Referral program ideas

15+ Referral Program Ideas to Acquire more Customers

In today’s time, gaining new customers is costly, and that’s why most eCommerce stores launch a friend program to acquire new customers using their existing customers.

Referral marketing statistics show that customers you acquire through referral activities are most likely to be reliable and returning customers because they believe in recommendations from their peers.

Due to constantly evolving marketing trends, you need to continually develop new referral program ideas to be unique and avoid getting lost in the competition.

So, to help you out, we have compiled some of the best referral program ideas that can amplify your brand message and gain you more customers.

15+ Best Referral Program Ideas That You Should Consider

1. Use the right Referral app.

Use the right Referral app

One of the key ideas to launch a refer a friend campaign is to use the right app to run a referral program. It will become easier to manage when you have the right app for a referral campaign.

So, the best refer a friend program idea would be to pick an automated app that can track all the referral activities and give rewards to both the referral and the referrers.

To make it more attractive, you can offer different discounts as incentives such as

  • Percentage discount
  • Flat amount discount
  • Free Shipping discount

For instance, if your store has a large volume of overseas customers, you can allow free shipping as a referral reward and stimulate more referrals. It will further let you minimize cart abandonment.

2. Craft a catchy headline

The next campaign idea is to compose an enticing headline for your refer a friend campaign that immediately resonates with your audience. Your referral headline is important as it is the first visible thing for your customers. So you have to ensure that it must be catchy, simple, and memorable. Primarily, it must state what customers will get from the program. 

For example, here is a Referral program example from On running; their headline states, “Friends that run together, stay together,” this can undoubtedly trigger customers into taking action.

Headlines like these can stimulate emotions to touch your customers, enable them to make a move, and motivate them. Some more headline examples that drive customers to take action,

  • Refer, and you shall receive
  • Give 50% off. Get 50% off
  • Get $50 by showing your friends some love
  • Get $50 for every friend you refer
  • Tell your friends and you both get $20
  • Give $100, Get $100 for Yourself

Remember your headline should be minimalistic and straightforward. 

3. Know when to ask your customers

This idea emphasizes the value of time. You must learn when to ask your consumers for a referral; you might be considered annoying if you do it too soon. An irritating sales associate will not get any conversions. So, you must ask for a referral at the right time if you desire to refer to a friend campaign to succeed. Now the question is, what is the right time?

The right time to ask for referrals is when the customer is most involved with your brand or happy with your service. Search for those customers who’ve just finished their purchase or subscribed to your newsletter. Then, the next step is to target your refer friend campaign ads to these customers because they’ve just been converted.

According to referral marketing statistics, post-purchase messages have the highest conversion rate, so your customers’ possibilities of referring to their friends after completing a purchase will be increased.

4. Design an enticing landing page

The next referral program idea is to create a landing page that converts/motivates your customers to refer their friends. A landing page is crucial and effective, but most eCommerce stores don’t comprehend the referral landing page importance. Instead, they simply display a Video popups or a block in the storefront to inform customers about their referral program.

Now, the problem with popup/block is that they won’t solve customers queries, and customers will remain confused regarding your refer a friend campaign.

So, having a separate landing page is crucial because you can show all the required information that your customers might need. For instance, although their headline is bold and straightforward, Decathlon conveys the program’s value right away. Their headline includes a “How it works” tutorial to let customers understand what they have to do, refer their friends, and earn rewards.

You can further use attractive images to let customers know what your referral program is all about. As we all agree with the fact that images engage with customers better than text, so use compelling images to get customers excited to refer to their friends. Sometimes, you can also employ images to break up a paragraph, making it more comfortable for the customer to read it.

Keep in mind that the best referral program ideas are to maintain a separate landing page for your refer a friend campaign instead of using a popup if you want to encourage conversions.

5. Make use of Social gifting.

Make use of Social gifting

We all love gifts, right? So, use this feeling in your Referral program through Social gifting. Social gifting is like a one-sided incentive. In social gifting, only the referred customer(friend) earns a reward, and the referrer will not be awarded anything. Many eCommerce stores have been proposing social gifting as a reward for now.

