Based on global retail sales, pizza chain Domino’s last week achieved the distinction of becoming the “largest pizza company in the world”, besting long-time rival Pizza Hut. 

Domino’s generated $12.2bn in 2017 sales compared to Pizza Hut’s $12.03bn in sales.

While Domino’s ascendancy to the global pizza throne was expected given Pizza Hut’s late digital start, the milestone is a demonstration of just how important digital can be to businesses that even little more than a decade ago might have seemed far more insulated from digital disruption than others.

Here’s a look at some of the key ways Domino’s embraced digital and used it to grow.

Digital ordering

Domino’s recognized early that the internet would critical to its business and launched digital ordering a decade ago in 2008. Today, it has a large portfolio of digital ordering tools, including a Domino’s Tracker that provides customers with real-time tracking of their orders from start to finish and a Pizza Profile feature that gives customers the ability to save all their personal information, such as delivery address and payment method, to speed their orders. 

Customers can also create an Easy Order profile, which represents their favorite order. Once created, customers can place their favorite order in less than a minute.

The most important thing about Domino’s digital ordering tools is that they’re not just available on desktop and through common mobile platforms like iOS and Android. Instead, they’re available across a multitude of platforms, including SMS, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Slack, Ford Sync, Apple Watch, Android Wear, Pebble and Samsung Smart TV.

Domino’s calls its cross-device and cross-platform technology Domino’s Anyware and its purpose is simple: make it possible for customers to order pizza anywhere, anytime with as little friction as possible. Whether a customer wants to order using a popular voice-driven smart speaker or with an emoji on Twitter, Domino’s has them covered. 

That has proven critical to keeping Domino’s popular with younger consumers, many of whom have demonstrated a preference for brands that allow them to seamlessly engage across platforms.

Social

In 2009, Domino’s got a crash course in social media crisis management when two of its employees filmed a disgusting prank while on the job. The video they posted to YouTube went viral, putting Domino’s in a very tough spot.

Despite the fact it was no master of social media yet, the company did what many companies have failed to do when faced with a crisis: it responded aggressively as quickly as it could. It took quick action to fire the employees in question, set up a Twitter account so that it could engage in the conversation customers were having on the then still nascent social platform, and published a video with its CEO in which he addressed the matter.

Domino’s would go on to use social to good effect later that same year when it launched its Pizza Turnaround campaign, which incorporated the #newpizza hashtag. The campaign generated a lot of buzz and for good reason: in it, Domino’s admitted that its pizza sucked and wanted the world to know that it had reinvented its product to make it not suck. 

While obviously bold in a risky way, the campaign was lauded for its honesty and was an overall hit with consumers on social platforms.

Customer experience

Competition for companies like Domino’s is rife – there are over 60,000 pizzerias in the U.S. alone – and that means customer experience is critical for large chains like Domino’s. 

One area where Domino’s focus on maintaining a high quality, consistent customer experience can be best seen is in its commitment to using employee drivers to deliver pizzas. 

While Pizza Hut recently partnered with GrubHub for online orders and delivery, and invested $200m in the company, Domino’s is adamant that third parties won’t ever come between it and its customers.

“The efficiency of the delivery process is something we know and understand very, very well. That’s not something you’re ever going to see us outsource,” Domino’s CEO J. Patrick Doyle stated. “The only way to bring a long-term competitive advantage is to do it yourself.”

Hard technology

While Domino’s has no plans to outsource delivery, one day of course pizzas might effectively deliver themselves thanks to self-driving cars. This possibility could obviously help Domino’s bottom line, so last year, Domino’s teamed up with Ford and launched a pizza delivery test using a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle. 

Randomly-selected customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan were given the opportunity to participate in the test, which also included another new technology: a Domino’s Heatwave Compartment located inside the self-driving car. This experimental device allows customers to retrieve their pizzas upon delivery using a unique code that unlocks the compartment.

It wasn’t the first time that Domino’s had experimented with the application of new technology for deliveries. It had previously built a prototype delivery car, dubbed the DXP, which contained a warming oven capable of holding 80 pizzas as well as storage for sides, dipping sauces and bottles of soda. 

Staffing

Domino’s is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which thanks to the presence of the University of Michigan, is fast becoming one of the Midwest’s most promising innovation and tech hubs. That has no doubt helped Domino’s orient its employee ranks to a culture of innovation.

According to Domino’s CEO Doyle, “we are as much a tech company as we are a pizza company” and that is evidenced by the fact that at Domino’s headquarters, half of its 800 employees work in software and analytics.

While having a large digital staff doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a company will be innovative, innovation is hard to achieve without adequate talent and Domino’s results suggest the company’s investment in building a digital-heavy staff has paid off handsomely.

Interested in customer experience? Econsultancy subscribers can download our Best Practice Guide – Implementing a Customer Experience (CX) Strategy