The most powerful marketing tactic in today’s competitive market?

Word-of-mouth marketing, no doubt.

In business terms, referral marketing.

It’s a fact that people take their friend’s or family’s suggestion a lot more seriously than an advertisement. They trust what a person like them has to say more than what a ‘business’ has to say to them.

While people normally do recommend their favourites in their circles, why should you sit back and wait for them to do it at their own pace?

They could probably use your product, make a note of recommending to a friend who needs it, decides to do it later and then forget about it. There, you just lost a possible sale!

Internet users have a very short attention span. It is important that you engage them in an activity before they stumble upon something else and lose their interest.

This especially holds true for eCommerce businesses.

Today, there are a number of businesses entering the eCommerce industry. Their primary acquisition strategy being – offer competitive prices on the products and services.

Imagine at least ten brands offering a product – all at different prices. A typical online shopper is definitely going to buy from the one who offers the best price. After all, the price is one of the reasons why people love shopping online!

But here’s another thing – you can’t seem too needy for a referral either.

So how do you implement a referral campaign to drive more sales for your online store?

Here’s how to run a successful referral campaign in 7 simple steps:

1. Plan your referral campaign

Like every other marketing campaign, a referral program should be well thought through and documented. Make a plan on how, why and when you want to start running the campaign. Also make sure you have the rules of the campaign well laid out.

For instance, if your campaign is about inviting another friend to your online store, you give away a 10% discount to the person only when his friend actually ‘signs up’. You might have to create a short document or send out an email explaining the campaign rules.

2. Offer some incentives

Internet users need to ‘encouraged’ to complete an action. They need to be directed in a direction, made to see value in in, before you can ask them to do anything. The same holds true for a referral campaign.

You will need to clearly state what the shopper would get by inviting his friends to your store, recommending or reviewing a product. For this, you need to analyse the visitor behavior on your website, identify what they are mostly looking for and then decide on an incentive accordingly.

ecommerce referral campaign 4

3. Simplify the process

Like we mentioned above, internet users have a short attention span. And online shoppers specifically, look for convenience – why else do you think they would be shopping online instead of hitting the streets and visiting showrooms?

So make it easy for the shoppers to participate in the referral campaign. The process needs to be almost as quick as few clicks on the phone. You could make social integration a part of the process so that they can invite their friends from a social channel. Also give the ability to message their friends an invite using popular chat apps like messenger, Whatsapp, etc.

The simpler it is, the more likely the shopper is to complete the process and actively do so. For example, this campaign here let’s the shopper share on social media with just one simple click!

ecommerce referral campaign 3

4. Target repeat customers

Your repeat customers are people who really do like the products offered on your website. They are the ones who make you their first preference whenever they need to make a purchase. These are the people you want to target with the referral campaign because a happy customer is more likely to recommend your business than a first time purchaser.

So take a look at your customer data and identify those who have visited as well as purchased from your store multiple times. Target these customers on-site promotion or with a special email campaign notifying them of it.

5. Focus on building a loyal community

Continuing on the point above – whenever an online shopper purchases from your store, make it a point to better his experience further. From asking for feedback at the right time, to sending timely offers and discounts (without spamming him) and more, focus on building a loyal community instead of just getting more sales.

6. Offer complete support

Asking a customer to recommend your store to a friend without being prepared yourself is going to be of no use. Be it creating a custom or personalized message that the customer can send to his friends, or an image that he can share easily on social media, keep all your collaterals absolutely ready.

This kind of support helps the customer feel that you are still focused on making things easier for him, and do want him to win something out of the referral campaign.

For example, here’s a pre-typed message that the shopper can share with his friends via any messenger. It also has a custom link for him so that he knows his efforts are being tracked and he will get rewarded for every sign up:

ecommerce referral campaign 2

7. Get the timing right

As we mentioned in point 4 and 5, a happy customer has a greater probability of recommending your business in his circles. This reinforces the fact that the timing of your referral campaign needs to be perfect!

For instance, be it a new shopper or a repeat customer, you don’t want to interrupt them while they are browsing through products or looking for something specific. Doing so would ruin their experience and even make them want to leave – you can never gauge their mood.

Email campaigns are one way – they can be triggered once a visitor subscribes to your newsletter or purchases from your website. But you could promote your referral campaign onsite as well.

Using the bounce prevention technology of Exit Bee, you can target your visitors right before they leave your store or when they complete a specific action. This kind of overlay is non-intrusive in nature and will also ensure that the visitor knows of the campaign before he leaves.

For example, here’s a campaign that promotes the ongoing referral program to a visitor right before he is about to leave the online store:

ecommerce referral campaign 1

A referral campaign should be well thought of, depending on your marketing budgets as well as the end goal of your eCommerce store. So think it through and make your customers a priority when chalking out the plan!

Is there an eCommerce referral program that really inspired you or you thought was awesome? Share it with us as well! (We do love special discounts 😉 )

get more customers 2


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Vanhishikha Bhargava

Content Marketer at Exit Bee. Most of the times found trying to create compelling copies for blogs and digital campaigns, keeping a watch on what's happening on social media or ranting on Twitter. At all other times, not found.

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