The sharing economy has taught us that customers crave experiences, not things. This isn’t just a platitude; it’s evidence of a significant trend in spending behavior–especially among millennials. And to stay ahead of the game, marketers need to shift their strategies accordingly.
The good news is that advertising is no longer limited to buying ads and renting billboards. Those tactics simply sell products. On social media, however, marketers can move beyond one-sided interactions and create lasting experiences that engage customers across multiple platforms.
That may seem tough to do, but leading food and beverage brands like McDonald’s, Red Bull, and Domino’s have already mastered the art of building customer experiences that keep audiences coming back for more.
Here are three top-notch customer experience strategies you can steal from them.
1. Use Customer Insights to Deliver What People Love
It’s hard to create a unified customer experience when your brand has over 36,000 locations, 28,000 social accounts, and 60 social mentions per minute. That’s the challenge McDonald’s faced in 2015.
The company saw an opportunity to delight customers by offering the Egg McMuffin all day long–instead of just for breakfast. But before they could make this change across 14,000 US locations, they needed to be sure customers were on board.
By partnering with Sprinklr, McDonald’s was able to sift through social conversations dating all the way back to 2008, and pinpoint mentions of all-day breakfast. Once they saw that demand was out there, they prepared to launch their All Day Breakfast campaign.
The brand began by messaging the first person who ever tweeted about wanting McDonald’s breakfast 24/7.
— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015
McDonald’s then sent 12,000 personalized tweets directly to its customers, instead of just shouting its news to the masses.
— Owen De la Cruz (@OwenDLC) October 6, 2015
McDonald’s didn’t need to put up a big billboard or pay for social ads. It just needed to listen to the voice of the customer and use insights to offer something people love.
2. Promote the Culture, Not the Product
If Red Bull just promoted an energy drink, it wouldn’t have 47 million Facebook followers and 5.8 million YouTube subscribers. Just look at similar brands like 5-Hour Energy and Rockstar, which have much smaller social followings.
Red Bull set itself apart by moving beyond the label of a “beverage brand” and transforming into a full-blown media company. It built an entire culture around extreme sports and high-octane stunts, offering thrilling and inspiring customer experiences across multiple platforms. Oh, and it happens to sell energy drinks.
Take Red Bull TV, for example. The brand launched its own Netflix-like hub of original sports, music, and adventure content. Recent top picks include the snowboarding film, “The Art of Flight,” and “Who is JOB?” a series that takes you around the world with pro surfer Jamie O’Brien.
Red Bull TV even became the first branded content channel to stream on Apple TV. Meaning, it’s right up there with other apps like HBO GO and ESPN.
The company also launches livestreamed events like the historic Red Bull Stratos campaign. In October 2012, skydiver Felix Baumgartner broke records for the highest and fastest freefall jump when he lept from “the edge of space,” 24 miles above land. The adrenaline-pumping event was livestreamed, and it all happened in Red Bull’s name. It also broke the record for the most-watched livestream in YouTube history, with roughly 8 million people tuning in at the same time.
The highlights video on Red Bull’s YouTube channel now has 41 million views and counting:
Red Bull doesn’t have to tell people that their energy drinks are good. Instead, they show them what high-energy adventures look like, and inspire them to create exciting experiences of their own.
3. Make Life Easier for Them With New Technology
Ordering pizza is pretty easy to do. But Domino’s found a way to make it even easier. In May 2015, the brand became the first to let people place an order with an emoji. All customers needed was a Dominos.com account and a saved Easy Order. Then they could just tweet or text an emoji to the pizza company, and receive their order in 30 minutes.
Thousands of people ordered with emojis on the first day, and over 500 people signed up for an account to take part in the fun. The campaign also earned 1.2 billion media impressions, and press attention from Jimmy Fallon, The Today Show, TIME, and Good Morning America. Ellen DeGeneres even used emojis to order pizzas for her live studio audience.
This new ordering system didn’t stand alone, either. It was part of the Domino’s AnyWare initiative, which enabled customers to place orders via Smart TVs, Apple Watch, Ford Sync, Google Home, and Amazon Echo.
— Domino's Pizza (@dominos) May 20, 2015
This venture helped prove that Domino’s cares about the customer experience and is willing to take risks to delight its audiences. The brand essentially changed the language of online ordering. It allowed customers to use trendy graphics–emojis–to place an order without leaving their their Twitter feed or text app.
To put a cherry (or pepperoni, maybe?) on top, it also encourages customers to associate the oft-used pizza emoji with Domino’s, and not with a competitor like Pizza Hut or Papa John’s.
Provide Your Audience With Memorable Experiences
Customer experience isn’t just about offering great service–though that is important. It’s about building a community that keeps customers engaged, even after they’ve made a purchase. It’s about showing people that you’re not just out to push a sale; you’re committed to helping them improve their lives.
Take these lessons from McDonald’s, Red Bull, and Domino’s. Use data to understand what your audiences want. “Wow” your customers with new technologies. And be the voice of your culture, not just your products. So when people go looking for great experiences, they’ll find your brand, and they won’t be disappointed.
The author, Ben Waldron, is a former journalist and PR professional, who joined the Content Marketing team in 2016 as Associate Editor.