Customers like this reward when they desire to gift their friends or loved ones without expecting anything in return. It gives you a friendly feeling and minimizes the awkwardness of referring to someone to earn a reward.

 Social gifting lowers the awkwardness and gives your customers a chance to share your brand wholeheartedly, making the referral more meaningful.

6. Make sure people can find your program.

Now comes the most crucial part that you need to consider. What if your customers can’t see it, or your promotional methods cannot take you to refer a friend campaign to consumers?

Most eCommerce stores are unaware that they refer to a friend campaign to be promoted. They believe that their customers know about the referral program. But this is why many referral programs fail because they do not promote it properly.

 Once your referral program is active on your website, make sure you use all possible channels to get the word out to the customers. Here are some ways that most stores employ to promote their refer a friend campaign.

  • Use a widget or a website popup
  • Homepage of your store
  • Send email newsletters
  • Send a mail to your potential customers
  • Display the program on your header
  • Mention it on your about us page, blog page, and landing pages.
  • Transactional emails
  • Write blog posts about your referral program
  • Display it on your Social media

For instance, Bombas introduced a referral program to its members that helped them promote their campaign to a whole new level. 

7. Make the referral process easy.

One of the primary reasons for the failure of many eCommerce referral programs is the process. Therefore, making the process easier is the best way to engage customers. Most eCommerce often don’t realize that the problem with their referral is their complex referral process. So, streamline your referral process, making it more straightforward for customers to refer their friends. You must ensure that your customer refers to their friends within 2 clicks; if it goes beyond that, the customer will abandon your program.

For instance, dropbox. A customer has to enter his friend’s email address and click” Send” to refer to their friends. Then referral links will be sent to his friend. Here are a few more things to remember while planning your referral program,

  • Incorporate social sharing links
  • Provide a little tutorial on how the process works to eradicate confusion
  • Send referral links to every customer so that they can share them effortlessly
  • Don’t incorporate additional navigation
  • Avoid employing long forms. Keep the forms short and enable auto-fill.

A complicated referral process will irritate the customer and push them away from the store. So, keep it straightforward to refer customers and boost your conversions.

8. Offer mystery gift as a reward

Offer mystery gift as a reward

We all get enthusiastic when we watch a movie for the first time. First, it drives us to the edge of our seats to know what will happen. Then, eventually, the climax arrives, and we all get satisfied. Curiosity is a compelling persuasion strategy. But, unfortunately, you can only make consumers interested in a referral program by offering mystery gifts as a reward.

Mystery gifts will encourage your customers to participate in your referral program and get new customers to your store.

You can notice that only “Free Gift” is mentioned and not its name. This is because it will make them curious to test your referral program. The only point here is that the mystery gift must resonate with your customer, so get to know about buyer personas, look at their purchase/search history, and reward the appropriate gift.

Rewarding the right gifts to customers will make this process healthy and come back for more.

So, leverage the power of curiosity and get them enthusiastic with mystery gifts and earn more referrals using this referral campaign idea.

9. Offer higher incentives for maiden referrals.

Offer higher incentives

Among all the above referral program ideas this is relatively new and one of the creative ways to increase referrals.

Most referral programs present the same rewards to both the referrer and the referral, and it isn’t even considered if it is the maiden one. This strategy is helpful, but you can further enhance it by simply offering a higher reward to the referral visiting your store for the first time. You can also provide higher rewards to your existing customer referred for the first time.

For instance, instead of giving 10% off for every referral, you can offer 30% off for the maiden referral and 5% off subsequent ones. Giving higher rewards for the first referral will encourage the customer to participate in the refer a friend campaign and keep providing you referrals.

10. Offer tiered rewards/points system.

If you are offering the same rewards for a vast number of referrals, your consumers will probably get bored and quit your refer-a-friend campaign. It would be best to make it exciting by changing your reward strategy and this is where a tiered rewards or points system comes into the picture.

This referral program idea can introduce multiple levels just like a game instead of offering the same rewards. Once the customer has reached a certain number of referrals, he gets upgraded to the next level. The next level has different and better rewards than the previous level, and levels keep rising and rising. It will create a competitive spirit among the customers.

