10 Best Referral Program Examples in 2024 [What You Can Learn]

December 28, 2023

Welcome to ReferralHero, the go-to place to 2X your business through referrals. ReferralHero has been used to scale 1000s of businesses by turning current customers into brand ambassadors. Are you ready to 2X your business?

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • 10 Successful Referral Program Examples
  • Referral Program Key Takeaways

10 Successful Referral Program Examples

1. Uber

As of 2017, Uber had over 75 million users worldwide, and their referral program has been credited for a large part of this success. Uber’s referral program offers referral bonuses to customers who invite their friends where both the referrer and referral earn credits toward free rides. This really encourages existing customers to recommend Uber to their friends since they will both benefit from the incentive.

What worked well:
i. Ease of access
: Uber did a great job by making the referral program easily accessible in their apps with a “Share with Friends” section
ii. Dual-sided rewards:
this is a win-win approach as riders are motivated to continue referring friends to enjoy the benefits
iii. Mobile-friendly program:
being fully app-based makes it very easy to manage the referral program for all parties involved
iv. Separate referral program interfaces:
Uber’s customer referral program interface is completely separated from their driver referral program, making the experience unique to each group of users. 

2. Tesla

Over the years, Tesla has run multiple referral programs rewarding their customers with exclusive content and experiences when they refer their friends. 

Tesla referral program v1: double-sided rewards

Tesla’s initial referral program went with double-sided rewards, where both the referrer and the new customer got $1,000 in Tesla credit. 

Double-sided rewards are often seen as the best strategy to test the waters when you are trying referral marketing for the first time.

Tesla referral program v2: reward top referrers

Tesla kept the credit for new customers at $1,000, while providing additional rewards for top referrers by location. Rewards included a new Tesla P90D Model S, a home charger, and a trip to the grand opening of Tesla’s Gigafactory for each geographical region: North America, Europe, and Asia.

Tesla’s referral program v2 introduced non-monetary rewards and the top referrer of the program made 188 successful referrals for a total sales revenue of $16 million. 

That’s an ROI of 119x!

Tesla referral strategy v3: the raffle

Credit for new customers was increased to $1,200 and referrers were entered into a raffle to win a tour of SpaceX in Los Angeles. This experiential prize added to Tesla’s unique brand identity - future transportation. Instead of rewarding referrers based on the top number of referrals, this gave everyone a chance of winning the grand prize.

Tesla referral strategy v4 & v5: tiered rewards

Rewards: new customers got $1,000 in Tesla credit. Referrers got an automatic entry into a contest to win a Ludacris P90 Model X, plus the following rewards based on the number of referrals:

  • 10 referrals: invitation to Tesla’s next unveiling event - similar to the Gigafactory opening
  • 5 referrals: Tesla wheel rims that are not available for general purchase
  • 3 referrals: Tesla owners jacket that is not available for general purchase
  • 2 referrals: Tesla duffel bag that is not available for general purchase

Besides monetary and experiential rewards, Tesla added exclusivity as the theme here. All of the rewards are one-of-a-kind and are not available for purchase, even to other Tesla customers.  

Word on the street is that top referrers are still owed a car or two… (but that’s a different topic for another time). 

3. Hi Smile

Hi Smile offers convenient teeth whitening solutions and has seen great success with their customer referral program. Their double-sided rewards offer a discount code for £10 off the referred customers’ first purchases over £54 while the referrers receive a £10 discount automatically credited into their accounts when the referrals check out using their links. Customers can easily find their links by signing in to their accounts and heading over to the Rewards tab. Their customer accounts make it easy for customers to find a summary of all their accumulated points and links that they can share with friends and family through email or social media platforms.

This type of referral program encourages customers to spread the word about their positive experiences with Hi Smile, leading to increased brand awareness and more sales. So if you're looking for a referral program that gets results, take a page out of Hi Smile's book! With the right incentives, you too can create a successful referral program like Hi Smile and see your business grow.

4. Casper

Casper includes in the email footer a referral link to refer friends and earn rewards

Casper is an online mattress and sleep products retailer. As part of their referral program, they offer a $75 Amazon gift card to anyone who refers someone to buy their product while the referrals receive 10% off their first mattress purchase.

To optimize the success of its referral program, Casper targeted key influencers in their existing customer base. They identified their customers who left positive net promoter score (NPS) or positive product reviews and created a VIP ambassador program for them. This allowed them to reward loyal customers and create brand ambassadors that could help generate additional referrals.

Casper also built their referral program into their post-purchase email marketing. Customers were given access to the referral program in the order confirmation email footer, making it easy for them to share. This made the process of referring new customers simple and streamlined, increasing the chances that they would complete the referral process.

By creating attractive rewards, targeting key influencers, and designing a user-friendly email referral, they were able to increase their customer base without spending any additional money. Their success serves as an example to other businesses looking to create effective referral programs.  

