7 Tactics to Launch an Effective Referral Program


Published: | Updated: | By Arlen Robinson

Having a referral program is one of the best things you can do for your eCommerce website. Not only can it increase traffic, it can also introduce your brands to tons of new potential customers.

There’s a reason big brands, like PayPal, Uber, Dropbox and AirBnb, use referral marketing. It just works. So, if you are still not using referral marketing on your eCommerce website, now may be the time to start. It is one of the best eCommerce marketing tactics you can do for your site.

For those who have tried referral marketing and failed, this article is also for you. You see, referral marketing will not work by simply having a program and informing your followers about it. That rarely works. You need to do something more if you want to see extraordinary results.

Today, I will share seven tactics you can use to extend the potential of your affiliate program. With these strategies, you’ll be doing more than just choosing a reward and inviting people. You’ll learn tactics on how you can for using referral marketing to target your customers and get more traffic and sales in return.

Are you ready? Let’s begin.

1. Use Facebook Pixel

Leading ecommerce website owners have one secret--Facebook Pixel.

It’s the potential to be able to gather data from your website based on the Facebook accounts of people who have visited your site. By installing this ‘pixel’, Facebook can crawl your site and return valuable information about your audience. It entails a simple installation process; just copy your pixel and paste it into your Shopify site or Wordpress code and you’re ready to go.

How can Facebook Pixel aid your referral program? Through targeting, of course! Targeting is the specialty of Pixel. It allows you to see who’s visited your site and what their actions were. It allows you to target the right people to promote your program to. 

2. Target Competitor Markets


It isn’t just your website you should target. Competitor websites also have an abundance of relevant traffic you can tap. How can you do this? You can use Facebook Audience Insights.

To access Audience Insights, you need an advertiser account on Facebook. Then, you can key in your topic and you’ll see competitor pages in your niche. Be sure to note this so you can target people who have liked these pages in your Facebook campaigns.

Why is this powerful? For one, it allows you to ‘steal’ traffic from your competitors. By targeting their pages, you reach people who are already passionate about or interested in your niche. You can tap this niche for your own business, which saves you the time testing markets through Adwords and trying to find out what keywords stick. Instead, stick with Facebook where engagement is significantly higher. Your ad will show up in your competitor’s Facebook feed, which leads their customers to your site, allowing them to buy from you.

You can promote your referral program in the same way. Have an ad ready showing your reward. Then, target people on competitor websites and direct your ads at them. This will save you more money than broadly targeting the market. 

3. Use the Power of Influencers

Most of the market on the Internet is fueled by influencers, who impact customer purchase behavior. f you can get an influencer to promote your online store, the result can be massive.

Due to the flux of attention influencers receive, approaching or befriending them is no easy task. To earn their attention, you have to stand out.One technique that has helped me is offering them a free item. You can do this by messaging them asking if they’re interested in one of your products. If they are, you’ll be glad to send it their way.Another strategy is to use a branded coupon. This is where you give an exclusive discount to all the followers of that particular influencer.

You can also build your market first. After getting some traction from Facebook marketing, you can proceed by showing the potential of your own market to influencers. Since you’re not reaching out to them empty-handed, they’re more likely to respond. 

Next is influencer reviews. Once you’ve given an influencer one of your products, you can ask them how their experience was,  and if they’d be willing to review your product in a blog post, video, podcast, etc. 

It’s important to note that influencers are human too. You don’t have to bend backwards to give them an outrageous offer for them to accept it. Most influencers are willing to help you if what you’re offering will be useful to their target market.

Referral programs often have rewards that are very attractive to an influencer’s target market. So, if you have a referral program and the reward is attractive, ask an influencer to share it. It may just work. 

4. Have an Exit Intent Popup

There is nothing worse than a potential customer who is ready to leave your site. While they may have their reasons for leaving, you shouldn’t give up. Instead, try to keep them with a referral marketing promotion popup. Offer them a coupon for simply referring people to your site. This way, instead of leaving your site without engaging, they refer people and get a discount at the same time.

Why is this effective? People who leave your site are not necessarily disinterested. They are just waiting for that final push. A referral program can accomplish this by giving them an extra reward such as a discount code or a freebie.

5. Email Customer Lists

Who can best recommend your site? Your customers. They’ve had experience with your products, so they can write the most relevant reviews. As a result, you should promote your referral program tot your customer list. While you should also promote it to your leads, your customers are your best referrers. It’s surprising how many eCommerce website owners forget about this. Often, they’ll have a page for their referral program and they promote this to influencers like crazy. But they forget that they already have a list of buyers that they can tap, and the results for this list will be twice as powerful.

As for me, I love to tap this market differently by giving them an exclusive discount code. What I do is I come up with a different referral program for buyers. This way, I can give out exclusive rewards.  

6. Use Chatbots

It was only a few years ago when chatbots were released on Facebook. And since then, the potential of AI has grown. This means there is now an increasing interest in this emerging technology. As a result, using it for your eCommerce business will help you get a head start.

So, what’s a chatbot? A chatbot is like an automated answering machine that is built into Facebook Messenger. Within the chat, audiences are presented with choices and the bot responds based on the information fed by the other party. This helps businesses automate their customer service. It also allows them to focus on more important tasks.

Similarly, you can integrate the promotion of your referral program into your chatbot. Creating a chatbot is easy. You can use an app like POWr Facebook Chat. It’s free to get started, or upgrades are available more more customization, but the return will balance out any cost once you automate your marketing and sales inquiries.

As for me, I love to send broadcasts about referrers who have acquired prizes on a semi-regular basis. I love hosting a contest along with my referral program to ignite the competitive spirit among referrers.

Another way to accomplish this is to give your followers a slight “push” each month. Just send them a simple reminder about your prize and how they can ‘win’ it by referring people. I also like to change my prizes each month to keep things interesting.

7. Reach Out to People with Abandoned Carts

If there’s one market you shouldn’t give up on, it’s the people who’ve abandoned carts. They’ve indicated their intent to make a purchase and may have already given you their payment information. This is a good sign--it means they just need a small push to complete their purchase.

How can you target them? Again, go back to Facebook Pixel. Make sure it’s installed on your site. Then, create a Facebook ad campaign targeting people who have logged their payment information and are ready to purchase, and reach out to them about your referral program. The focus should be on the discount, which encourages them to go back and complete their purchase. You can also stack promotions by inviting them to complete their purchase with a discount code, then asking them to refer friends for an even bigger discount.

Marketing your referral program shouldn’t be direct. It isn’t just about telling people your program exists and they’ll get an amazing offer just from referring others. You need to know the market you’re targeting. It’s important to segment your audience so you get the most relevant people who can promote your referral program. Since most of these tactics require some creativity, tap into your own creative juices to come up with some of your own. It’s all about finding a way to filter the most relevant people in your market and encourage them promote your referral program. This way, you’ll get a referral that is more likely to purchase from you.

Referral marketing works because it utilizes the tremendous power of trust. While other marketers settle for cold leads, you empower your customers to tell their family and friends about your brand and get an amazing reward in return. The potential is endless. Every person that promotes your site can recruit others who have the same potential. The power is exponential and it can explode your traffic in a matter of weeks. 



Arlen Robinson is the co-founder and VP of Business Development at OSI Affiliate Software. He is also the host of The Ecommerce Marketing Podcast where he discusses marketing strategies with experts from all over the world.