Word-of-mouth has prevailed throughout history, enabling businesses to gather new customers at the behest of existing ones—the rise of smartphones has just made it more streamlined. Most of our day-to-day tasks have gone mobile, whether taking notes for class, making online purchases, or contacting customer support afterward.
An average user spends over five hours on their smartphone and contributes 70% of web traffic, presenting an ideal stage for businesses to run marketing campaigns and mold prospects’ buying behavior.
Like most marketing tactics, referral programs have transitioned quite seamlessly to the digital ecosystem. With broader contact lists, social media followings, and social sharing only a tap away, smartphones have taken referral marketing to its apex.
Whether you own a SaaS company or have a retail store with a brand app, integrating an app referral program will keep you soaring ahead of the competition. In this article, we bring you the best mobile app referral program examples that exhibited exponential growth.
Mobile App Referral Programs: An Introduction
Call it basic human psychology or something ingrained by society; people trust other people's recommendations over targeted ads - and clever marketers have been leveraging that for ages.
Rewarding customers for engagement and referring new leads is a popular pre-launch practice among startups. While time-sensitive sales and coupon cards were popular back then, mobile app referral programs make sharing and rewarding much simpler in today’s robust landscape.
With the onset of smartphones and widespread social sharing, startups can now present their offerings to a global audience and compel them to sign up as customers. Once integrated with your website or existing mobile app, customers can participate in your referral campaign, share the brand with friends, and build long-lasting relationships.
Referral programs tap into the power of human connections and leverage the trust and influence of personal recommendations to steer customer acquisition.
Why are Mobile Apps Referral Programs Successful?
Leading SaaS companies like Dropbox and Robinhood have adopted successful referral programs as their prime pre-launch marketing strategy to generate brand awareness and secure new customers. Implementing an app referral program can spark your chances for success; here are a few reasons why:
Referrals are powerful because they come from trusted sources. Around 88% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know. When someone recommends a mobile app to their network, it is more credible than advertisements or paid promotions.
Humans are social creatures, and we often look to others for guidance when making decisions. Peer endorsements act as social proof, influencing prospects’ decisions to try the app themselves. People are four times likelier to buy a product when referred by a friend.
Compared to traditional marketing channels, mobile app referral programs are highly cost-effective. Consumers rely on word of mouth referrals 2x to 10x more than paid media. The strategy leverages the network effect, allowing a brand’s current users to refer people that find it relevant and likelier to purchase.
Referral programs have the potential to go viral. When endorsed by influencers and shared on vastly followed social media handles, it creates a ripple effect that can exponentially increase the app's user base.
Instead of targeting other paid channels and enrolling celebrities for endorsements, marketers are leveraging mediums where customers spend the bulk of their time. More and more companies are building app referral programs that offer mobile-friendly experiences to the target audience.
App Referral Programs: Start from the Basics
While Forbes claims referral programs as the standout marketing strategy in driving business growth, they must be employed right to achieve optimum results.
Integrating an existing referral program with your digital brand app is comparatively easier than forging new app from scratch. Whether your run a fintech company or gearing up for a SaaS startup, it’s best to embed a referral program window in your digital interface.
However, if you’re building a digital interface for your physical store, first devise a referral strategy that suits your business dynamics. We’ve extensively explained the 10 best practices for launching and running a referral program to assist you. Besides a robust referral strategy, prepare the following essentials before setting up an app referral program.
Create a Plan
Standalone referral apps rarely channel existing customers, let alone entice new leads. Instead, a mobile app referral program embedded into your brand’s existing app supports a seamless referral process for customers. Allowing people to signup and participate in the program through the same app will ensure a higher retention rate.
Of course, building an app referral program isn’t as straightforward. Aside from your marketing expertise, you need expert software developers and SaaS integration tools to build an app that works on iOS and Android. If you have a pre-built brand app, integrate a referral tracking system to monitor and assign incoming referrals.
Set Actionable Objectives
Before launching your referral app, determine what your goals are. Whether you want to increase user acquisition, improve customer retention rates, or simply boost user engagement on the platform, identify what success means for you and translate it into your referral strategy.
Know where your referral program is heading. Keep track of your marketing efforts by implementing analytics tools and tracking mechanisms. Make sure to evaluate key launch metrics to gauge the program’s effectiveness and make data-driven improvements in time.
Find Your Target Audience
Not everyone who fits your target audience description will be willing to purchase, especially if you’re posing as a young startup. As a marketer, your job is to pinpoint a segment of your audience likely to participate in your program and refer quality leads.
