I’m a big fan of referral marketing campaigns (or refer a friend program) when it comes to eCommerce. They can do absolute wonders for your brand if you execute well.
To be honest, there’s almost no excuse for you not to have a customer referral program in place. There are many referral software options available and some good choices if you use Shopify.
Whilst you can easily sign up for an app and create a referral program, making it actually work for your business successfully is something you need to work at.
So, whether you’re a seasoned marketing professional, a successful merchant, or someone who’s just starting their eCommerce journey, you’re going to love these examples, which you can use as inspiration for setting up and optimising your referral marketing program.
Quick note: all references have links as part of the company names.
Oh by the way, I wrote this huge ultimate guide to my favourite 27 referral marketing software providers that you need to check out (which many of the brands below are using).
The Body Shop is already a well-known household name for bath and body products. Prominent for their washes, fragrances, and bundled products, their consistent quality for affordable prices continues to reel customers in. However, given all the rising competitors, running a referral program would certainly help them maintain their trajectory.
Most of know ASOS and it's no surprise they've got a solid referral program. They are best best known for their variety of trendy menswear and womenswear. I didn't actually realise their names means As Seen On Screen, which makes sense that they sell popular branded products on their site such as Charlotte Tilbury and Topshop. However, they also have their own line of clothing, with graphics that speak to millennial and Gen Z customers.
Their referral program is also a point of attraction:
Skin O2 is a famous beauty and skincare brand in Australia, most known for its vegan, cruelty-free, and non-acnegenic formulations. Founded by a famous cosmetic surgeon, the brand eventually made a name for itself in clean beauty and is featured in media like Cosmopolitan, Elle, ENews, and NBC. Still, they are priced quite fairly, ranging from $20 to $200. They also utilise organic referrals to continually build their audience:
Heights considers itself as a brain care brand, and they are recognised for their supplement that was formulated by experts in neuroscience, nutrition, and medicine. They only have one product, The Smart Supplement that targets low energy, poor sleep, brain fog, and stress priced at $40 per month. Yet this singular product established their brand through results and word of mouth. Of course, they have a referral program to continue running that:
Koala is a sustainable furniture brand in Australia, most loved for its mattresses, pillows, and sofa beds. They became a household name for offering premium quality products at a low price, with a 120-night risk-free trial period. Still, with pillows over $100 and mattresses over $1,000, it never hurts to get a referral code discount:
InStitchu is a prominent tailor brand in Australia, famed for its impeccable made-to-measure garments at affordable prices. Their tailored packages are best given that suits are best in pairs, and their best sellers include a $300 single package for 4 custom shirts, which would ordinarily be over $100 each. Meanwhile, suits cost upwards of $1,000. With that, referral discount codes are always a plus:
Happy Human creates home and beauty products that work with a reusable and refillable system. This means a new kind of consumer company that produces NO single-use plastics. Bundles, including product and refillable bottles, cost $20 up, while the refills are just $3 per pack.
If that’s not affordable enough, they even have great referral perks:
Princess Polly is known for being an online fashion powerhouse, offering teenagers the trendiest clothes in the marketplace. Their products are fairly priced, with tops, bottoms, shoes, and bags all typically ranging from $20 to $80. Their referral discount makes for even better deals:
Who Gives A Crap has a strong customer referral program. They started as a crowdfunding campaign in 2012 and is absolutely one of my favourite companies. Their product? Tissue paper. Their goal? Donating 50% of their profit to movements that help the 2.4 billion people that have no access to toilets or proper sanitation. A roll of their super soft toilet paper costs between $1-$2, which is a great rate given what they stand for.
It’s definitely a brand worth referring to others, and their referral program makes a good pitch on that:
Go To is a skincare brand created by famed Australian beauty editor Zoe Foster Blake. The brand focuses on using botanical ingredients to craft simple formulations, with their moisturisers being their best sellers. Products cost an average of $40, made even more affordable by referral discount codes:
Spanx is known worldwide as the brand that founded the shape wear phenomenon. They have since branched out to underwear, clothing, and active clothes, but they are still most recognised for their slimming wear. Their regular prices across all categories typically range from $30 - $150, and conduct sales of even their core line every so often.
