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How Influencer Marketing Can Help Your Referral Programs

Laura Leiva
Laura Leiva
August 3, 2022
2 min read
How Influencer Marketing Can Help Your Referral Programs

Scroll through TikTok or Instagram at any given time, and chances are you’ll find more than one influencer sharing about the latest find or purchase with their followers.

Regardless of how many followers an influencer has, simply sharing about a product or service is enough to increase traffic (and sales) back to the brand they’re sharing.  

For ecommerce brands, in particular, the benefit of incorporating influencer marketing into the overall brand strategy works in two important ways: it puts products in front of a target audience and builds awareness through word-of-mouth marketing. Therefore, influencer marketing is one of the most popular strategies for ecommerce brands.  

Word-of-mouth marketing, or more specifically, referral marketing, works by providing customers with referral links that can then be used in a variety of ways on social media, email, or websites. By encouraging others to use referral links, ecommerce brands increase traffic and revenue while offering loyal customers commissions or rewards as an incentive.

Just how powerful is influencer marketing for ecommerce brands? Let’s take a look:

  • For every $1 spent toward influencer marketing, brands see upwards of $6.50 in revenue, according to a study by Tomoson.  
  • There’s a growing trend in ecommerce businesses to put more of the budget into influencer marketing, as explained by Social Media Today. Nearly 48% of brands surveyed said they allot at least $100,000 to the influencer (and creator) marketing and plan to increase budgets annually.
  •  Micro-influencers (those between 1,000 and 100,000 followers) are seeing the most demand from ecommerce brands due to their loyal and engaged followings.   

For brands looking to build traction, increase revenue, and grow brand awareness consistently over the long term, a good referral program ticks all the boxes and adds credibility to even the most established ecommerce brands.

Ready to learn more about how to use influencer marketing as a stepping stone to creating an effective referral integration? Let’s dive in.  

3 ways influencer marketing can help your referral program

Implementing a referral program into your marketing strategy is an effective way to boost awareness and increase sales, but how do you get started?

It starts with utilizing the help of influencers to spread brand awareness. 

This is where micro and nano-influencers come into play, too. For ecommerce brands, budget limitations are often a big hurdle—but that doesn’t mean small and mid-sized brands can’t reap the benefits of influencer marketing because they can (and do). 

Micro-influencers help put ecommerce brands on an equal footing with bigger brands. In many cases, working with smaller influencers has a bigger return on investment (more about this in a minute!). 

Laying the foundation

Connecting with the right influencers is an essential step in laying the foundation for a strong referral program.

It’s no secret just how powerful the relationship between influencer, brand, and consumer is today. Nearly every ecommerce brand has a social media presence (or at least they should!), and with that comes the opportunity to reach new customers daily.  

Influencers help bridge the gap between consumers and brands by connecting with a brand’s target audience, creating conversations about goods and services, and offering valuable insight into what your audience wants. 

For brands looking to create a stronger presence online or with consumers, influencers elevate brand credibility, too—especially with millennial and Gen Z shoppers.

Choosing influencers that align with your brand's goals and voice is key to creating an authentic and organic relationship with customers.

Choosing the right influencers for your brand 

There’s a reason why connecting with micro-influencers is ideal for small to mid-sized ecommerce brands with a limited budget. With a “smaller” following than mega or macro-influencers, it’s typically one with greater engagement and loyalty than influencers with large accounts.

Micro-influencers also have more credibility and confidence from their followers than larger accounts. They’re typically more engaged with followers, increasing awareness and genuine connection for the brand.

Here’s a tip: look to influencers as a long-time partnership rather than one-off projects. In addition to building a loyal relationship, consumers are more apt to trust brands they frequently see from those they follow.

One of the biggest roadblocks for larger influencers is the idea that they’ll work with any brand as long as it pays well. Connecting with micro-influencers through long-term partnerships highlights brand authenticity and genuine trust for influencers and your target audience. 

Creating a Referral Program

Integrating influencer marketing and referral marketing is the next step. Once you’ve got your referral program in place, it’s time to have influencers share about the program on their social media. Here are some tips on building momentum:

  •  It all starts with word-of-mouth. An effective way to get started? Simply ask influencers you work with to discuss the program in the content they create for the brand.
  • Use promotional codes to attract and reward visitors to your ecommerce website. By connecting influencers with unique referral codes, they’ll earn rewards or commissions for driving shoppers where you want them, and customers will be more enticed to shop when a deal is promoted.
  • Make it easy for customers to sign up for their own referral links. As more shoppers see their favorite influencers touting brand products and earning rewards, they will want to get in on the action and sign up for their own code. This process needs to be as quick and simple as possible, as customers will be less likely to sign up if there are any roadblocks.

The key to creating an effective referral program is to keep it as authentic and organic as possible.

With every post an influencer makes, there are dozens of consumers asking questions about brands and products—by creating a genuine relationship with influencers (and future customers), a referral program has the potential to increase the growth of your ecommerce brand drastically.

5 brands that have used influencers to boost their referral program

Curious to see how influencers have helped boost referral programs for other brands? Here are just a handful of examples:

Book of the Month

  • Readers love to connect with other readers. Subscription-based Book of the Month offers special discounts and rewards to members who use referral links to share discounts with friends and family.
  • One great feature is with every referral, both parties get a book at a discounted rate.
  • There’s also a branded hashtag used on social media, connecting book lovers together in a community (increasing visibility and engagement).

Hello Fresh

  • There’s no shortage of referral benefits for those new to this popular meal kit service. 
  • New customers can take advantage of savings with the first purchase, and there are a handful of options for connecting friends and family with free meals. Whether it’s a monetary discount or boxes with additional meals, there’s an incentive to share codes to get additional meals (which works well for an audience looking for shortcuts in the kitchen!). 

Highline Wellness

  • As a growing CBD brand, relying on word-of-mouth marketing helps expand brand awareness. 
  • Influencer WhatLolaLikes has partnered with the brand and shares frequently enough that her followers are familiar with the product and trust her opinions.
  • By signing up for the referral program, customers start earning points and continue to earn redeemable points with purchases, referrals and shares, and other actionable steps that elevate the brand. 

Brilliant Earth

  • Ecommerce brands in competitive categories must look for ways to attract new shoppers. For jewelry brand Brilliant Earth, a referral program helps reach a broader audience and rewards shoppers with savings on future purchases. 
  • Jewelry is a special purchase, so brands like this need to look for fresh ways to attract new customers. Since engagement rings and other pieces always garner attention from friends and family, having a referral program helps Brilliant Earth tap into that potential (and reward loyal customers).

Love Wellness

  • With an emphasis on wellness and health being such an important conversation online, Love Wellness taps into the community aspect with its referral program. 
  • Each referral comes with a reward discount that can be used on future purchases. Additionally, customers that use referral links can try the brand out and save if they spend over a certain dollar amount.

Kickstart your referral program with influencers

Working with influencers isn’t just about promoting products. 

Using influencers or creators as brand ambassadors or spokespeople is one of the best ways to build brand credibility and interest in a way that makes sense for future customers and partnerships. 

Can you have a referral program set up before you connect with influencers? 

Sure. But that’s not all that needs to be done. Launching the program and spreading awareness is the step that will take your ecommerce brand to the next level.

With every new customer you bring on, there are more customers to reach! Promoting a referral program is the same as any other feature—it takes consistency and authentic messaging to attract attention.  

Here are a couple of articles on referral marketing and influencer marketing that we think you might like:

Laura Leiva
Laura Leiva

Laura Leiva is a freelance content writer + journalist working with ecommerce/DTC/retail and related tech companies.

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