Atif Rafiq has joined McDonald’s Corp. as the company’s first chief digital officer, overseeing global digital strategy and focusing on future growth in e-commerce, consumer engagement and modernizing the restaurant experience.
Rafiq will report to McDonald’s chief brand officer Steve Easterbrook.
“Consumers visit and interact with our brand in multiple ways, and digital continues to grow increasingly important to them,” Easterbrook said in a statement. “Atif will lead a more coordinated and comprehensive digital strategy for our global organization as we deepen our connection with our customers. His cutting-edge thinking, background and expertise will help us drive even greater innovation in this arena.”
McDonald’s chief executive Don Thompson added in a statement that Rafiq’s hiring was an opportunity to “elevate our restaurant experience and strengthen the bond we share with our customers in new ways.”
“I am excited to join this iconic brand,” Rafiq said in the statement. “I look forward to building on the strong foundation in place and creating even more relevant opportunities to engage with the millions of customers who interact with McDonald’s every day around the world.”
Previously, Rafiq served as a senior-level manager in the technology sector for nearly 20 years, including as general manager for Kindle Direct Publishing for Amazon.com and as general manager for Yahoo’s Y! Local division.
Before he worked for Yahoo! and Amazon, Rafiq led a venture-capital-backed company and also held positions with AOL and Goldman Sachs. Over the course of his career, Rafiq has consulted with many Silicon Valley startups dealing with mobile commerce, social media, online communities and local commerce.
His hiring comes at a time of transition for McDonald’s, which announced the retirement last month of Neil Golden , chief marketing officer for McDonald’s USA. As industry observers have contemplated the next direction McDonald’s would take under Easterbrook and Kevin Newell, the chief brand and strategy officers for McDonald’s USA, several have identified digital marketing as a major opportunity  for McDonald’s to grow sales or take market share from quick-service competitors.
After meeting with Thompson in late September, securities analyst Jason West of Deutsche Bank speculated that a robust digital solution from McDonald’s, including capabilities for mobile ordering and payments, plus mobile loyalty, might launch nationwide in the next 12 months.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain so far has disclosed a test of mobile payments  in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas, but has not indicated a timeline for any nationwide rollout of a more comprehensive platform. Franchisees operating more than 400 units in the Midwest and East Coast have begun testing the mobile-loyalty app Front Flip .
McDonald’s officials have said repeatedly throughout 2013 that defending and growing its market share of an informal-eating-out market likely to contract would be a major priority. Through Aug. 31, McDonald’s Corp.’s same-store sales had risen 0.4 percent compared with the first eight months of 2012, including a 0.2-percent increase in the United States.
McDonald’s Corp. operates or franchises more than 34,000 restaurants around the world, including more than 14,000 locations in the United States.