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The success of an ecommerce business is dependent on the success of its brand. A brand is not just the company, it is the soul and the personality of the company. It is how people perceive the organization, its services, and products.

Building a devoted audience is preferred over sales by 70% of brand managers. According to recent reports, 48% of consumers expect that their true and trusted brands or companies understand their needs and demands. Delivering on these expectations is how trust is built and that is how word-of-mouth spreads.

Once the consumer trusts the company and its brand, the organization can benefit from implementing a customized referral program. A referral program is like a recommendation to friends and acquaintances for services rendered in exchange for a form of reward. 

Referral programs work better than other marketing strategies because the conversion rate of consumers with a similar mindset to existing consumers is higher. The amount of money and time spent over the service or product is also more. Small scale businesses, as well as industry leaders, can benefit from Referral Programs.

The Best Referral Programs to Get Ideas From


Uber has the most popular mobile referral program in the industry. People residing in metro cities and populated towns around the world prefer Uber over other cab rental services and their referral program has a role to play in this success. 

Uber started as a luxury car service company based out of San Francisco in 2009 and spread its business to 785 metropolitan areas worldwide in a mere 11 years. It is estimated that Uber had over 110 million users by 2019.

The cult status of Uber can be seen in the fact that any changes in the sharing economy seen in the past few years have been termed as “uberisation”.

Uber had started with the call-to-action terms of “Free Rides” and” Want more Uber for less?” Other referral strategies involved percentage off on total fare for a referral, percentage free rides for a limited amount of money per referral, and the facility of referring more than one person to increase free ride value or credit value.

The use of the phrase “free rides” as a CTA button has proven very successful as people constantly check if they are entitled to a free ride because anything free immediately attracts consumers.

Moreover, the app layout is simple, easily accessible, and highly rated. The referral mechanism is user-friendly and offers immediate results. The referral code can be copied instantly with a tap.

A subsidiary of Uber, Uber Eats also uses the “free” strategy. They offer free food instead of free rides as a referral reward. Referral options include referral codes, SMS, email, etc. just like Uber. 


PayPal’s referral program was inspired by Dropbox and its successful referral program. The user base of PayPal crossed the 100 million mark only after its referral program helped in increasing daily growth.

PayPal paid people to sign up and to refer their friends. This worked out way better than any traditional marketing approach. The individual bonus was dropped once the base of early adopters was created; eventually, the merchant bonus was also dropped.


Airbnb has a dual referral program with a mobile and desktop version. Homestays have never been this popular before, with eye-catching and simplistic CTAs like “Invite Friends” and “Earn travel credits” Airbnb is ruling travel enthusiasts’ hearts.

The way their referral program works is simple. Referral links can be shared through many mediums including Facebook, emails, and SMS. When the referred friend uses the primary user’s referral code to run the app and rent out their place, the user gets $75, when they travel using the app, the user gets $25.

The program offers the best multi-platform user experience through a continuous reward system. The layout is simple, uncluttered, and beneficial to the user as well as the referred individual.


According to Growth Hackers, Dropbox not only has one of the most popular referral program nominees but it also serves as a popular growth hacking example.

The referral campaign of Dropbox, an online storage company, offered 500MB free storage space to both the primary user and the referred. This increased sign-ups to 60% for Dropbox. They discovered their niche and understood their consumer requirements which in turn made them a leader in their field.


Tesla, the brainchild of tech billionaire and entrepreneur Elon Musk, is a world renowned car company that keeps reinventing their referral program with the evolution of consumer demands.

Tesla too has a multi-layered referral program that began as $1000 rewards for anyone referring to their contacts and has now evolved into 1000 miles of free supercharging with new cars, a chance to win Model Y monthly and Roadster supercar quarterly with each referral. Purchasing or subscribing to solar panels also gives users and referred people $250 reward.

Their green initiative has also attracted world leaders and environment enthusiasts equally through their campaigns.


Amuze is one of the fastest growing e-commerce fashion websites right now. Amuze offers the exclusivity of a members-only experience and sells authentic designer labels for great discounts. They offer a $25 discount to the members, and it adds value to the popular flash sales served by Amuze on luxury products. 


Evernote is a highly popular digital sticky note alternative app. They have a referral program through which a user gets 10 reward points for the first 3 friends they refer and further they get 5 points each time a referred individual makes a premium purchase. The Evernote points can be used to invest in Evernote Premium.

This is a technique that shows how the referral program is a continuous cycle and the work is not finished after the user submits the contact information of the referred friend.


Google does not have a single referral program, but a plethora of referral programs linked to the number of Google apps and platforms in the market. Every referral program is intuitively designed to affect the intended consumer. 

G-suite, for example, has a simple but effective referral program based on a one-way reward system. For every referral, the user gets $7.50 and it can go up to $750 for a single business.


Ulta Beauty’s e-commerce sales have shown more than 40% growth consistently over the quarters. The rewards program of the company works in favor of the identified best customers. These customers are chosen based on the frequency and amount of their purchases over some time, and they act as brand advocates.

With Ulta’s program, the referrer and the referee would benefit by saving $10 on every $30 purchase. This program has proved to be successful in increasing new membership and converting it to a loyal consumer base. According to recent reports, the referred loyalty members have over 50% higher average order value.


ReadyTalk is a video and audio conferencing service provider for big and small corporations. After failing to generate enough referrals for some time, even through emails, ReadyTalk launched its advocate marketing program.

This move ensured that the smaller group of devoted customers get rewarded for every small act of customer advocacy, strengthening the niche. The results were positive. Within the first ten weeks of the shift in program, ReadyTalk got 183 referrals and the rest is history.

Referrals Equal Growth

A referral program should be easy to find, have easy to copy/paste referral codes, have a clean and focused layout, offer attractive incentives, and aim to “addict” consumers to the incentives within healthy limits. This can help build a brand network and make a business invincible. 

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