Use Referrals to Grow Your Online Business

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By Miva | January 22, 2018
Using phone to shop online from referral



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What if you could double your customer base at low to no cost?

Referrals are one of the oldest, most trusted marketing strategies to acquire new customers. Otherwise known as referral marketing, this method involves empowering customers to share your products or services with their circles, often by word of mouth.

If you were to convince each of your customers to refer your business, you could potentially double your customer base—at low to no cost. With the viral nature of social media, loyal customers are as influential as they are invaluable.

80% of all B2C and B2B purchases involve some form of word-of-mouth recommendation during the purchase cycle. (Forbes)

While referrals are often spontaneous, the savviest companies know how to garner referrals to win word-of-mouth. Read on for 5 tangible strategies you can grasp today to gain referrals.

5 Ways to Win Word-Of-Mouth

1. Serve up an experience worth talking about

Before the Internet, consumers shared their opinions with neighbors, friends, the clerk at the store—really, anyone who’d listen. A survey by HelpScout found Americans tell an average of 9 people about good experiences with a business, and 16 about negative interactions. Nearly twice as many!

The virality of the Internet only strengthens this pastime, spreading reviews far and wide. As a result, the average consumer now has more reach, more influence than ever before.

55% of consumers share their purchases socially on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites. (AnnexCloud)

The fact that your customers can influence the opinions of friends and total strangers is a daunting reality. Use this to your advantage and give people something worth talking about.

Take Action

  1. Wondering what could set your product or service apart? Ask. People love giving feedback, and their answers could surprise you.
  2. Think of your most loyal customers. Have you asked them for a referral? Don’t be shy; satisfied customers are likely to share glowing reviews.
  3. Add social share buttons to your top products or pages. These allow customers to quickly share your products to their feeds.

2. Boost your social media presence

Social media plays a huge role in referrals. Has your company staked its claim in the social media space?

Increase your qualified follower count—those most likely to buy from your business—and you increase your sphere of influence.

71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. (AnnexCloud)

Gain a “like” and you gain exposure to that follower’s circles. Bonus points if you create content worthy to be shared, which boosts exposure—and connection to your brand.

Want to grow your social media presence but not sure where to start? Check out these resources on our blog.

Take Action

  1. Add social media feeds to your website. Invite customers to follow you online.
  2. Offer followers an exclusive coupon code. This not only draws current customers to your platforms; it could also attract new ones.
  3. Find influencers in your vertical—those your desired customers follow. Pay them or negotiate an exchange to promote your product or service.
  4. Offer incentives. Brand fatigue is real. If your customers aren’t engaging or singing your praises online, it could have less to do with you; more to do with the high volume of brand messages they get each day.

3. Offer incentives

Brand fatigue is real. If your customers aren’t engaging or singing your praises online, it could have less to do with you; more to do with the high volume of brand messages they get each day.

Cut through the noise and motivate referrals with incentives. Survey says incentives are one of the most effective ways to generate referrals. These gifts can range from recognition, to a simple “thank you”, to monetary or product-based rewards.

Incentives work because they create motivation, show appreciation, and earn engagement.

If the cost associated with incentives is a concern, remember: you can expect to see at least 16% more in profits from referred customers. (Extole)

Take Action

  1.  Try offering various incentives throughout the year in exchange for a referral. Test which ones earn the highest ROI. Sample incentives include coupon codes; a gift; cash back; whatever is appropriate for your business.
  2. Surprise your customers with a coupon once they’ve purchased from your store. Not only does this increase their chances of returning to shop; you also strengthen the relationship and, possibly, customer lifetime value (CLTV).

Related: Find out why CLTV is so important to business and how you can harness it, here.

4. Pay attention to the data

You’ve no doubt heard the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. It states that 80% of your output comes from 20% of your input.

In similar fashion, savvy business owners find that a small slice of referrers—be it customers, websites, or another source—are responsible for a majority of their referrals.

Work smarter, not harder. Take to the data to discover where your leads are coming from, and focus on nurturing that group.

Take Action

  1. Analyze your data. Through web analytics or a CRM combined with referral reporting, you can get a clear picture of your top referrers.
  2. Focus your efforts on rewarding, and expanding, theirs. Offer high-value incentives as a token of appreciation, but also extra motivation to keep sending business your way.

5. Implement a referral program

One of the best, most cost-effective ways to generate referrals? A referral program. This is essentially a “member’s club” granting higher-value rewards for referrals. As a result, the program builds an air of exclusivity that wins repeat purchase, loyalty, and word-of-mouth.

81% of consumers are more likely to engage with brands that have reward programs. (Extole)

Zinrelo, formerly known as ShopSocially, is one such service used to manage loyalty reward and referral programs. According to Zinrelo, loyalty rewards programs have been found to boost customer revenue 2.4 times and repeat purchases, 80%.

Browse our selection of referral apps in the Miva App Store that can help you maximize revenue per customer and new customer acquisition.

Referrals: A Final Word

Referrals are one of the longest standing, most trustworthy ways to acquire customers. By implementing the strategies listed here, you have the opportunity to win new business—and strengthen current customer relationships along the way.


About The Author

Che Elizaga

Cheryl Elizaga is a Brand Strategist and Copywriter with nearly a decade of experience catalyzing meaningful, measurable action for Fortune 100 companies and industry pioneers alike. A contributing author to the Miva Blog, Cheryl helps ecommerce companies own their brand and harness the tools and technology of the leading Miva platform to drive growth.

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Author's Bio


Miva offers a flexible and adaptable ecommerce platform that evolves with businesses and allows them to drive sales, maximize average order value, cut overhead costs, and increase revenue. Miva has been helping businesses realize their ecommerce potential for over 20 years and empowering retail, wholesale, and direct-to-consumer sellers across all industries to transform their business through ecommerce.

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