Here’s a look at their referral program:
A really popular monthly subscription box company among parents for kids is called Kiwi Co. It's a service that is designed to spark creativity in children using STEAM projects and hands-on learning. They have shipped over 40 million boxes to 40 countries, and these numbers are only growing.
Here’s how they sell themselves through their referral program:
LVLY is a flower company in Australia that birthed from the idea of being able to send flowers to loved ones, even when they’re far away. They are known for their same-day delivery service and their personalisation and customisation options, with packages usually falling at an average of $150.
Eva is an award-winning furniture brand, most known for their mattresses and bed frames. They have a highly competitive 365 day trial, with free delivery and returns. With furniture that typically starts at $1,000, that sounds like a fair deal.
Still, they make it even better with their referral program:
Petal and Pup is a fashion boutique born in Brisbane, but it has now become an internationally recognised brand especially known for its young, fresh, and feminine clothing lines. Given that they largely use natural fibres like cotton and linen, one piece of clothing costs an average of $100 - a great deal, especially if you take advantage of their referral program:
Glassons is known across Australia and New Zealand for being a fashion-forward, high-quality clothing brand. They’re particular about being sustainable, not just in their materials, but also in their product sourcing, so it’s interesting that they’re largely affordable, with the average clothing item costing $35.
This is their referral program:
Smile Direct Club is an orthodontic brand famed for their clear aligners, all doctor-prescribed and monitored. It’s a simple process, with no need to keep going for adjustments with the dentist. Understandably, such a service costs a bit at $2,825 for full payment. You could get a discount with its referral program though:
Acai is said to be continuously revolutionising outdoor wear for women, with style, comfort, sustainability, and performance in consideration when they are forming their designs. Prices go from £35 to upwards of £100, made sweeter with a great referral program:
Athletic Greens is an all-in-one health supplement drink which has really picked up steam in terms of growth and their marketing activities (from what I've seen recently anyway). The drink contains 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole food ingredients to address all possible body concerns. It costs $99 for a single pack, but it goes cheaper if you avail of a monthly subscription. You could save even more with their referral program:
Casper is a furniture company most known for its beds and beddings. They offer a 100-night risk-free trial, with products ranging from $70 pillows to award-winning $2,800 mattresses. They also offer product bundles that provide up to 25% discounts, with most of their best sellers lumped together for the best deals.
Then there’s their referral program with discounts:
Adore Beauty is Australia’s number one online beauty retailer, hosting over 260 famous beauty brands and over 10,000 products. They grew known for their easy and attentive customer service and their generosity when it comes to samples and minis, allowing women to try on the products before committing to a full-sized purchase.
Given their focus on community, here’s how their referral program works:
Feals is a wellness brand that produces hemp-based CBD products. Given their fairly new offerings to the market, they offer free shipping AND free returns for a risk-free trial for interested customers. With an average product price of $50, it’s not too bad.
They even offer discounts with their referral program:
Goop is an internationally famous company founded by Gwyneth Paltrow which is focused on products around beauty, wellness, and lifestyle. With interesting and unique products like the Vampire Repellant Spray priced at $27 to more common products as Chanel bags that go into the thousands, this company hosts a variety of offerings for their customers, most classified to be priced at the upscale side of things.
With that, every discount counts, including their referral promos:
Bombas makes comfortable, basic clothing pieces such as underwear, socks, and shirts. For every clothing item purchased from their brand, they make a clothing donation to those who are experiencing homelessness. Each item made is extremely durable, lasting years of use and reuse, and they provide a 100% happiness guarantee.
Here’s how they spread their brand identity through their referral program:
MVMT is a premium yet affordable watch brand that is especially known for its quartz watches. They also sell other accessories such as eyewear and jewellery, with sunglasses starting at $100 and watches starting at $250.
Here’s a look at their referral program:
Esther is a female clothing brand that is known for their romantic and classic pieces, with real woman sizes up to size 20. Their average clothing line sells for an average of $75 a piece, while their bridesmaid line sells for $80 to $200. Their products are already a great deal with their regular prices, but there are greater discounts to be had with their referral program:
Cultiver is a curated lifestyle brand that sells textiles and covers used around the home, such as beddings, tablecloths, and bath towels. All their items are crafted from natural, high-quality linen, substantial and built to last. A set of two pillowcases costs an average of $90, and their linen fitted sheets cost an average of $180 each. It may seem a tad costly, which makes the referral rewards perfect when making a purchase:
Koh is a cleaning solution brand that aims for one thing: To make the whole process of cleaning, clean. This means less chemicals, less products needed to clean with, and less plastic waste. Given that they offer refillable cleaning containers, their bestsellers are their bundles and kits which cost an average of $100.
