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Step-By-Step: How To Create A Successful Referral Program For Online Store

Have you heard about the six degrees of separation theory? Basically, it says that everyone is connected through six (or fewer) social connections. What does that have to do with your eCommerce business? Well, smart businesses take advantage of every opportunity out there! 

Still confused? We have two words for you - referral program. 

By introducing referral programs, your eCommerce business can take advantage of the six degrees of separation theory and become the number one online store with minimal effort! 

In this blog, we will tell you everything you need to know about referral programs and give you all the tips you need to start your own. 

Table of Contents: 

  1. Research
  2. Choose incentives
  3. Pick a referral marketing platform
  4. Alert your customers
  5. Make it easy for your customers to become ambassadors
  6. Express gratitude
  7. Follow up with new customers right away

What Are Referral Programs? 

A referral program is a word-of-mouth marketing technique that allows all your customers to become advocates for your business and attract new customers. In simpler terms, they are programs that allow your customers to get a reward for bringing in new customers. 

For example, Kevin regularly shops from your online store, and one day Kevin refers his friend Jack to purchase something from your store. When Jack makes an order, you offer Kevin a gift or a coupon as a thank you and incentive to bring in more friends. 

This is one of the easiest yet most essential marketing techniques for eCommerce businesses. It is easy because, basically, it is a win-win situation, so there won’t be a lot of persuasions needed from your end. And it is essential because it can bring you a huge impact with the easiest method, and it also helps that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg! 

Are those enough reasons to get you excited about starting your own referral program? No? You are a tough nut to crack, but we accept the challenge and will give you more reasons!

Discover more in What Makes Referral Marketing For E-commerce, A Perfect Strategy To Boost Sales?

Why Should Your eCommerce Business Use Referral Programs?

How To Create A Successful Referral Program

Before making any decision to invest your time, money, and effort in any marketing strategy, you have to learn all the numbers surrounding it. Of course, that includes industry benchmarks and general statics that show you how you can benefit from that move. 

In the case of referral programs, here are the most important numbers you need to know;

Now that you know what a referral program is and why you should introduce one to your business, let’s take a deep dive into the how! 

How To Create A Successful Referral Program For Your Online Store

You can easily introduce a referral program by giving every customer a unique code and offering them a reward when it's used. But successful referral programs that can actually take your eCommerce business to the next level are much more than that! 

So, to create a successful referral program, you should follow these steps:

1- Research 

The first step you got to start with is conducting extensive research to learn:

  • Why customers chose you over competitors?
  • How do they hear about you?
  • What can incentivize them to help you out?

By answering these 3 simple questions, you can set the right goals, know how to approach your existing customers to vouch for you, and most importantly, learn exactly what you need to offer them as a reward. 

2- Choose incentives 

incentives referrak program example

Upon learning what incentives your customers want, you should immediately start choosing the best method to get them excited. The most popular incentives are:

  • Vouchers/discount
  • Free products/subscriptions 
  • Points to redeem (like a loyalty program) 

It is also worth noting that many companies offer both existing and new customers an incentive. This is a win-win-win situation; as you get a sale and a new customer, the existing customer has a reason to refer your business, and the new customer has a tempting opportunity to try out your products. 

3- Pick a referral marketing platform

Now it's time to get your referral program ready! To kick off the actual program, you need to choose a referral marketing platform. Which basically helps you in creating a unique code for each customer and keeps track of who used it. 

There are a large number of platforms you can choose from, such as:

5- Alert your customers 

If you created the best referral programs and didn’t let your customers know about them, then all your effort is in vain. At this point, you have to choose the right marketing channels to alert your customers about the new program. These channels should include:

  • Email marketing
  • Newsletters 
  • Social media 
  • Website (highlight it on the home page)
  • SMS  

6- Make it easy for your customers to become ambassadors 


No matter how good your referral programs are, if it's too much work, your customers won’t bother. This can be easily solved by having a number of easy options for your customers to share their referral links or codes. 

For instance, you can allow them to share it on their social media accounts or send them as messages. The possibilities are endless just give them multiple easy ways. 

7- Express gratitude 

It’s no secret that people like to feel appreciated. Of course, the incentive itself shows your gratitude, but for a truly successful referral program that stands the test of time, you should say thank you in other ways. 

This may seem complicated but in fact, it's the easiest step. All you go to do is send the old customer an email, push notification (if you have an app), or an SMS saying thank you and telling the customer when they will receive their reward. 

8- Follow up with new customers right away 

On the other hand, the new customer you just acquired already ordered something but that could be a one-time thing. To ensure they stay and become loyal customers; you need to follow up right away. 

You can follow up through any channel you usually communicate with your customers on. Just ensure you keep them happy and engaged! 

Final Thoughts 

All in all, the right referral program can help you gain new customers, increase loyalty, and take your eCommerce business to the next level! 

But if you need a helping hand, marketing operating systems like ConvertedIn can help you automate and personalize all your marketing efforts and become the number one online store.