The T-Mobile Domino’s Disaster Could’ve Been Mobile Marketing Magic

Scott Weller Jun 28, 2016

Earlier this month T-Mobile rolled out their “T-Mobile Tuesdays” app, designed to surprise and delight customers with new freebies and perks each week. A couple weeks ago a deal offering free Domino’s pizza delighted customers so much that the pizza chain had to pull out of the promotion due to the overwhelming demand. According to TechCrunch, Domino’s couldn’t handle the increase in order volume (Domino’s stores generated three to four times the volume of typical sales for a Tuesday).  

Back in the 90s during the early web, it was quite common for a brand or an event to take down web servers (flash sale, Super Bowl commercial, etc).

Mobile has completely changed the game for retail. Now, that little device in your pocket can turn your customers into thousands for human web requests, flooding your storefronts and creating the same capacity issue only previously reserved for servers on the internet.

What happened the other week for T-Mobile and Domino’s was not unique and could have been avoided with the right technology in place. Utilizing a mobile app gave the promotion distinct advantages over TV, email and other channels. These advantages, had they been leveraged correctly, could have saved both T-Mobile and Domino’s from a disaster.

Recognize it’s a complex system

Two brands, a mobile app, a promotion, physical locations, storefront clerks, pizza ovens, coupons/codes and delivery–you need to take into consideration it’s a complex system. If you are going to go big, there will be bottlenecks within that complex system. Customers need clear rules; employees need to be trained on how to handle issues; and the entire process needs to be streamlined so as not to negatively impact the customer experience (don’t slow down line time!).

Testing is a must

You should use a technology that allows you to segment those engaging into groups and ramp up your wide-area promotion over several weeks. Before this though, you need to first invite smaller populations to test, allowing you to work out the kinks in your complex system.

I would be remiss not to mention that I have had my fair share of outages, capacity and technical issues. However, it is super important to recognize that when creating complex and unique customer experiences, you must follow a testing strategy that enables you to ramp up over time, measure and fix defects as you scale.

At SessionM we recognize there may be some early bumps, but we work with our customers to limit these bumps to test groups, eliminate defects and scale as we gain confidence in our machine and human complex system.

Programmatic personalization is key

It was an interesting idea by T-Mobile to drop a free pizza to all its customers and certainly it was a great gimmick to get someone to download an app. Domino’s faced the challenge of actually delivering on that gimmick though. Unfortunately, Domino’s didn’t have the right tools in place to capitalize on the increased demand. Had they implemented the resources to personalize the offer in real-time based on capacity, the influx of opportunity could have been played to Domino’s advantage.

You cannot expect your storefront employee to be the one to enforce limits, but when you’re leveraging mobile, you can deploy real-time eligibility rules for your offer and craft the exact moments of engagement.

Claim the offer on device

It’s super important for any wide-spread mobile loyalty promotion to have an “Opt In” or “Claim” component. This allows the marketer to understand how many people are going to take advantage of the offer and allows you to engage the customer, potentially throttle the experience, or offer alternatives experiences.

The T-Mobile and Domino’s disaster reveals some common problems marketers face as a result of lacking the technology to programmatically personalize customer engagement in real time. You may be dealing with a complex system, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need are the right tools, plus the right people to work out the inevitable kinks you’ll encounter along the way to mobile marketing greatness.