Dunkin’-branded pajamas. Gravy-scented candles from KFC. McDonald’s playing cards. If silly merchandise bearing a QSR logo is your thing, you’re living in the right century, as a growing number of restaurant chains serve up branded swag via digital e-commerce channels.
Dunkin’ emphasized the point again recently when it announced its first-ever online pop-up holiday shop that will offer, according to a press release, “a selection of Dunkin’-ized holiday gifts that fans can’t find anywhere else.” Dunkin’ customers can purchase things like wrapping paper, pint glasses, and dog accessories at the limited-time shop.
While the holidays always bring their fair share of branded merch, the Dunkin’ news points to a larger trend happening among QSRs. More and more, restaurants seem to be using e-commerce stores and events to not just sell merchandise online but also create yet-another digital experience for customers that will potentially boost their loyalty to the brand.
KFC is another notable example. The chain has released, among other items, the aforementioned gravy-scented candle, a fire log that smells like fried chicken, and a Funko Pop figure of Colonel Sanders. Sound too dumb to work? Think again: the Funko Pop sold out in 11 minutes.
Meanwhile, McDonald’s takes its e-commerce efforts to the delivery realm each year with its McDelivery Night done in partnership with Uber Eats. The online event, the latest of which just happened in September, lets McDonald’s customers who order via Uber Eats add a free piece of swag to their cart on that night. This year, limited-edition merch included earbuds, scrunchies, and a snuggie-like garment I want someone to mail me right now.
White elephant gift ideas aside, obtaining these items means going into the QSR’s ecosystem, which presents chains with a potentially bigger audience — and much more customer data. Generation Z, in particular, is 20 percent more likely to order food from a fast-food restaurant and at the same time very willing to fork over personal data in exchange for food, experiences, and snuggies alike.
Will we see more of this in 2020 and beyond? Yes. With more QSRs doubling down on digital ordering and loyalty programs, and with many of them now exploring off-premises models like ghost kitchens, the restaurant experience now has one foot firmly planted in the virtual realm. Tangible goods bought through e-commerce pop-up shops and delivery events will become a standard method for roping in more digital-only customers.