Understand the tactics behind the 5 kinds of referral campaigns they use to:
- Grow their customer base via their existing high-quality customers.
- Increase the adoption rate of new features.
- Launch in new markets.
Revolut is one of the first Fintech companies that disrupted the banking industry, and it may be the largest in the market.
It started as a solution to the hefty fees one must pay when traveling and transferring money internationally. However, their current product offerings include many more solutions such as commission-free trading, cryptocurrency investing, and budgeting tools.
As of 2019, they offer bank-only products like credit after getting an official bank license in the European Central Bank. In terms of growth and marketing, they are a prime example of hyper-growth with minimal to no paid advertising based around Word-of-Mouth and referral marketing—from which we can learn a lot.
The founder Nikolay Storonsky, came with the idea while working as a financial trader for Lehman Brothers. His job embraced the expat lifestyle, which required him to travel a lot and live in many different countries—where he got familiar with spending and transferring money abroad.
During his travels, he grew frustrated with the fees he had to pay for every transaction. His financial knowledge made him realize that he was being overcharged, which he tried to solve by opening multiple accounts on large bank groups like HSBC—it didn’t work.
In 2015 he decided to build a product to travel without spending a fortune on banking fees—the outcome was Revolut. They managed to create the first prototype with a small team within two months, later describing it as “childish and buggy”.
However, as the company grew, they started identifying more problems on the banking system that gave them ideas for the features they offer today. According to Nikolay, the goal was to “offer a complete set of products that are 10x better and 10x cheaper than what’s offered by (regular) banks”.
After that, the ambition is to become a global bank that allows anyone to open a bank account within 1 minute.
Their overall marketing strategy is centred around their product, with the aim to provide something so good that customers will do the marketing for them—aka word-of-mouth.
"If you build a great product that actually solves real painful problems customers will come along, our job is to make it easier for them to recommend it to their friends, family and colleagues”
~ Revolut’s ex Head of Growth, Val Scholz
As a strategy, it proved to be beyond effective as most of their growth until 2018 was done with no paid advertising. To achieve such growth through word of mouth, Revolut's plan uses two tactics:
The focus of this case study is the latter—how Revolut grows through referral marketing. But since virality works as a catalyst of referral marketing, let’s see some examples of how their product embraces this.
Being a banking solution, Revolut’s customers interact with the company on an online and offline basis. One might use their digital card to buy a guitar online, their trading platform to hold crypto, but they will also use their physical card to buy coffee at their local cafe. With that,
Revolut's marketing focuses on creating an offline/online viral loop, where both physical and digital aspects of the product bring new users.
The first example of Revolut’s product virality is that the user experience improves if their friends are also on the platform.
Two features that illustrate that are the Bill-Splitting and Group expenses. Imagine a couple of friends, most of whom using Revolut, eating together at a table. In the end, the bill arrives, and it’s time for everyone to pay their share.
The Revolut users of the table can quickly settle their expenses by sending payment requests to each other within the platform. The rest, however, who have to settle the bill in an old-school way, will see the convenience of using Revolut, and they’ll want to take part too.
That’s where the referral program comes into play. With the motivation to join the platform, the non-users only need one little push to make the leap and sign up.
The existing users then have the incentive to get them to sign up as soon as possible since they’ll get a monetary reward in return.
The physical side of Revolut’s product is their cards. They realize the importance of design in creating sharable experiences, and that reflects in their product.
The first interaction with the card is when the user receives one in the mail. The packaging of the card is something unique and playful—it has an interesting sliding mechanism that’s like no other packaging out there—the card slides out the left as you pull to the right.
Besides that, it also has a very slick design that is nothing like that of a traditional bank. It’s an interesting item that makes one much more likely to share it with a friend and play around with it.
In doing this research, it appeared that Revolut has a very controlled and targeted referral marketing strategy where different campaigns are targeted at different customers, different times, and in different countries. Thus, the cases discussed below may differ from where you’re reading this.
Revolut has word of mouth as the center focus of their marketing—as their ex-Head of Growth said, “...customers will come along, our job is to make it easier for them to recommend it to their friends…”.
65-70% of Revolut’s traffic is through word of mouth
Let’s see how they accomplish that. Over the years, the company has used referral programs in many different ways to accomplish various different goals, so it’s more than a single referral campaign that we’ll discuss.
The overarching objective of every referral campaign is, of course, user acquisition. To better understand the strategy, we can categorize Revolut’s referral programs by these (sub) goals: Feature unlock, launch in a new market, acquire similar customers.
Acquiring more of your best customers is the most straightforward objective behind a referral marketing campaign—incentivize your best customers to invite their friends, who will most likely be similar customers to your best ones.
Revolut offers a referral link to their customers, which they can share with their friends, family & colleagues.
If the referred person, also called invitee, signs up through that link and performs certain actions, it is registered as a successful referral. In this case, the person who invited the new customer gets their reward.
Revolut offers 60€ in a 1-sided referral campaign, where the reward is only given to the inviter. The invitees, those who sign up through the referral links, receive nothing tangible for joining.
Their friends have to successfully sign up through the referral link to receive 60€ per referral.
Revolut has a fairly tedious task list to be done by the invitee before the referral is considered successful:
We identified three creative ways or growth hacks that Revolut uses to further boost the performance of this referral campaign.
After clicking the referral link, the invitee is taken to a simple page where they can sign up. Revolut effectively informs the invitee about the core value they’ll get by signing up, and it establishes trust through social proof. All without cluttering theValue proposition page with tons of information on all their features.
