’s results suggest the company’s investment in building a digital-heavy staff has paid off handsomely.

 

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.