5. Ztylus

One great example of a successful referral program is that of Ztylus, an online store for mobile accessories and photography equipment. They created a product-specific referral program to help drive more customers to their website. 

The reward system Ztylus chose was to give a 25% discount to the referrals, and 10% of the purchase as a cash reward to the referrer. Ztylus created a custom referral link for each of its customers. This link was then shared via email and social media. Whenever someone clicked on the link and completed a purchase, both the referral and the referrer received their rewards. In addition, Ztylus used its referral program to drive email signups and turn customers into brand advocates.

Besides customer referrals, Ztylus also focused on another distribution. Product reviews, e.g. “the best looking iPhone accessory that I’ve ever seen” by popular influencers, YouTubers and bloggers have been a great source of referrals for Ztylus.

6. Chase Card

The Chase Card Referral Program is a great example of how a well-crafted referral program can be successful. This program was launched in 2009 to encourage existing customers to refer friends and family. Chase Bank offers up to 75,000 bonus points or up to $500 cashback per year for each friend that gets referred, depending on the type of card the person was referring for. From a psychological perspective, presenting customers with a larger number (75,000 points) makes them think they’re getting a significant amount more of a reward which is a brilliant strategy.

To promote the program, Chase used email campaigns, direct mail pieces and television commercials. The success of this program was attributed to its targeted promotion, attractive reward incentives and a focus on building a base of brand advocates. Chase used both traditional and digital marketing channels to reach out to existing customers and encourage them to spread the word about their card offerings. By incentivizing people who were already familiar with the brand, Chase was able to generate more interest in their products and services.

7. Hydro Flask

Hydro Flask is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance insulated stainless steel bottles. They launched one of the most successful customer referral programs of all time. The program takes an interesting approach to reward customers and their referrals with “a little something”. It has successfully piqued the customers’ interest to refer and find out which leads to a massive surge in referrals.

Hydro Flask’s referral landing page is simple and straightforward. They provide a few popular sharing options that customers can conveniently use to refer their friends. All the customers have to do is enter their email address and choose the platforms for sharing: Messenger, Facebook or Twitter. They can also use the click-to-copy referral link or simply send their friends an email with their own message or opt for a pre-populated message to save time.

Overall, the Hydro Flask customer referral program was incredibly successful. It demonstrates how offering attractive reward incentives can be the key to engaging customers, building loyalty, and ultimately increasing profits. 

8. Paypal

One company that has made an impressive impact through its referral program is PayPal. Over the years, PayPal’s referral program has helped the company acquire millions of new customers and grow its revenue. Let’s see what made Paypal’s referral program so successful.

  • An attractive double-sided reward: PayPal offers a generous cashback incentive for both the referrer and the referred. 
  • Easy for customers to refer: Customers can send referrals directly from their account or via a convenient link. This minimizes the effort required by the referrer, increasing their likelihood of referring others.
  • Track and monitor referrals: PayPal’s referral program tracks each referral and monitors its progress through every stage of the sales process. This allows them to identify trends and areas for improvement.
  • Reward users at the right time: the reward money was deposited to the referrer and the referral’s accounts as soon as the verification was approved. Rewarding at the right time ensured that Paypal wouldn’t get too many junk users and the participation rate was high because users saw value in using their product. 

9. Harry’s

Harry's is a men’s grooming brand. Instead of spending a ton of money on Google and Facebook, Harry’s focus was on building an effective referral campaign that helped people spread the word to their friends. The campaign was so successful that they managed to gather 100,000 emails in a single week, with referrals accounting for over 65,000 signups; 77% of the campaign total! This means about 20K people referred about 65K friends or an average of 3 referrals for each organic signup! 

Harry’s referral landing page was a relatively simple two-page microsite. The first page was used to capture users’ email addresses and the second to display their share screen which contained the users’ referral links and social share buttons on Facebook and Twitter.

Harry’s super doable (who doesn’t know 5 or 10 guys that shave?) referral rewards were also clearly emphasized on the page, “Invite friends & earn product”. There were four reward tiers in total:

  • Referred 5 friends = free shave cream
  • Referred 10 friends = free razor
  • Referred 25 friends = free premium razor
  • Referred 50 friends = free shaving for a year

Users could easily check the campaign progress tracker on the page for info such as how many friends they had referred and what prize they had won - or not yet won.

10. The Hustle

Another great example of how to create an effective customer referral program comes from the Hustle. Founded in 2014, the Hustle was seeking to become the premier source for technology and business news among young professionals.

To help spread their message and reach, The Hustle implemented a milestone referral program. They made the program easily accessible to readers in two ways,
i. a dedicated landing page which can be accessed anytime from their website’s footer
ii. an email from the founder which includes the readers’ unique referral link and the reward tiers, 

  • Four emails to earn access to The Hustle’s private community with special content
  • 25 emails to earn a custom The Hustle shirt
  • 100 emails to earn a ‘Hustlin’ hoodie
  • 5,000 emails to earn a trip to San Francisco to hang out with the Hustle’s team

The results were incredible: A staggering 300K subscribers in just a few months!

