15 examples of successful referral programs (+ 8 tips for building one)

Looking to amp up customer loyalty while slashing those pesky acquisition costs? Have you tried referral marketing? It's a powerful strategy that can take your business to the next level.
15 examples of successful referral programs (+ 8 tips for building one)

A satisfied customer raving about your brand to their friends, family, and even random strangers they meet at the coffee shop. Sounds dreamy, right?

That's exactly what referral marketing is all about: using the power of word-of-mouth recommendations to grow your business.

So, get ready. Referral marketing is about to become your favorite asset, and we're here to show you how.

What is a referral program ?

Referral marketing is a strategic framework that incentivizes your existing customers to refer new customers to your business

It's like surrounding yourself with a team of enthusiastic brand ambassadors who spread the word about your products or services, while being rewarded for their efforts. 

Think of it as a win-win scenario in which your customers become your trusted supporters and you welcome a regular flow of thrilled new customers.

Need to build a referral program that really engages customers? Check our listing of the best referral softwares on the market.

13 statistics on referral marketing

To get things off to a good start, here are some super interesting statistics on referral programs :

We'll go into more detail right after this.

Statistics about referral marketing

Why set up a referral marketing program?

Now, you might be wondering, "What's in it for me?

Well, the benefits of implementing a referral program are simply brilliant, and have an impact on the entire customer lifecycle.

Referral marketing increases customer loyalty and retention.

Referral marketing has the amazing ability to deepen the bond between your brand and your existing customers. 

When they have the opportunity to share their positive experiences and be rewarded for it, they feel valued and appreciated. 

This emotional connection helps retain customers, who are then more inclined to stick around and continue their fruitful relationship with your company.

The Harvard Business Review backs this up, stating that recommended friends are 18% more likely to remain customers in the years to come, and to make repeat purchases.

Referral marketing decreases acquisition costs.

You're probably noticing it every day. Acquisition costs are soaring on most social media platforms.

But referral marketing looks like an El Dorado.

You let your customers do your sales or marketing team's work.

All it costs is a referral platform and rewards.

A trifle compared to the acquisition costs of other channels.

Referral marketing brings more qualified leads.

And not only does referral marketing save you money, 

but it also brings you far more qualified prospects.

When your existing customers recommend and refer to someone, it's because they sincerely believe in your brand and its offers.

Referred friends naturally trust their friends' recommendations.

So they come to you already pre-qualified, with a positive image of your company.

And studies confirm it.

Because, hold on to your hat, a customer recommended by a friend is 4 times more likely to buy and converts 5 times faster.

Referral marketing boosts sales.

Referral marketing offers a unique opportunity to significantly increase your turnover. 

Customers referred by a friend are not only more likely to make a purchase, they also tend to spend 15-25% more on their very first order (according to MentionMe). 

That's an immediate boost to your bottom line! But the magic doesn't stop there. 

Referred customers have a 16% higher lifetime value compared to non-referred ones (according to Harvard Business Review).

This means more repeat purchases, higher order values and an overall increase in your sales figures. 

With well-executed referral marketing, you get a new powerful sales force to drive your business.

Adding referral boosts sales

How to set up a successful referral marketing program ?

Here are the 8 steps to set up a referral program:

  1. Offer perfect customer experience
  2. Define Your Goals
  3. Know Your Audience
  4. Create Irresistible Incentives
  5. Make it Easy to Share
  6. Promote Your Program
  7. Monitor and Optimize
  8. Foster Engagement and Recognition

1. Offer perfect customer experience

There's one fundamental prerequisite that sets the stage for everything else: providing a perfect customer experience. 

Absolute customer satisfaction is the cornerstone of a successful referral marketing program. 

Your customers won't take the risk of recommending a brand if their own experience hasn't been absolutely perfect. 

Make sure that every interaction, from first contact to after-sales support, leaves a lasting positive impression. 

Invest in delivering exceptional products, first-class service and rapid problem resolution. 

Your commitment to providing the best customer experience will lay the foundations for enthusiastic referrals that come naturally and effortlessly. 

2. Define Your Goals

Start by clarifying your objectives. 

Determine what you aim to achieve through your referral program. 

Whether it's increasing customer acquisition, boosting sales, or enhancing brand awareness, having clear goals will guide your strategy.

3. Know Your Audience

Understand your target audience inside out. 

Identify who your ideal customers are and what motivates them. 

Tailor your referral program to align with their needs and desires to maximize engagement.

The aim is to increase your conversion rate by persuading the ideal referral to participate in your program.

4. Create Irresistible Incentives

Design referral rewards that make it hard to resist referring to others. 

Think beyond monetary incentives and consider offering exclusive discounts, VIP perks, or unique experiences. 

