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We are focused on deeper penetration



With digital changing the way businesses work, every brand has to keep ahead of consumer trends and evolve their offerings accordingly. For Yum Foods, the parent company of Pizza Hut, this means coming up with new innovations to drive consumer engagement. Vipul Chawla, managing director of Pizza Hut Restaurants Asia Pacific, talks to Shubhi Tandon about what the brand’s focus on digital is and why Asia presents an exciting opportunity for the transformation of customer interaction

How is Pizza Hut making the digital transformation journey?  
We see ourselves as a brand that is trying to make customer experience easier — from the beginning right till the end. When a customer seeks out an experience with a brand, whether it is online or in-store, it is about acquisition. When they interact, or make a transaction, or provide feedback, that’s the second part, and it is how we convert them from intent to transaction. And thereafter, measuring ourselves against what we have promised is all about how we retain them such that they come back. Our job is to make every end of the journey and every experience a customer has, as  easy as possible!

There is a whole series of steps that we have taken over the last couple of years, but now we have become a lot more intentional about it. From the first tap of the phone, a simple user interface should allow our customers to easily navigate our menu, select, transact and enjoy our experience in a few easy steps.

For example, in markets such as Indonesia, we have set up a countrywide rider tracker for our delivery business which allows customers to track and get ready for the arrival of their pizza.

We are testing digital stores in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore as they simplify engagement and transactions with our customers. And there is more to come.

Different markets in Asia have different dynamics and not all markets are evolved. Which are the APAC markets, besides Japan, that Pizza Hut is looking at for the digital transformation?
It is usually a natural assumption that the more developed the economy, the more developed the digital interaction will be. However, the state of the GDP of the country, does not matter, as in reality, you can do a digital leapfrog at anytime, if the basic infrastructure is available. Digital transformation does not necessarily happen more quickly in evolved countries. It happens everywhere at almost the same time.

What we have learned is that you need not necessarily have to wait for a country or a customer segment or the ecosystem to evolve digitally. We can make our changes because the basic infrastructure is already there.

We are taking some very intentional steps as far as the customer experience is concerned — from the improvement of the digital experience or the app to the order fulfillment system.

How important is the APAC market for Yum Foods globally? 
Our APAC region, including China, accounts for more than half the global business. It’s a large market and we have got scale.

We have leadership positions in most markets we operate.  We have a lot of brand love (ranked 29th on the list of most Trusted Asian brands across categories, through an independent survey conducted by AC Nielsen), but we are still quite underpenetrated. We believe there is a long run of growth for us and we are looking to build on our strong foundation. We feel very good about the opportunity that is there; not just where we are today, but where we can be tomorrow.
The best part in any business is the unfinished business. We are focused on further penetration and staying ahead of the curve. Asia is a very exciting place to b,e and being sure that we are at the forefront of the industry and thought leadership is important to us.

The competition in the QSR category is growing. So how do you stay ahead of the competition? 

The retail space is very close to customers, as close as you can get as a sector. The only way you can get to where you are and then stay ahead, is by being closely engaged with customers and constantly reinventing yourself. You cannot stay in the same place. Therefore, our brands have to constantly reinvent. The manner in which consumers are consuming brands is changing rapidly. And digital transformation is leading the brand reinvention.

When we talk about customer experience, we no longer only talk about the physical experience inside a restaurant as that’s only one part of our business now. There is a very significant customer experience happening off premise — over the phone —  that changes the way we do our business.

There are so many delivery aggregator apps. Do they affect your business?

These apps are making their presence felt in a lot of places. We are currently working with them in some markets in Asia and trying to understand how our model overlaps with their model, and how our model can help them. We are learning how we can collaborate with the aggregators in a way that’s best suited to our customers.

How important is mobile for Pizza Hut and have you done enough on mobile?
We have done a lot on mobile, but I believe we have just started the journey. There is a lot more we can do and I’m very excited about that. I won’t say we have figured it all out.

There are two factors driving our mobile strategy: brand engagement and customer acquisition. Our brand allows us the opportunity to do so much in this space and that’s the beauty of mobile. Not all brands are being consumed online to the extent we are because there is a natural consumer affinity to use these modes to interact with us. We have a lot of width to play with and make it better.

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