Play Areas Matter Too
Group V.P. and Director of Research, GartnerG2
I've mentioned before that it's not the technology -- it's what the technology enables you to do that matters. Of course, that assumes that someone has the insight to apply technology in a better way. And technology can be used differently in practically all aspects of business and life, even trying to find a fast-food restaurant.
Speaking from experience, one of the best things you can come across during a 10-hour travel day is a McDonald's or Burger King with a play area for three travel-weary kids under the age of five. During a three-week road trip I took recently, I actively sought locations of fast food restaurants with play areas for the next day's travels. Both McDonald's (supports US and UK searches) and Burger King (supports US searches only) have a locator tool on their web site.
Using each of these, you'll quickly find that for the purposes of trip planning, the McDonald's locator was superior. Why? First, the McDonald's locator is linked into computerized auto-mapping technology and easily shows all restaurants along the planned travel route on a map Secondly, the McDonald's locator indicated which of the locations were equipped with a Playland.
The Burger King locator provides locations out in concentric circles from a location you enter. This simply doesn't work when you are trying to locate all the locations along 500 miles of interstate driving planned for the day. There was also no way to search for play area-equipped locations.
Someone at McDonald's had the insight to put themselves into the shoes of their traveling-and-laden-with-young-children customer and designed that into this functionality. If the same technology is available to both of these fierce competitors and thus provides no competitive differentiation (as Carr would have you believe), then why isn't Burger King's restaurant locator as functional as McDonald's?
Here, McDonald's took the same technology available to all fast food restaurants and applied it for competitive advantage by putting themselves in their customer's shoes and asking "how could IT be used by our customers to easily locate our locations when they are traveling and what information might be important to them?"
I'm not taking sides on the Burger King versus McDonald's taste issue, but I will tell you that this feature alone resulted in most of our stops being at a McDonalds -- equipped with a Playland.
IT mattered to me -- the customer.