How To Promote Your eCommerce Referral Program

Tags: eCommerce
By Gavin Write
Two Men Shopping At A Clothing Store Promoted by an eCommerce Referral Program

A referral program is designed to offer incentives to a customer who refers your product to someone else. The incentive is usually awarded after a referral leads to a successful sale.

Referral programs are effective because they’re based on trust (the most important tool for sales), cost-effective, easy to automate, and let you offer a personalized buying experience to your customers.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can turn your referral program into a giant using social media. And this giant will be very scary for your competitors.

But before that, keep in mind that any referral program marketing you do must be a part of an existing social media marketing strategy. You can’t just wake up one day and start bombarding your customers with sleazy referral program ads.

So if you already have a good social media strategy in place, here’s how you can use it to boost your referral program. 

1. Begin By Reclaiming Lost Customers

Two Women At A Coffee Shop Looking At A Smart Phone Promotion of Referral Program

Referral programs depend on volume. The more referrers you can gain, the more successful your program will be. It takes time and effort to gain new customers. But retargeting customers who have already interacted with your social media in some way is a bit easier. Reclaiming lost customers is a quick way to breathe life into your referral program.

Facebook Retargeting ads are a good place to start, which allow you to target customers who:

  • Follow your Facebook page 

  • Given you their email address (as leads or customers)

  • Interacted with a Facebook event you created 

  • Visited your eCommerce store and performed certain actions on it - this is a great way to retarget "abandon cart customers"

While creating a retargeted ad, you can combine your referral program with a sense of urgency to not only reclaim old customers, but also have them spread the word about your brand.


2. Known Where Your Customers Hang Out 

It’s not necessary to use only Facebook retargeting ads. If your customers hang out on Twitter, go for Twitter remarketing. If they chill on Reddit, use Reddit Ads Pixel Retargeting. Remember, referral programs depend on sharing — and your goal is to make it extremely easy and natural for your customers. This means targeting customers in their natural habitat.

If you’re running a referral promotion on your website, make sure to offer at least two to three social sharing options. This lets customers choose the platform they deem the best.

It’s also a good idea to pre-write sharing messages (but leave enough room for personalization). Again, this makes sharing easy. When writing personalization messages for referrers, remember to follow platform conventions. For example, Twitter and Facebook messages can be informal while LinkedIn messages need to be professional. If you’re going after Instagram and Pinterest, your messages should be visual-heavy. And Canva is a great tool for that.

Mention and Google Analytics are two excellent tools for finding where your customers hang out. Google Analytics lets you see the social media platforms your visitors are coming from. And Mention alerts you every time your business is mentioned on the web.


3. Try To Come Up With An Irresistible Referral Offer

Gentleman In Glasses Holding Credit Card of Referral Program Offer Standing Inside a Retail Store

Irresistible offers are the backbone for any marketing channel. But they are even more important when it comes to social media referral programs.

That’s because social media is all about going viral. Sure, it’s great to gain one extra customer via a referral. But keeping the referral chain alive and gaining hundreds of additional customers is even better. And for that, your referral offer needs to be as attractive as possible.

Perhaps the greatest example of an extremely attractive referral offer is Tesla. At one point, they were basically giving a free car if you referred their products to a friend. But of course, this wasn’t sustainable in the long run, which is why Tesla had to redesign their referral program nine times.

Plus, it’s easy to go big on referral incentives. That’s because unlike other marketing channels, referral programs allow you to pre-calculate the exact cost of gaining a new customer. So you know exactly how much you can stretch your referral offer and we suggest stretching it to the maximum.


4. Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

Referral programs can be personalized on multiple levels. And since social media is all about personalization, a personalized referral experience makes your efforts more effective. For starters, you can have the referrer's name show up on the landing page that their friends are directed to. You can also have the referrer’s message and profile picture show up on the landing page. Landing pages with human photos are more likely to win a user’s trust and convert them into a customer (and hopefully a referrer).

Another layer of personalization has to do with segmenting your customer list. Not all customers are the same — so it’s a good idea to create specific referral program ads for different types of customers.

You can track the buying habits of regular customers and target them whenever a new product they might like is added. Similarly, you can target another group of customers with ads about price drops for an item they were checking out. Of course, all of these ads will not only pitch your products but also your referral program.

Finally, creating tiered referral programs for your most loyal customers is a good way to take personalization to the next level. This is where you keep increasing the reward as customers climb up the loyalty ladder.


5. Don't Forget Email

If you thought emails can’t be used to promote a referral program, think again. Cold emails might not be the best channel for this, but confirmation emails provide an excellent opportunity for upselling.

After a customer orders a product off your store, you send them an order confirmation email. This is an excellent time to upsell and pitch your referral program to them (although subtly).

For example, you can say Item X is frequently purchased with what you ordered. And you can avail a 50% discount on it if you refer it to a friend. Or something along those lines. You get the idea. Sometimes, customers might not notice your referral offer in a confirmation email. So you can follow it up with an email entirely dedicated to your referral offer.

It’s a good idea to send referral offer emails multiple times to ensure your customers don’t miss it. But don’t overdo it lest you start annoying your customers and your emails start landing in the spam folder!


To Sum It Up…

Make sure you integrate social media referral promotion into an existing digital marketing framework. You begin by trying to retarget customers and get them to kickstart your referral program marketing on social media.

The next step is to create an irresistible referral offer (like the free car that Tesla used to give). Next, personalize the entire referral experience as much as you can. Also make it very easy for customers to refer your products — nobody’s going to do it if it feels like a chore (unless you’re really giving out a free car).

Finally, remember to promote and upsell your referral program through confirmation emails. Unlike cold emails, users look forward to confirmation emails, making them an excellent marketing channel. Good luck!

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