The more enticing the rewards, the more motivated your customers will be to participate.

Do not forget to use twin gifts. Reward the existing customer and the referred friend.

Barack Obama saying "You've earned your referral reward""

5. Make It Easy to Share

Simplify the sharing process for your customers. 

Make sure your customers can find and share your program with a minimum of clicks, on as many channels as possible..

Provide them with several means of referral:

  • a personalized referral link,
  • the possibility of sharing it in an Instagram Story, on TikTok…
  • a template to copy and paste
  • ...

They'll choose the one that suits them or their friend best.

The easier it is for customers to share, the more likely they'll take action.

6. Promote Your Referral Program

Spread the word about your referral program through various channels. 

Use your website, email newsletters, social media platforms, and even offline touchpoints like packaging or in-store signage. 

You won't get any results if no one knows about your program.

Consistent promotion is key to generating awareness and participation.

7. Monitor and Optimize

Regularly track the performance of your referral program, such as : 

  • conversion rates,
  • number of new customers
  • sales generated,
  • final ROI

Use this data to optimize your referral marketing program.

Test new rewards, new sponsorship methods, new communication channels, etc.

Set realistic expectations and continually refine your strategy based on data, and you'll be able to fine-tune your referral program to meet and exceed your break-even point, ultimately generating substantial returns and increased sales for your business. 

Read this article to know the 7 KPIs to monitor your referral program.

8. Foster Engagement and Recognition

Encourage active participation and foster a sense of community among your customers. 

Recognize and reward not only the referrers but also the referred customers. 

Implement a system that acknowledges and appreciates their contributions, such as sending personalized thank-you notes or maybe even featuring top referrers on your website.

The 8 steps to set up a referral program

15 examples of proven referral marketing

Now that we've seen the key benefits and steps to creating successful referral marketing, let's take a look at some real-life examples of brands that have nailed it.


Take Dropbox, for instance, whose referral program went gold. 

By offering users extra storage space for each successful referral, Dropbox experienced explosive growth, skyrocketing from 100,000 to 4 million users in just 15 months. 

Their ingenious program turned loyal customers into passionate brand advocates, driving massive user acquisition.

Alex Garcia's tweet about Dropbox's referral marketing


Blissim offers its customers the chance to refer their friends, who will receive a welcome offer of 100 points ( worth €10) that can be redeemed for any beauty product or box of their choice.

The referrer is rewarded in the same way for each successful referral.

Thanks to the power of word-of-mouth, Blissim has not only seen impressive customer acquisition, but also fostered a sense of community and loyalty among their customers

Speaking of Blissim’ community, check this case study to find out they manage to collect more than 1,500 user-generated content (UGC) per month.

Blissim's referral marketing


Uber’s referral marketing offered users free rides for referring new riders. 

This clever strategy has not only stimulated user acquisition, but also encouraged customer retention. 

Their referral program has become an integral part of their growth strategy, helping them to become the phenomenon we all know.

Uber's referral marketing


HelloBank implemented a referral program that rewarded both the referrer and the referred friend with cash bonuses upon successful account opening. 

They offer their existing customers a €20 deposit for each referral of a friend or family member. As for new referrals, they receive three months' free membership.

The option of providing direct remuneration to the sponsor makes sense in this industry.

Hellobank's referral marketing


In e-commerce, Amazon has also embraced the power of referral marketing.

Through its affiliate program, Amazon Associates, individuals can earn commissions by referring shoppers to Amazon's vast range of products. 

This program has become a lucrative opportunity for content creators, bloggers and influencers to monetize their work.

Amazon's referral marketing


Evernote is a note-taking app that achieved incredible success with over 100 million users worldwide.

What's interesting is that they achieved all this with a $0 budget for customer acquisition. Their secret sauce was their referral marketing.

They created a system where if you referred a friend to Evernote, you'd earn 10 points for the first 3 referrals, which could get you 3 months of their premium service or 3 GB of extra monthly upload. And if your referred friend bought the premium service, you'd get 5 more points.

On the other hand, the people who got referred also got rewarded with a free month of the premium service.

Out of the massive 225 million users, a whopping 13% of them came through referrals from other users.

Evernote's referral marketing


Hiver's referral marketing is pretty cool because it's both tiered and stepped.

First, if you refer someone who might be interested in their services, you can earn Amazon gift card rewards for each qualified referral lead you bring in.

And if your referrals end up making a purchase, you get even more Amazon gift card rewards. So, you're rewarded twice.

And it gets even better!

Hiver added some tier milestones. If you refer 3 people, you get a Kindle. If you refer 5 people, they invite you to an evening out. And if you manage to refer 10 people, you'll receive an iPhone.