Setting up a mobile-centric referral program gives you access to analytics like the number of downloads, time spent on the app, and app ratings. Compare it with your ideal customer profile and target the ones that match the description. Brands usually invite their most loyal customer to the referral program, who are most active and keen to let their friends know about it.
Assemble a Support Team
Any marketing strategy that actively engages customers needs a support staff as a backup to ensure user involvement. Even if your referral program lays out terms and conditions for participation and outlines incentives, some people would still prefer a customer service agent spell it out.
Before taking your customer loyalty program on air, assess how well your support staff is handling current business operations.
Will they be able to handle referral program queries from prospects? Or Will you have to hire a customer support team from scratch? Either way, ensure your staff is fully briefed about the program propositions, reward structure, eligibility criteria, and program terms to guide customers.
Top 8 Successful App Referral Program Examples
Building a mobile app referral program is only half the battle. With over 96% of mobile users, the medium holds massive potential for businesses to connect with their prospects. Every year, companies spend billions of dollars in online display advertising spend to tap into the largest audience pool.
But with referral programs, the real challenge is propelling your existing customers on board and incentivizing users to share your app. Once you create a stellar referral strategy, promote it to an audience that’s not only willing to participate but also brings quality leads.
The referral marketing genre is already explored and decoded by leading brands, setting insightful examples for new startups to imitate. We have outlined 8 of the best app referral program examples to inspire you.
Gone are the days of cumbersome cash transactions and tedious bank transfers—PayPal offers a simple, convenient, and trusted solution. With a click of a button, PayPal enables individuals and businesses worldwide to send and receive money securely and effortlessly.
PayPal is among those major fintech companies that achieved viral growth with its impeccable referral strategy. Since its inception in the early 2000s, the company has initiated several referral programs geared toward increasing customer acquisition and fostering loyalty with existing ones.
The Referral Strategy
While most of us have already referred in half of our contact lists, PayPal renews its referral strategy for the zillionth time with the same old tagline; “Invite a friend. Get $10.”
According to the program, referring users must send a penny to someone in their contact list. Once your referred-in friend signs up and spends $5 in digital transactions, both parties will receive a $10 cashback reward from Paypal. Customers can refer as many as five friends on the platform via emails or SMS, earning up to $50.
Why PayPal’s Referral Program Worked?
The referral landing page is designed in the traditional PayPal theme with purple and blue fonts outlining the main proposition. What drove a massive inflow of customers to the site was its simple referral process requiring literally zero upfront costs. You could register a successful lead by simply sending a penny to your friend and having them transact $5 into your account to earn the reward.
For customers fumbling with cash or waiting in long queues at the bar, TabbedOut comes with an innovative payment solution. The platform is primarily geared towards diners and bars, helping customers and businesses streamline their payments digitally. Tabbedout's innovative mobile payment app allows users to open, manage, and pay their bar or restaurant tab with a few smartphone taps.
The Referral Strategy
On the outlook, TabbedOut follows the typical route of offering cashback for each successful referral. The landing page reads, “Refer a friend and earn $10 when they pay their first tab,” elaborately describing what app users must do to participate and qualify for rewards.
Besides email and SMS sharing, the TabbedOut referral program integrates major social media platforms to propagate the message to its desired audience effectively. Referrers can cumulate their rewards for a future tab.
Why TabbedOut Referral Program Worked?
TabbedOut app offers more than usual discount codes and cashback. Rather, it gamifies the process with attractive incentives to boost participation from prospects. It instates referral software that displays the referrers' rank based on their generated leads.
For instance, referring 11 friends to the platform will upgrade a customer’s status from newbie to fan. With no limit to the number of referrals one can generate makes participants equally invested in promoting the brand message within their social circles to receive bigger cash rewards.
The referral webpage clearly states “Refer for Rewards” or "Refer a Friend without any fancy dictionary or hodgepodge of words. Plus, the simple referral program only takes a couple of taps to refer their friends.
As one of the first fintech startups that leveraged referral marketing program to its full potential, Robinhood witnessed incredible growth right from the pre-launch stage. The stock trading platform registered over 1 million signups while the application was still in the development phase.
Robinhood’s impeccable referral program maximized customer acquisition and paved the way to becoming a billion-dollar fintech company. What started as a stock brokerage platform for daily wagers later introduced subsidiaries like cash management and crypto wallets, further contributing to its success.
The Referral Strategy
Robinhood rose to fame thanks to the ingenious business idea, while the referral strategy was just a catalyst. The program initially offered early access to the stock brokerage platform after launch; the incentive later turned into a stock reward.
Robinhood’s mobile app referral program offered referring users a chance to earn free stock for every qualified lead. Furthermore, 1 in 80 customers would get the chance to win stock shares in Fortune 500 companies like Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft, raising the stakes of the program even further. Once people joined through your referral link, you’d receive a stock worth $2 or $200.
