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3 ways to introduce a Referral Program to your ecommerce customers

Referral programs.

Two words that every eCommerce business should know.


Because a referral marketing program can help you stay ahead of the competition and help you bring more sales.

And it can help you get value without having to spend thousands of dollars in tactics that most of the time, don’t work.

In this article, we are going to see why referral programs work along with three powerful tactics you can use to introduce a referral program to your eCommerce customers.


Let’s dive right in!

referral marketing guide

Why does it work?

We all know that referral marketing works.

It performs better than any other marketing tactic or channel.

People are more likely to buy a product or service that is referred to them by a person they know.

It’s a universal human trait.

But, you are probably wondering why this is happening and when it started.

I will share with you one of the most famous examples.

It all started in the US of the 50’s, with the popular Tupperware parties.

Tupperware parties were hosted mostly by women, at that time, and were simple social gatherings where the host did a presentation of Tupperware’s products.

After the presentation, the guests – who were mostly neighbors and friends – were able to buy the products they liked.

And, most of the time, they did buy.

Keep in mind that everyone in the room knew that the host is going to get a commission out of the sales she is going to make.

But, still, everyone had to buy something.

The reason is simple.

It was referred by a person they knew, liked, and trusted. Almost 70 years later, referrals still work like a charm.

In fact, 84% of people from 60 countries say that they trust recommendations from friends and family.

Now, consider it this way: Your eCommerce customers know people who like them and trust them. And you want those people to know about your online store and your products.

You can’t do it with a party/gathering anymore; instead, you may use a referral marketing program to drive referred sales.

Let’s look at three ways you can introduce a referral program to your eCommerce customers.

3 ways to introduce a Referral Program to your ecommerce customers:

  1. Build a dedicated landing page.
  2. Setup email campaigns.
  3. Leverage Messenger as a marketing channel.

1. Build a dedicated landing page.

Although landing pages are presented as a way to introduce a referral program for your eCommerce, you have to understand that it’s an absolute must-have.

A landing page allows you the opportunity to have one central location where customers and visitors can get all the essential info about your referral program. The goal of your landing page for it should be to show/reveal the value of joining the referral program to your future ambassadors, upfront. 

Let’s see an example of a great landing page introducing a referral marketing program from an excellent eCommerce brand, Unicorn Snot.

The landing page asked people to join a waitlist (the Call-to-action was very clear) for an upcoming product. As you may have guessed, the purpose of the landing page was for people to share their email.

If they did, then they received an email when the product would be available.

In this particular campaign, could Unicorn Snot ask for a referral right away?

The answer is no.

They didn’t know that a potential customer was ready to refer their campaign to their – let’s say – friends unless there was a connection between them and the company.

That connection happens the moment someone gives their email. When visitors gave their email, they were redirected to the following Thank You page:

On this page, they were asked – and could – share this campaign with their friends.

As you may have guessed, many of the people who signed up shared one of the referral links with their friends.

48% of them did.

So, it is evident by now that building a dedicated landing page is a great way to kickstart your referral marketing program.

After you’re done creating your landing page, you must bring traffic to it. You can start by linking it in important places on your store’s website- sidebar, footer, top menu, etc.


  1. Build a landing page.
  2. Show/reveal the value of joining the referral program.
  3. Have a clear Call-to-action.
  4. Ask for referrals on the ‘Thank you’ page- on the same page; you can also remind people about the prizes.
  5. Place the landing page in important places on your eCommerce store.

2. Setup email campaigns.

The second way to introduce a referral marketing program to your eCommerce customers is by email.

Most eCommerce businesses will tell you that email isn’t working anymore or that they haven’t managed to monetize their subscriber list yet.

This is happening because they are too sales-y.

They bombard their audience with promotions and offers and don’t add real value to their lives.

To be clear here, I am not saying that sending promotions and offers occasionally is wrong.

All I’m saying is that overdoing it will harm your brand’s image and that your efforts won’t pay off.

An essential aspect of making successful email marketing efforts is segmentation. The more you know about your customers, the better. Their purchase history can give you excellent inside in their buying habits, and it can make your life easier.

Depending on the rewards you offer, you want to be able to control who’s going to be informed about the referral program. 

e.g., Pitching a referral program offering women accessories to teenage boys won’t make the cut.

Also, you shouldn’t introduce a referral program to email subscribers who are inactive or don’t bother opening your Emails.

What you have to do is establish some benchmarks.

You can do this by start monitoring the performance of your email campaigns.

If you are using an email marketing service provider like MailChimp, you can easily do that with their easy-to-use reporting system:

Monitoring the performance of your past campaigns will help you identify trends and realize what is normal and what is not.

Once you are sure about what is typical for your eCommerce business, you can make a segment of your subscribers and introduce your referral program.

For example, based on your past data, you might choose to introduce your referral marketing program to people who opened and clicked the last 5 Emails you sent.

This way, you validate the idea that these people might want to see your referral program.

Or, you could segment your customers based on their Lifetime Value and introduce your referral marketing program to those with the highest Lifetime Value.

Keep in mind that you have to offer something that will be tempting and that – at the same time – will feel easy to achieve.

Women shoes Shopify store ZOOSHOO, ask their Email subscribers to refer a friend and get $10 for every order above $40 placed by their friends.

Imagine if for this exact campaign ZOOSHOO would say:

“Get $10 for every order above $400 placed by your friends.”

Would anyone bother sharing the link with their friends?

Probably no.

Thus, if you choose to run such a campaign, use metrics like your AOV (Average Order Value) to determine the right amount.

It is of paramount importance that is all referral campaigns; people always ask:

“What’s in it for me?”

So if you want to make it right, give them a reason to refer your products.

Another great idea for utilizing email as a way to introduce your eCommerce’s referral marketing program comes from Morning Brew. Even though Morning Brew is not an eCommerce brand/store, their use of email marketing combined with referral marketing is at least notable- after all, they built an audience of 1.5 million subscribers with their strategy.

Since they are sending daily emails to their readers, they decided to incorporate a section dedicated to their referral inside all of their newsletters.

From there, the readers could directly share the referral program with their friends/network.

3. Leverage Messenger as a marketing channel.

With 88% open rates and 56% click-through rates, Messenger is one of the most powerful marketing channels.

Ecommerce businesses are using it for several use cases:

  1. Automate conversations with their audience across touchpoints
  2. Send auto-replies to Facebook post comments
  3. Segment their Messenger audience and send highly-targeted campaigns
  4. Recover their abandoned shopping carts
Messenger is one of the most unexploited marketing channels up to date. This is why it’s so powerful.
And this is why you should use it to introduce your referral marketing program to your eCommerce customers.
If you don’t have a Messenger audience, you can build one by running a referral giveaway specifically targeting people on Facebook.
They created their referral campaign and announced it via a Facebook post.

Important Note: 

Facebook Posts linked to this Growth tool should not prompt people to leave a comment with a specific keyword. It should open up a conversation. In a different case, Facebook will probably give a low-quality score to your post, which would bring a significant drop in its reach.

Since Mastic Spa built an initial audience on Messenger, they used this new channel for promoting their future referral marketing campaigns or offers.

This is the real power of Messenger, and this is how you can use it for your referral marketing program.

Before you go.

Like with every other marketing tactic, you have to cross-promote for maximum impact.

By the use of the three tactics we mentioned, you can introduce a referral program to your eCommerce customers for maximum engagement.

Keep in mind that you always have to give first to ask for something in exchange.

Good luck!


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