Hiver's referral marketing


Duolingo, the language learning app, has a cool referral program.

When you're a user, and you refer a friend to sign up for Duolingo, you get a free week of premium access.

Duolingo focuses on rewarding its loyal customers with access to premium services rather than giving away physical merchandise or products.

This reward is valuable to customers who are genuinely interested in learning and improving their language skills.

It's something they can benefit from directly, and that's what makes it so appealing.

Duolingo's referral marketing


Robinhood, a financial services company, has a referral program that's been a hit, especially among millennials and Gen Z consumers.

If people invite a friend to download the app, they get a chance to receive a share of stock.

And the best part is, the stock you get is randomly selected, ranging from smaller values to some high-value ones

So it's like a little game of chance! that gamifies the whole system.

And you never know: the shares you receive could be worth €2 today, and end up being worth as much as €200!

So, users have the opportunity to win big for each referral.

Robinhood's referral marketing


Flaviar, a subscription-based online liquor store, launched their referral program, and it's been a massive hit!

Customer just have to share their unique referral code with their friends.

If any of their them subscribe using that code, both the the referrer and the referral receive a free Tasting Box or spirits bottle of their choice.

So, the key takeaways from Flaviar's successful referral program are keeping it simple and offering rewards that excite and delight customers.

Flaviar's referral marketing


Launched in 2015, Kwiff has carved a unique niche for itself in the highly competitive sports betting landscape of the UK. 

Its distinguishing feature? "Supercharged" odds that can abruptly elevate, delivering an element of unpredictability and excitement for the user.

Their referral program is equally noteworthy. 

Both the person making the referral and the new entrant receive a complimentary £10 bet, which is algorithmically generated. 

This bet can be placed on any sport and any bet category. 

Additionally, the winnings are free from any wagering stipulations, and there's no ceiling on the rewards one can earn from referrals.

Drawing a parallel to Robinhood's referral scheme, Kwiff's approach accomplishes similar goals but in its own distinctive manner. 

Kwiff's referral program


Blume specializes in offering caffeine-free superfood lattes, and its referral program is also noteworthy for its simplicity. 

The layout is clean, making it straightforward for customers to understand how to participate. Simply entering an email address suffices.

It facilitates easy sharing and minimizes potential friction. 

The visual presentation of the product is aesthetically pleasing and draws attention. 

What's more, the rewards are offered to both the referrer and the referred, increasing motivation for participation.

Blume's referral program

Google Workspace

Google's B2B referral program, specifically known as Google Workspace, is top-notch. 

Participants in this program can pocket between $8 and $23 for every new individual who signs up for a business account. 

The success of Google's Workspace referral scheme lies in its tiered incentive structure that escalates with the volume of referrals. 

For instance, a single successful referral nets a $23 reward. Yet, if a participant refers an entire domain (say, a business entity with 10 employees), that reward can skyrocket to $230. 

Google caps the reward at $2,300 for referring up to 100 users in one go. And let's not forget, you can make up to 200 such referrals in a single year.

To clear the fog and boost confidence, they provide crystal-clear guidelines, step-by-step tutorials, interactive timelines and testimonials from those who've walked the path successfully.

Google Workspace's referral program

Dia & Co

Dia & Co has established a specialized platform for plus-size women to purchase fashionable clothing. 

As an element of their customer growth strategy, the company has implemented a two-sided referral system. 

Existing clients are given a $25 incentive for referring new customers, and additional rewards on future purchases. Meanwhile, new customers benefit from an immediate $25 discount.

Using email marketing as their primary promotional channel, Dia & Co successfully encouraged existing clients to participate in the referral program. 

In the initial month, the strategy led to 40,000 customers sharing referral links, resulting in an average of 22 successful conversions per day.

Dia & Co's referral program

Hydro Flask

Hydro Flask is one of the biggest producers of high-quality, insulated stainless steel containers. 

The company has rolled out a customer referral initiative that adopts a unique tactic by offering participants and their referrals "a little something". Makes you curious, doesn't it?

The layout of Hydro Flask's referral web page is clean and unambiguous too. 

It offers several user-friendly options for sharing, making it convenient for customers to bring in friends. Participants need only input their email address and select their preferred sharing channels.

They can also copy a referral link to share manually or send an email, either crafting their own text or using a pre-written message to expedite the process.

Hydro Flask's referral program

These success stories demonstrate the strength of well-executed referral marketing strategies. 

And now you're next. 

Remember that every brand has a unique story and audience, so tailor your referral program to your specific needs. 

With creativity, determination and a customer-centric approach, you too can create a referral program that your customers will be raving about, and that will boost your business. 

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