Why Robinhood’s Referral Program Worked?
Robinhood came aboard with a business idea largely unheard of in the business sector. Their landing page motto read: “$0 commission stock trading, Stop paying up to $10 for every trade.” Even though the message was compelling enough for an average customer, marketers gamified the admission process by instating a waitlist referral strategy.
For many customers, Robinhood’s referral program worked somewhat like a slot machine that rewards different stocks based on luck. Most of the time, the stocks you earn as a reward may not be from Apple or other Fortune 500. Nevertheless, the referral strategy has you winning small stocks consistently, so you have some skin in the game.
Whenever animal welfare is in question or your pets need dedicated care, Rover comes to the rescue. The platform connects pet parents with a community of passionate animal lovers dedicated to providing personalized care to their canine friends.
Rover was founded in 2011 with a mission to make it easier for pet owners to find reliable and loving care for their pets. With millions of pet owners and caregivers connected through the platform, Rover has transformed the pet care industry, making it easier to find trustworthy pet care providers—many accredit app referral programs for Rover’s success.
The Referral Strategy
Rover taps into the network of its existing users, pet owners, and freelance agents to acquire leads and recruit new pet sitters or dog walkers. By referring qualified people to Rovers, existing customers can receive $50 Visa gift cards as long as the referred-in stay signed in for the first 90 days. Inviting friends as clients on Rover will earn you and your referred friend a $20 cash reward once they make their first booking.
Why Rover’s Referral Program Worked?
Rover promotes its referral program through banner ads on social media and targeted email campaigns to capture the audience’s attention at first sight. The banner peculiarly portrays the referral message along with a share button saying “Invite friends.”
Rover integrates several sharing channels with the referral app, allowing customers to spread the word through emails, Facebook posts, tweets, LinkedIn updates, or via direct URLs and invite their friends.
Since its inception in 2009, Uber has emerged as a game-changer in the transportation industry, disrupting the traditional taxi model. Instead of waiting in long taxi lines or hunting for the right parking spot, Uber takes ride-hailing to your fingertips.
With a few taps on your smartphone, customers can book their next commute within the city or ride out of town conveniently and cost-effectively. As Uber expanded its services to include food delivery, freight, and other innovative solutions, it solidified its position as a global leader in the ride-hailing industry.
The Referral Strategy
Uber’s immaculate referral strategy has played a pivotal role in acquiring initial customers. Instead of adopting the typical cashback approach, Uber offered incentives that kept users engaged with the brand, resulting in a higher retention rate.
The ride-hailing company offered referrers free rides for inviting friends on board. Customers would earn $5 worth of free rides when someone books a ride with their referral link. If the ride exceeded the $5 charge, new users would receive that as a credit which could be redeemed for any ride.
Uber proposed its offering with the tagline “Want more Uber for Less?” compelling existing riders to bring in new leads and enjoy free rides. The program allowed up to four referrals per customer, saving up to $20 off their transport fare.
Why Uber’s Referral Program Worked?
Proposing something for free intrigues the audience’s psychology enticing them to take action when there’s nothing to lose. Uber labeled its CTA button with “Free Rides,” attracting users that are otherwise less likely to trust or make a purchase from a new startup.
Since the Uber app stays open while customers search for their rise, embedding an in-app referral program is likelier to catch their attention. Customers can access the referral program and share with prospects with a couple of taps, promoting maximum participation.
While receiving cashback on groceries may seem a common practice today, Fetch Rewards introduced it at a time when the concept was still alien. No more clipping coupons or scanning barcodes; just snap a photo of your receipt, and Fetch Rewards instantly scans it for eligible products.
Fetch Rewards quickly gained popularity, attracting a loyal user base seeking an easy and rewarding way to save money. Today, Fetch Rewards continues to innovate and expand its offerings and enroll new customers with enticing referral incentives.
The Referral Strategy
Fetch Rewards mobile app referral program distinguishes itself with a unique, minimal, and clean user interface with surprisingly simple labeling. Marketers make no effort to devise attractive taglines to capture users' attention. Rather, the referral CTA is named “Referral Code,” which may not seem inviting but is easier to point out.
Instead of following simple cashback mechanics, Fetch Rewards compensates users with points for generating leads. The double-sided referral program rewards incoming customers with 2,000 points for signing up and pays 2,000 points to referrers when they scan their first receipt. The points can be redeemed for various gift cards, enter sweepstakes, access time-sensitive sales, or make charity donations.
Why Fetch Reward’s Referral Program Worked?