Me Undies creates the most comfortable underwear pieces that lets people express themselves. With designs ranging from the typical solid colours to panda and popcorn prints, there is sure to be something here that reflects the user’s personality. It’s a brand worth sharing with your friends, even just for fun, and you can certainly do that via their referral program:
Goli is a brand famous for their gummy multivitamins and supplements, as endorsed by actual nutritionists and celebrities alike. They have gone viral for their apple cider vinegar gummies, but they are also known for their super fruits and super greens offerings. A 30-piece pack only costs an average of $17, and it gets cheaper if you subscribe. You could also avail of their referral perks:
Blue Nile is a leader in the diamond jewellery and engagement ring business, having been around since 1999. They offer handcrafted rings that have been checked multiple times over and only use ethically sourced, GIA graded diamonds. Understandably, this can cost quite a bit, with rings going well into the thousands.
Forever New is a modern feminine clothing brand famed for its timeless pieces and classy silhouettes. They are largely recognised for their well-done dresses, as can be seen all over social media networks and magazine shoots, all costing an average of $150.
Now, their referral program is interesting, as it does not go the typical “Give 10% off, receive $10” as is usually the case. Their referral program has to do with referring employees.
Prana Chai is a handmade chai brand originating from Melbourne, yet their products are made with spices ethically sourced from nations like India, Sri Lanka, and Gutamala. Their blends and brewing kits are available for purchase across the globe, and a pack of their original blend starts at $22, while their starter kits cost around $50.
Here’s a look at their referral program:
A popular mattress company here in Australia is Emma. They're originally from Germany and were founded in 2015, but have rapidly grown here down under. They create award-winning mattresses which contain foam products, using cutting-edge technology and the best materials around. Their best-selling mattress costs $1,289, and their pillows average at $200 a piece. They are award-winning, but buying a mattress is a serious investment. Taking advantage of their referral program could then be a viable option:
I’ve been helping a few eCommerce companies lately with their referral strategies and building their own campaigns and it’s fast becoming a priority for many brands now due to numerous reasons. Two primary reasons are more competition, and the ad channels are becoming too expensive. With more competition and higher CPMs, means higher CPLs and CPAs. It’s a big hit on many businesses that rely on needing a decent profit margin to invest in growth. Hence, starting your own referral program can help you generate new customers from your existing from your current customers. Referred customers are also the best type because they cost nothing to acquire, and they end up in most cases quite sticky, which means higher CLTV. My big recommendation is that if you don’t have a program or campaign set up right now, I’d definitely encourage you to make it a focus.
There are a few factors involved to make a referral marketing program work for your store. Three major components are picking the right referral marketing software, choosing the right program, alongside the incentive. Most referral programs you will see through the examples I shared use a “two-sided” incentive structure, which is something I also recommend. I’ve also seen this work in action with numerous clients I work with.
In terms of which referral software I use, I encourage you to look into Viral Loops, Referral Candy or Gather Customers. Each of them has an easy integration with Shopify (which I’m sure most of you are using) and come with extensive features to build a custom program that works for your business. They also make it easy to set up and provide a good UX regardless of your skill level.
I’ve seen a lot of sub-par referral landing pages, which does astound me sometimes why this is the case with even some amazing brands. Your referral landing page should be one of your priority pages because it can help you acquire new customers. As a baseline, you should include a ‘how it works’ section, clearly state the incentive, highlight USPs, add some social proof, and ensure you have good imagery. In addition, if you do an awesome job of this page, don’t just hide it in the footer for visitors/customers to try and find. It should be an integral part of your marketing strategy, so make sure it stands out.
Essentially all the stores I shared in this guide should be looked at by eCommerce marketers, and store owners should look into for inspiration. All of them are top quality and possess best practices I certainly would be following myself. Five of my favs that at the very least you explore further into are Koala, Who Gives a Crap, Happy Human, The Body Shop, and InStitchu.