Angela Southall
Angela Southall 17 February 2017

10 Awesome Examples of Great Referral Programs—That Rock.

Referrals are increasingly forming part of a successful marketers' toolbox. But what constitutes a truly successful referral program? We took a closer look at some of our favourites.

Here at Mention Me HQ we consider ourselves connoisseurs of refer a friend. We spend a lot of time reviewing and optimising refer-a-friend programmes and there are some programmes that we admire from afar, holding them up as examples of best practice; while others are the ones that we’re proud to have brought into the world ourselves.

Referrals in the Fashion Market

The fashion sector has many of the elements needed to make it the ultimate playing field for refer-a-friend:  

  • The products are highly visual and tied to social status
  • People love talking about fashion and often complement each other on it
  • It’s led by ever changing trends
  • It is one of the largest purchase categories for UK consumers

Mainstream Ladies Fashion

The mainstream ladies fashion market extends from high street to up-and-coming online fast fashion brands like Missguided.  One of the main characteristics of referral programmes in this space is that while they don’t necessarily give away high value incentives they do still try very hard to capture the attention of fashion shoppers. In the example below for Missguided, this is done with creative copy writing that talks to shoppers in their own language.



Luxury Ladies Fashion

Luxury fashion, in our experience, is one of the most shareable sectors selling online today.   The psychology of referral draws heavily on the idea of social standing.  Sharing an expensive and trendy fashion item with a friend does so much to increase social standing - it's a natural fit.

Because of the higher value of goods, brands in this space tend to offer lower introductory rewards, and some like the Belstaff example below offer free products or free delivery rather than discounts in order to maintain the very high standards of their brand.


Refer a friend for Accessories, Footwear, Jewellery

This is a large product category spanning everything from footwear to handbags.  The dynamics of each subcategory are quite distinct.  For glasses, which have a long purchase cycle, it is optimal to offer a third party voucher as the reward because most purchasers don’t plan on buying new glasses again for over 18 months.


Radley have positioned their referral offer as the opportunity to give a treat to a friend.  We call this a generous offer because it prioritises giving something nice to friend rather than getting a reward for oneself.


Software referral programmes

Software referral programmes are often a different breed than those for e-commerce retail websites.  In many examples we found, the referral programme has been built in-house rather than by an outsourced provider.  This has obvious benefits for businesses rich with engineering talent but can often be a blocker for other companies where engineering backlogs can extend to months and sometimes even years.  

There are benefits to outsourcing referral programme development. For software companies these are:

  • The ability to launch something quickly
  • Benefit from constant improvements to the outsourced platform
  • Limiting investment of engineering time in non-core business capabilities
  • Giving functionality and access to additional expert account support that you would not otherwise have with an in-house programme

Canva has sharing and team collaboration built deeply into their products so the process of inviting people to join you is very slick (as you might expect).  They follow best practice and offer free product extensions as the incentive.



Financial Services Referral Programmes

This category is a mixed bag and you can read our blog from back in 2016 for more detail on referral in the financial sector. Some of the newer Fintech business offer very slick customer experiences, like in the Transferwise example below.  


This sector was once famous for offering ‘free money’ for referrals but the reward types have proliferated in recent years and now it is common to see third party vouchers, loyalty points and credit on account.  It’s common, however to see higher value incentives reflecting the higher lifetime value of these customers.

Refer-a-friend in the Kids sector

What a great sector for referral!  We regularly see some of the highest rates of sharing on the children’s brands which we work with.  Could it be because nothing gives parents more pleasure than showing off about their kids? Or maybe it’s because parents strongly value the recommendations they get from other parents?  Or could it be because we love to treat our children?  We’re not sure - but we know this sector performs really well for refer-a-friend.

Mention Me’s patent pending name sharing functionality is the perfect fit for this sector (many kids brands see 40% of their referrals coming from it).  Share by name means that a recommender can say “Go to Great Little Trading Company and just enter by name into the checkout to claim your introductory reward.”  The name replaces a link, email or social media interaction and means referral can be truly omni-channel.


Referral Programs for Gifts and Flowers

In our experience this is another sector that is easy and popular to share. Helping a friend find the solution to a tricky present for someone who is hard to buy for is a powerful sharing dynamic.  When your product is as photogenic as flowers or the lovely stationery offered by Papier then it makes sense to have beautiful graphic design at the heart of your customer journey.


Food & Drink Referral Schemes

The subscription boxes sector has seen explosive growth in the past few years and is rapidly growing and maturing.  We expect it to stay a hot area of ecommerce for the foreseeable future.

Referral programmes in this space tend to offer a free one off box or money off a box or subscription to encourage both sharing and trial. The offer from Market Porter below is a great example.

For the brands managed by Mention Me we see an above average share rate - the old stereotype is true: people do like to talk about food!  But crucially as a sector which is innovating rapidly the food delivery market also gets a big boost from people’s natural desire to share things which are new and novel.  


Refer-a-friend for Sport Businesses

Wiggle is very much the brand to watch in this sector and we must admit that we can’t claim their refer-a-friend programme as one of our own.  The Mention Me’ers love this brand though - partly because we’re a team of wannabe runners, cyclists and triathletes - but also because of their clever referral programme.  Wiggle offers the referrer a discount equal to 10% of their friend's order value - a neat way to get customers to encourage friends to buy higher value purchases through the site.

Ribble is a bike equipment specialist and their programme is configured with two segments:  one for high value bike purchasers and the other for lower value components and gear.  The difference between the two segments is the level of reward offered and minimum spend required.


And that’s it!  If you are looking at launching your own scheme, there are sure to be some ideas for you to steal. We've really just touched the surface of all there is to know about how referral works in different sectors.

This is an edited version of our post 52 Referral Program Examples that previously appeared on the Mention Me blog.

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