Now they’ll spontaneously get in more referrals to go to the next level and gain better rewards. So customers get the rewards, and you get the referrals; no one is irritated or bored in this system, a win-win situation.

Many online companies opt for this strategy to make their customers excited and gain more customers. One such example is Harry’s.  Harry’s introduced a tiered reward system. So as the customers refer their friends, the rewards get more useful and better as they move up the level.

11. Seasonal/event referral campaigns

A great way to captivate customers for your referral program is to launch a seasonal or event-related contest or campaign. For instance, Papa John’s is well-known for offering discounts on its pizzas on game days. Sometimes, they’ll show special bonuses if you refer a friend who purchases a pizza in football season.

Rocket Mortgage recently ran a squares contest during the Super Bowl in which registrants began with one square but could get an additional square for every friend they referred—with a maximum of ten.

12. Patient referral programs

Businesses that operate with patients like dentists and chiropractors are sometimes restricted to what they can do in terms of referral programs. If allowing a discount isn’t an option due to insurance entanglements and whatnot, try giving out a gift card—maybe even to a neighboring business across the street! 

13. Run a Referral contest

Ecommerce customers cherish contests, which is why many major eCommerce stores like Amazon and Alibaba keep running contests to engage with their customers better.

You can utilize the same tactic, run a referral contest, and present great prizes. It is one of the innovative ways to enhance referrals and make people talk about your brand more.

Since it is a game, there must be few rewards only, prizes for the winner with the most referrals. Therefore, you can utilize this tactic to get more customers, subscribers, social media followers, and more.

Huckberry ran one such Referral contest, but the smart thing that Huckberry did was not the prizes but the time limit. So yes, there is an expiry date for this referral contest, this makes sense of urgency among the customer, which lets them act swiftly, and it is one of the innovative ways to increase referrals.

Remember, only show a few prizes to boost the demand and make the content available only for a restricted time to generate the FOMO. Using this Referral campaign idea, you can get more conversions through your referral contest.

14. Reward for a social cause

Lately, this referral marketing idea has become prevalent due to the pandemic.  In this,  instead of giving discounts or monetary rewards, you can ask consumers to refer their friends, and for every referral, you will donate to the charity on their behalf. You can efficiently foster loyalty and strengthen your brand image by contributing to society. People love to support those in need, and you can let your customers help others through referrals.

Customers will be motivated to bring in new customers because they understand that their efforts can help the ones in need. This Refer a friend program idea is the best way to gain more customers for your eCommerce store.

15. Holiday referral offers

Holiday referral offers

The holiday season is the most prevalent for shopping. Starting with Black Friday and through to Christmas and New Year, consumers are emptying their wallets for gifts, winter items, and more. So it’s a great time to get new customers! Huckberry, an ecommerce site, conducted a short referral contest before the holiday season, allowing referrers to win a first-class ticket home with a pack of Huckberry swag to boot!

While this is a big-ticket item, you can effortlessly do the same by offering referrers a unique holiday-themed product or mini service for referring another customer to your business during the holiday season. 

16. Retarget your customers

Retarget your customers

It is one of the most effective referral program ideas where you need to retarget your customers.

These customers initially get interested in your Referral activities but forget to participate in them for many reasons. Therefore, you have to reach out to these customers again. 

For instance, you visited Amazon and browsed for speakers but didn’t buy them. So, if your customer has seen your referral page and hasn’t joined your referral program, you can retarget them by showing your ads through your Facebook feeds. An Amazon ad showing the same speakers that you were looking at pops up. It is known as retargeting strategy, and you can use this same tactic for your Referral program as well.

You can do this on Facebook, not only Facebook, but you can also retarget your customers on your website. For instance, you can show a popup about your referral activities to that particular customer and persuade them to take part in it.

Wrapping up

If you like your referral program to keep going and get more customers, you need to include new tactics and innovate them. Many businesses are following a few clever referral program ideas to be ahead of the competition; now it’s your turn.


Shivani is a content writer at InviteReferrals. She writes SEO articles, blogs, and guest posts for businesses to improve website ranking on SERP. She follows a balanced approach for the quality of content and its marketing. She loves to do creativity, although she had an English major in her graduation.