We can break down the page into four attributes that fuel conversions:
Around 2019 Revolut was running the referral program with a unique reward system that proved to work wonders for their daily user acquisition numbers:
2-3X daily user acquisition numbers
Similar to the campaign discussed above, Revolut offered a referral link to their customers so they could share it with their friends, family & colleagues. If the invitee signed up through that link and performed certain actions, a successful referral is registered. The twist in this campaign is that the invitee receives the reward while the inviter gets nothing tangible.
Revolut offered a physical card in a 1-sided referral campaign, where the reward is given only to the invitee—the inviters get nothing tangible in return.
This campaign seemed to be more lenient without requiring the invitee to perform any purchasing actions—all they had to do was follow the conventional onboarding:
Such a rewarding schema where the referrer offers something instead of receiving is fairly uncommon. It shows the importance of having a product so valuable that a brand’s ambassadors expect nothing for their work.
Revolut presents the campaign with clever copy that makes users feel positive about themselves—“Feeling generous?” frames the act of referring a friend as something a generous person would do, a trait most people want to be associated with.
Another strategic use for referral marketing is when releasing a new feature. Not only do you acquire more users, the overarching goal of a referral campaign, but also you increase the adoption of that feature. As a tactic, it allows a firm to get insights on how much demand exists (and from whom) for a given feature before further investments are made.
Back in 2018, Revolut released their premium subscription “Revolut Metal”. It offered a high-quality metal bank card along with many premium features, like higher cash-back, airport lounge access, and more. It was quite a big deal at the time, as more challenger banks, like N26, had started offering premium models packaged in metal cards.
To boost adoption, Revolut deployed a referral campaign to upsell existing users into the premium tier by offering them a free metal card if they invited friends. asdfas
Once again, Revolut offered a referral link to users so they could share it with their friends. If that friend signed up through the link and performed the required actions, the referrer would get the reward—a free metal card subscription.
Revolut offered a 1-sided referral campaign, rewarding a free 12-month Metal subscription along with a free metal card (€135 in value) to the referrer. The invitee would get nothing tangible for signing up.
For the referrer:
They had to successfully refer 5 friends to get the 12-month free premium reward.
For the inviter:
To qualify as a successful, the invitee had to follow the regular onboarding process—it was not necessary to perform any purchasing actions:
For Revolut, 2018 was an incredibly productive year since they also launched their cryptocurrency exchange. With it, users can trade crypto easily without or at very low fees right from inside their banking app—a much-anticipated feature and timed perfectly with 2018’s hype on cryptocurrencies.
Similar to the Metal subscription release, Revolut’s strategy wasn’t to make the feature available to as many users as possible right away. Instead, they opted for a controlled release to premium users—regular users could get access by upgrading or by inviting friends.
In classic Revolut fashion, users got a unique referral link that they could share with their friends and family. If the invitees signed up through that link and performed the required actions, thus completing a successful referral, the referrer got access to the cryptocurrency exchange.
This campaign was a 1-sided referral program, where the inviter would get access to the cryptocurrency exchange feature. The invitee would get nothing tangible for signing up.
For the referrer: To get access to the cryptocurrency exchange, one had to successfully refer 3 friends successfully.
For the invitee: In the referral dashboard, there was no list of tasks needed for an invite to count as a successful referral—only the requirement to sign up through the unique link. However, drawing from Revolut’s referral program T&C we suspect that some of the following were also required:
An incentive to upgrade subscription: If you were a premium customer, you could get direct access to the new product, but if you were a standard user, you had to upgrade to premium or invite three friends to get it. This way, Revolut might have been able to upsell many customers to their premium offering since the act of upgrading requires less effort and time than referring friends, yet it’s not as accessible.
When launching in new markets, an extremely effective strategy used in the Fintech sector is that of a prelaunch campaign—a.k.a. a waitlist. The goal is to create hype and anticipation around the upcoming product while acquiring useful customer data. Let’s see how Revolut, founded in the UK, did it when it launched for the US market.
In March of 2020, Revolut launched its banking app in the United States of America. However, that was not their first interaction with the new market. In the months coming up to the launch, Revolut created a prelaunch waitlist campaign that grew to 30,000-40,000 participants in the first month. This allowed Revolut to run a beta program prior to launch and create a community ready to use their product even before it was ready.
The goal was to create a soft launch where Revolut would slowly onboard users from the waitlist into the beta version of the American app.
The main touchpoint of this campaign was the website, through which one could join the waitlist. After providing their phone number and email (the first steps of Revolut’s signup flow), they would be part of the waitlist. From there, they could see their position in the queue, which they could increase by inviting friends to the waitlist using the unique referral link provided by Revolut.
While there was no tangible incentive for the referrer or the invitee, this was a 1-sided referral campaign where the referrer would climb higher in the waitlist queue for every successful referral, giving them early access sooner.
For the referrer: To climb higher in the queue and get early access sooner, one had to successfully refer friends to the waitlist.
For the invitee: Join the waitlist through the referral link.
Revolut didn’t release their app to all waitlist participants at once, instead they slowly onboarded the top participants until the waitlist was exhausted—a beta program.
This tactic has two benefits:
Revolut understood that word of mouth could be their most powerful tool for growth. So, like most successful startups, they fuelled word of mouth by putting most of their effort into the product to make something so good that customers are happy to share with friends.
Their growth team ensured that all aspects of their product, both offline and online, create unique and shareable experiences.
From creative packaging to network effects embedded in its core features, Revolut’s product is made to be shared.
Revolut utilizes referral programs for many of its strategic goals to facilitate that sharing desire and ignite word of mouth.
They incentivize their best customers to refer friends in exchange for generous rewards to grow their customer base with more of their quality users.
They increase the adoption rate of their new features by offering them for free in exchange for referrals.
They acquire early adopters of their product in new markets before they even launch by creating tempting waitlists with the ability to climb in the queue if you refer friends.