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How Domino’s sliced through the competition

digital technology innovation digital technology innovation

Relentless investment in technology transformed Domino’s into one of the business world’s most celebrated comeback stories. Its CMO Joe Jordan shares the key ingredients.

In 2009, Domino’s revealed a new campaign with the tagline “Oh Yes We Did”. The campaign outlined how terrible some people thought its pizzas were. Oh yes, it really did that. Sounds like commercial suicide, but actually it was the first phase of a complete re-think for the Domino’s brand. This was a plan to show that the new Domino’s would embrace honesty and transparency and that it was fully prepared to try radical new ideas.

Those new ideas obviously included technology. Since the turn of the decade, Domino’s has launched a constant series of digital technology innovations. And it’s been wildly successful. From 2009 to 2016, Domino’s annual revenues rose from $5.6bn to $9.6bn. And the proportion of orders coming from digital is now as high at 60 per cent in some geographies. This should not be surprising. After all, Domino’s is not just a pizza company. It’s also a pizza delivery company. And anything that makes delivery quicker, easier and more delightful is almost certain to pay off.

The AnyWare Mission

That explains Domino’s’ AnyWare, a mission to ensure customers can order a pizza on pretty much any platform. Currently, AnyWare supports ordering via SMS, native app, mobile and desktop web, Twitter, Samsung Smart TVs, Ford Sync, smartwatches, and Facebook Messenger bot. You can also order by posting a pizza slice emoji. Clearly, enabling this ubiquity involves a lot of effort. And there’s no doubt some of these platforms will yield only marginal results.

But for Joe Jordan, CMO of Domino’s, AnyWare is not just about digital technology innovation. It’s also about brand perception. He says: “We look at new platforms in two ways: does it have business potential and does it fit with the brand story? We may not get huge orders from Sync, for example, but it tells a story about Domino’s. It says that we are thinking about our customers, and are prepared to try new ideas.” It’s ‘Oh Yes We Did’ again.

Of course, what drives much of the platform innovation for the customers’ point of view is an element of laziness. People would rather click an emoji than type their whole order. There are clearly no limits on the desire to shave seconds off the ordering process. In March Domino’s went even further to address this. It launched its Zero Click app. Here, the customer simply has to open the app and, after a 10 seconds countdown, Domino’s will place his or the favorite order. That’s it. No clicks required.

Jordan says the only reason Zero Click and the other ordering platforms is possible is because of the work that Domino’s put into its Pizza Profile concept. This invites customers to register their name, address, payment credentials and pizza preferences into a profile.

Every platform plugs into this, so that when an order is made no more specific instructions are necessary.“Pizza Profile was the key innovation,” says Jordan. “Without that, we would not be able to experiment as we have. We knew it would be important, but I don’t think we realized just how central it would be when we launched it.” The part played by digital technology innovation in the company’s turnaround has led some observers to wonder what kind of business Domino’s is.

Keeping food at the heart of digital

A JP Morgan analyst famously said: “Domino’s is a technology company disguised as a marketing company disguised as a pizza company.”However, Jordan rejects this characterization. He says: “I certainly want our digital team to think about the company this way. But we should never forget that while 60 per cent of our orders involve digital platforms, 100 percent of them involve food.” Indeed, Jordan is careful to ensure a balance between marketing campaigns that focus on delivery technology and those that reflect the quality of the pizzas themselves. “You need cadence,” he says.

Another reason to be mindful of this balance is that plenty of customers still prefer to walk to a physical Domino’s outlet and carry their pizzas home. One might assume the rise of zero-click multi-platform ordering might have killed the pizza store. Quite the reverse. Domino’s is actually building more branches. That said, it is also re-thinking its stores with digital technology innovation in mind. Its Theater pizza concept features kiosk ordering, order tracking and open-area viewing of the food being prepared. “Our outlets are very important for us,” says Jordan. “People still like carry outs. Take home pizza is cheaper, and you kind of get to be a hero when you arrive home with your order. Carry out pizza is also more profitable for us so we are always keen to develop that side of the business.”

The continuous investment in delivery tech and in the pizza store network reveals Domino’s’ long-term strategy. But to go back to that ‘oh yes we did’ credo, the company is also ready to improvise on a daily basis. A fine example of this came in 2016 in the UK, when the internet briefly obsessed over a giant puddle in the North East of England. A nearby household live streamed ‘Puddlewatch’ on Periscope to show how locals were negotiating this giant obstruction. As time went by, people arrived with canoes and inflatable lilos. Inevitably a crowd formed.

Domino’s made sure they all had pizza.