A simplified referral process and uncluttered app layout could be the primary reasons behind its widespread participation. Even an average customer can navigate the process and exchange their grocery lists with gift points.
Not only is the referral code easy to locate, but it copies and pastes itself onto the clipboard when you tap it. The dual-ended incentive structure keeps both parties equally invested in the referral program and makes amends to build up their referral reward points.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Tropical Smoothie Cafe brings a delicious treat for health-conscious people with flavorful smoothies, fresh wraps, sandwiches, and flatbreads. What started as a small smoothie shop in Florida in 1993 currently expands throughout the United States, offering extensive menu items that cater to a wide range of palates and dietary preferences.
The Referral Strategy
Like its unique smoothies and wraps, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has implemented an innovative app referral program that registers a unique QR code for every referrer. Friends that channel in through your personalized QR code must spend $10 to earn you a $5 store credit reward. Or you can simply send them an invite through Facebook, Twitter, or an email directing them to download the app.
Why Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s Referral Program Worked?
Even though mobile QR codes aren’t as common among app referral programs, they do simplify the signup process for a referred customer. The best part is that people can scan the QR code from the smartphone in person without copying and sharing an odd string of numbers.
TaskRabbit is a pioneer in on-demand task management services that connects individuals with trustworthy and skilled technicians online. From home repairs and yard work to errands and everything in between, the platform lets you outsource tasks to freelance professionals and reclaim valuable time.
The rise in the gig economy propelled TaskRabbit from a casual startup to a multi-millionaire company. The platform currently enlists over 200,000 independent workers and contractors providing services to millions in need.
The Referral Strategy
TaskRabbit is one of those companies that run desktop and mobile referral programs simultaneously. With a “Give $20, Get $20” tagline, TaskRabbit’s referral program looks remarkably straightforward, at a glance at least. The reward algorithm behind their strategy is a bit more complex.
Friends that join through your unique referral code will get $20 off their first task. As a referring customer, you will receive a $20 in-app cash reward when the job is complete. Customers who use the app can share the referral link on their social media handles and send it through dedicated emails from the mobile referral app.
Why TaskRabbit’s Referral Program Worked?
TaskRabbit’s referral program doesn’t merely reward the promoter; it also benefits referred customers with a signup bonus. This establishes their interest in the brand and fosters long-term ties. The simple layout design with a four-word referral tagline is another plus point that contributed to its growth.
Key Takeaways from the Best Mobile Referral Program Examples
Being a marketing strategy largely dominated by organic word-of-mouth, referral programs have benefited greatly with the onset of smartphones. When devising a mobile-centric referral program, these eight referral program case studies are excellent resources to draw inspiration from. We’ve outlined the main referral tactics which contributed to their success:
Irresistible Incentives: Customers need tangible benefits to know their endorsements are worth every penny. The leading brands offer incentives too enticing to resist the prospects. From free rides, extra storage, or free trials to cash rewards and exclusive features, these programs understand the power of meaningful incentives.
Seamless User Experience: A frictionless user experience is vital for your program’s success. Simplicity and ease of participation are at the core of every successful referral program. By reducing any barriers or complexities in your strategy, you can ensure higher engagement and conversion rates.
Social Sharing and Integration: Referral programs work by leveraging the potential of social sharing; integrating it with a mobile app will expand its reach to a broader audience. Marketers must allow a seamless sharing experience through social media to help customers spread messages within their social networks effortlessly.
Continuous Optimization and Analysis: The top mobile referral companies don't rest on their laurels. They consistently monitor, analyze, and optimize their programs for better results. Marketers spot inefficiencies by closely tracking referral conversion rates, user engagement, and ROI and make timely improvements to mitigate any risks.
Impactful social media advertising and targeted email campaigns aren’t the only outcomes of smartphone technology. The business elite in the fintech and SaaS industries has actively leveraged the technology to their advantage—equipping existing customers with robust means to spread their brand message.
By offering irresistible incentives, instating a seamless sharing experience, and streamlining social sharing, you can make the best out of your referral program. If building a referral program for your app seems complicated, Prefinery.com can lend a helping hand.
How do referral programs work in mobile apps?
Mobile app referral programs work pretty much the same—existing users refer the app to others in exchange for incentives or rewards—with slight tweaks and upgrades. The best referral programs are integrated with mainstream social media channels for effortless customer sharing. They have a simplified referral strategy with a basic layout to attract and enforce incoming leads to become brand advocates.
Can referral programs help mobile apps go viral?
Yes, referral programs have the potential to generate viral growth. When users refer the app to their network, it can create a chain reaction of referrals, rapidly expanding the user base. The viral effect amplifies the reach and impact of the referral program, driving exponential growth.