Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I've not seen so much excitement since McDonald's started serving fresh beef. Finally.

Yes, this was a mere business deal.

It was, though, the largest deal the burger chain had participated in since self-driving cars were but a figment in strange nerds' minds.

Many speculated what McDonald's would do, now that it had bought Dynamic Yield and its, um, dynamic personalization platform.

This was the dawn, experts declared, of a new, more intimate breakfast.

It was the herald of an exciting new, warm drive-thru' experience.

Which is, of course, almost as pulsating as discovering the ice-cream machine at your local McDonald's actually works now.

Isn't there, though, a larger notion behind this purchase?

Think back to 2009 and one of the wisest things ever done by an aspiring politician.

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, may not enjoy being called a billionaire. He prefers "person of means."

(Which rather made him a person of memes.)

Yet he became a billionaire partly because he realized all those years ago how powerful apps would be.

They would begin to collect so much information about what cusustomers bought, where, when and how often.

An app would allow the coffee chain to have a completely different -- and, yes, more personal -- relationship with its customers.

The first Starbucks app only worked on iPhones. It only worked in 16 stores. 

Now, it's so widely used that it's caused Starbucks considerable customer service issues.

Yet it's a core part of the chain's success. It now works in all the stores. It's now the primary point of contact for so many customers.

McDonald's, on the other hand, launched its first app in, oh, 2015. In San Diego. 

The burger chain has long consisted of a vast number of franchises that know little to nothing about the people who walk through their doors.

They turn them over and churn them out. Any data generated seems to be shoveled into a vast cavern from which precious few new ideas emerge.

It's quaintly retrograde.

Yes, McDonald's has started to insert touchscreen ordering and other technological advances.

But honestly, how many times do you go to McDonald's and think it a warm, personal experience? Compare that with your local Starbucks.

If anything, some of the technological "advances" have made it even less personal.

So buying Dynamic Yield isn't about making the drive-thru more personal or about helping your local McDonald's offer you something a little more you.

It's about understanding that customers are ever less tolerant and expect greater sophistication from retailers.

When your business depends on tiny shifts in margin in one direction or another, every last element of information can contribute to progress and profit.

Just ask that famous person of means, Howard Schultz.

Published on: Apr 6, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.