Most Creative Customer Engagement Moments of 2018

Sam Langrock Dec 17, 2018

With the year coming to a close it’s time to take a look back at some of our favorite customer engagement moments of 2018, and how these strategies can influence the tactics that will lead to marketing success in 2019. From Starbucks to Nike to the Montreal Canadiens, keep reading to learn about the companies that impressed us the most over the last 365 days.


Since we’re talking about some of the most creative customer engagement moments of 2018, we must begin with Starbucks and the performance they’ve put up over the last year. In a report by QSR Magazine, on which restaurant chains have the most loyal customers, Starbucks took the pole position. The comprehensive rankings were based on customer frequency, penetration, share of wallet, and fanaticism threshold. However, even more impressive was the incredible numbers their rewards program put up. The company reported 15.1 million active Starbucks Rewards members, a 14% year-over-year increase! In addition, this growth drove a 40% increase in U.S. sales, and for the cherry on top (of the frappuccino) spend per member increased in the “mid-single digits”. Since there are too many creative customer engagement examples from Starbucks to pick from, we’ll just crown them the most impressive company when it comes to customer interactions.


Incentivizing customers to download and use an app

One trend we took notice of earlier this year was the number of companies, oftentimes restaurants, who were offering utility, for downloading their app, in the form of free and discounted product. The fight for mobile customers is becoming a crowded battlefield. However, while the app market is a tenuous one in many respects, restaurants are finding the opportunity to be a lucrative outlet when leveraged properly. According to a report from Quettra, within 90 days of being downloaded, the average app loses 95% of its active user base. This has prompted the rise of creative strategies to get customers to download an app, and even more importantly continue using the app.

Here are some of our favorite brand examples from the past year:


According to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, customer adoption for their mobile app is “pretty low”. To combat this issue McDonald’s ran a promotion where they gave away a free order of fries on Fridays, as long as customers had spent at least $1 through their mobile app. Incentivizing customer actions with delicious french fries is definitely a strategy we can get behind.

Einstein Bros.

On August 15th, Einstein Bros. Bagels ran a promotion where customers could receive a free bagel. The only catch was that, in order to receive the free bagel, customers had to show at least one restaurant app downloaded on their smartphone. It could be Starbucks, McDonald’s, Chipotle, whatever — as long as the customer had a restaurant app downloaded they were walking out of Einstein with a free bagel and probably a smile (you’d smile too if you got a free bagel). While Money proclaimed this as the weirdest promotion ever, we see it as a creative idea for Einstein to influence consumers to download and use their app.

Hwy 55

Using days such as National Cheeseburger Day, National Hot Dog Day and others to promote purchases through mobile channels is a smart strategy. Our friends at Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries have employed this strategy to great effect. For National Cheeseburger Day, Hwy 55 offered half off all burger combos, which only required customers to show they’d downloaded the Hwy 55 app.

What’s the importance behind getting customers to download and repeatedly use a company’s app? Mobile for restaurants is very similar to how ecommerce works for retailers, and the wonderful thing about this channel is that companies are guaranteed to learn valuable insights each time a customer makes a purchase. When did they open the app? What did they buy? What location did they go to? All of this information can be used to fuel more meaningful interactions.


Merging the digital with the physical

Nike opened their first Nike Live concept store in July, on Melrose Avenue, in the heart of Los Angeles’ West Hollywood neighborhood. Unlike other Nike stores, this one is filled with products that local customers frequently purchase. Data from online purchases is used to inform the different products that the store stocks, creating a personalized and unique store in each location in which Nike sets up shop. To provide an even more personalized approach, customers can use their app to come in and try on pre-reserved shoes, the app even enables them to open the locker the shoes are stashed in. Consultations with Nike staff can also be booked to ensure customers walk out with the perfect running shoe.

Additionally, Nike opened the doors to their new flagship store in Manhattan. While the store in and of itself is news, the aspect drawing the most attention, the 5th floor, is exclusive to Nike+ members. This floor will be home to special gear, events and and one-on-one assessments by Nike experts. Membership for Nike+ is free, but the creation of this exclusive floor provides a strong incentive for those that are not a member to become one. Getting customers to lean in and identify themselves is a difficult hurdle to clear. However, when done correctly it equips companies with the information necessary to provide the kind of engagements that lead to stronger and more profitable customer relationships.

Exclusivity has changed in the marketing world, and for good reason. In the past, customers had to pay to be part of a company’s ‘VIP’ program. Nowadays the loyalty and rewards programs that are finding the most success have a reciprocal value exchange. This is due in large part to the willingness of customers to give up information about their habits, preferences and behaviors in order to receive personalized offers, recommendations and experiences.


Surprise and Delight

One of the most heartwarming customer engagement stories from the past year came from Twitter. The Montreal Canadiens professional hockey team posted a tweet on November 1st asking fans, “Now that Halloween’s over… What’s everyone asking Santa for this year?” What happens next is the real magic. One fan replied to the tweet asking for the jersey of his favorite player, Max Domi. Not only did the Canadiens provide the fan with the jersey, but they even had Domi autograph it before sending the fan a picture with the message to “Check your DMs”. The Canadiens also gave out free tickets to several lucky fans, including one fan who had to first donate to their Movember page, and another who had to add some bleu-blanc-rouge to their header photo. While this didn’t take a crazy technological feat to accomplish, Montreal showed providing a little love for their fans goes a long way in creating truly meaningful relationships.

That’s a wrap on our favorite customer engagement stories of 2018! If there’s one thing we learned over the past year,  it’s that the companies willing to provide value and utility for purchases and engagement will foster more and more positive customer interactions.