How Dunkin’ Thinks About Google Assistant Integration and the Future of Mobile Ordering

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On March 14, Dunkin’ Donuts announced a partnership with Google to allow customers to order via Google Assistant. Rewards members can link their Perks accounts to the Assistant, which they activate by saying “Talk to Dunkin Donuts.” Users can select items from their recent orders and favorites, and choose a nearby location at which to pick up their orders.

Google estimates the time it will takes users to get there, making sure that orders are prepared on time. Street Fight spoke with Dunkin’ Brands Director of Digital Experience, Paul Murray, to learn more about the new integration.

How does Google Assistant mobile ordering improve the customer experience?

For us, it’s about staying innovative, focusing on relevant technology, keeping pace with where we think the industry is going. The Google Assistant integration seems like a really natural place for us to go. We think we can improve your morning and get you in and out with your Dunkin’ order a little bit faster.

How long does it take to order via Google Assistant versus in the app?

Most of time saved is really getting your on-the-go order set up in the restaurant when you go there. When we look at the assistant or the app, the ordering interaction is really what is the most successful thing at the time.

What was the motivation behind the mobile ordering integration with Google Assistant? Is this an effort to get more people to use the mobile ordering feature? How will this benefit Dunkin?

Mobile ordering in general is an important part of what we’re doing from a guest experience perspective. It’s an incredible benefit for the loyalty program. It helps deliver on convenience. Increasingly, brands are being judged by the experience they deliver as much as the product. This is a really good example for us where we’re delivering on a great product and we’re also delivering on the experience, and we’re leveraging new technology to do it.

Currently ordering with Google Assistant only allows customers to choose from recent or favorite orders. In the future, will customers be able to order items that are not on their favorites? What’s the future of this feature?

Recents and favorites make a lot of sense based on the usage of the assistant—you want to take quick actions. That could evolve to a full menu at some point in the future as the technology gets better and evolves in the voice space. We view this as us being early to something that will probably be a standard as we move forward. Voice ordering is growing exponentially. We see this with the Amazon devices, with the Google Home devices, with the Apple HomePod. People are going to continue to adopt voice technology. We think it’s important to be there early, to understand the space so that we can evolve with it, as opposed to somewhere down the line where everybody’s already got it.

This allows Google to have data on Dunkin’ Donuts customers and their orders. Is Google paying Dunkin’ for that access or ability? Is Dunkin’ paying for access to the Google Assistant feature or is Google paying for access to customer data?

We won’t talk too much about the financial situation around our brands. We work with Google very closely on the payment front, offering Google Pay and their payment options on our mobile app and on our website. We also have our Waze integration with Google. There is a tremendously large number of Google-enabled and Android platform devices. There’s a lot of opportunity there for us to get to customers.

As far as the experience goes — the guests pick up their Google Assistant, they press the button, and they say “Google, let me talk to Dunkin.” When that happens, it alerts the Dunkin’ app in your device to start sharing some of the information it needs to pull up your recently ordered items or your favorite items, or the recent restaurants that you’ve selected. It will say, “Would you like to order this?” or “Would you like to order this from this location?” From there you just hit submit your order and it will pull in your total and your balance on your Perks card.

It’s a really complete experience when it comes to ordering. We’ve done a really good job of translating what is many steps in a graphical user interface into a very brief and condensed experience in voice ordering.

Using Google technology, we are able to estimate the distance and the time to reach the selected restaurant. The order is sent to the restaurant, and the order is ready when we believe you’re going to be there. That’s a little different than mobile order on our app, when you might schedule your pickup.

For right now, we’re launching predictive pickup in the Google Assistant. We’re going to look at it, make sure it’s functioning there. We’ll look at how it performs and how the guests respond to it and make a determination about using it more in the future.

Are you using this data about what customers order and from what stores to improve targeted marketing?

At this stage, we’re not using any of the data or information to change any of our marketing tactics. We have a strong relationship with the Waze marketing, and there’s geo-location-based marketing on that platform. But this is really about utility, about ordering the right items.

Now there are more ways to order on mobile than before — with the Dunkin’ mobile app, on Waze, on the Google assistant, GM’s new Marketplace on their vehicle touchscreen, and drive-thru experience in Quincy. What does this say about Dunkin’ customers, and where the company is headed in terms of incorporating technology into the customer experience?

It indicates a lot of what we know about this brand, which is that our customers are on the go. Dunkin is a place where you’re stopping to energize. We recognize that we have an opportunity to get you on your way to your day. That’s right in line with our brand and how we think guests are using our product. In the past, it was about introducing a drive-thru so you can get your food a little bit faster.

What differentiates your mobile ordering experience from those of competitors? How does this help you to keep up with industry standards?

When we look at a handful of places that have mobile order, I think we’re leading the accessibility for mobile ordering. We have integrations with Waze where you can be advertised to based on your geography, place an order, navigate to that restaurant, pick up that food. The next-generation store. We’re also dedicating counter space to mobile order and pick-up that’s easier to get to. In the next-generation stores, the traffic flows will be designed so that it’s much easier for somebody to get in and out and pick up an order. The guest experience starts with the order, but it has to go all the way to the pick up as well.

We’re a 67-year old brand. Prior to two years ago when we introduced on-the-go mobile ordering, for 65 years the only way you could order Dunkin’ Donuts coffee was by using your voice and speaking to someone. Ordering via voice is part of the brand, and now we’re doing it on mobile. We are leveraging technology to get back to where we were.

This Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.