The Hustle’s case study shows how effective referral programs can be when done correctly. It serves as an example of how to create an appealing reward system for customers, one that will incentivize them to actively refer others.  

Referral Program Key Takeaways

For any business looking to create an effective referral program, these 10 case studies are excellent examples to draw inspiration from. We’ve put together a summary of 10 key takeaways to help you make the most of your referral program:

1. Offer attractive rewards - Make sure that your reward incentives are attractive enough to motivate customers to refer your brand.

2. Target specific audiences - Focus on targeting your existing loyal customers and email subscribers as they’ll be more likely to refer your brand to their friends and family.

3. Encourage social sharing - Use social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to spread the word about your referral program. This will help you reach a wider audience and increase engagement with current customers.

4. Use an automated system - Automate the entire referral process using a specialized software solution like ReferralHero. This saves time and helps ensure that referrals are tracked accurately.

5. Integrate with other marketing campaigns - Make sure that your referral program is integrated into all of your other marketing strategies, such as email and search engine optimization (SEO). This will help you to maximize the reach of your program.

6. Create a unique link for each customer - Create a custom referral link for each customer that they can share with their contacts (ReferralHero software does this for you). This will help you to track the success of your program more accurately.

7. Leverage influencers - Reach out to social media influencers in your niche and offer them rewards for referring their followers to your brand. This can be a great way to boost engagement and attract new customers.

8. Provide exceptional customer service - Make sure that your customer service is top-notch so that customers have a positive experience with your brand and are more likely to refer it to others.

9. Gamify the referral process - Use game mechanics such as leaderboards, badges, and reward tiers to encourage customers to refer more people to your brand.

10. Launch an ambassador program - Create a brand ambassador program in order to turn your most loyal customers into advocates for your product or service. Offer rewards such as exclusive discounts and free products to incentivize ambassadors to refer more people.

Ready to 10x your software platform, mobile app, or web3 company with our automated growth engine?

In just 14 days, we help you build the same waitlist, contest, or referral program used to launch and scale Airbnb, Uber, PayPal, and 1000s of other businesses. Start your ReferralHero free trial today.

This article was written with the help of Vy from Removal.AI, an AI tool used to remove bg from images for social media, eCommerce, web, app development, and marketing automation.

December 28, 2023

Welcome to ReferralHero, the go-to place to 2X your business through referrals. ReferralHero has been used to scale 1000s of businesses by turning current customers into brand ambassadors. Are you ready to 2X your business?

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • 10 Successful Referral Program Examples
  • Referral Program Key Takeaways

10 Successful Referral Program Examples

1. Uber

As of 2017, Uber had over 75 million users worldwide, and their referral program has been credited for a large part of this success. Uber’s referral program offers referral bonuses to customers who invite their friends where both the referrer and referral earn credits toward free rides. This really encourages existing customers to recommend Uber to their friends since they will both benefit from the incentive.

What worked well:
i. Ease of access
: Uber did a great job by making the referral program easily accessible in their apps with a “Share with Friends” section
ii. Dual-sided rewards:
this is a win-win approach as riders are motivated to continue referring friends to enjoy the benefits
iii. Mobile-friendly program:
being fully app-based makes it very easy to manage the referral program for all parties involved
iv. Separate referral program interfaces:
Uber’s customer referral program interface is completely separated from their driver referral program, making the experience unique to each group of users. 

2. Tesla

Over the years, Tesla has run multiple referral programs rewarding their customers with exclusive content and experiences when they refer their friends. 

Tesla referral program v1: double-sided rewards

Tesla’s initial referral program went with double-sided rewards, where both the referrer and the new customer got $1,000 in Tesla credit. 

Double-sided rewards are often seen as the best strategy to test the waters when you are trying referral marketing for the first time.

Tesla referral program v2: reward top referrers

Tesla kept the credit for new customers at $1,000, while providing additional rewards for top referrers by location. Rewards included a new Tesla P90D Model S, a home charger, and a trip to the grand opening of Tesla’s Gigafactory for each geographical region: North America, Europe, and Asia.

Tesla’s referral program v2 introduced non-monetary rewards and the top referrer of the program made 188 successful referrals for a total sales revenue of $16 million. 

That’s an ROI of 119x!

Tesla referral strategy v3: the raffle

Credit for new customers was increased to $1,200 and referrers were entered into a raffle to win a tour of SpaceX in Los Angeles. This experiential prize added to Tesla’s unique brand identity - future transportation. Instead of rewarding referrers based on the top number of referrals, this gave everyone a chance of winning the grand prize.

Tesla referral strategy v4 & v5: tiered rewards

Rewards: new customers got $1,000 in Tesla credit. Referrers got an automatic entry into a contest to win a Ludacris P90 Model X, plus the following rewards based on the number of referrals:

  • 10 referrals: invitation to Tesla’s next unveiling event - similar to the Gigafactory opening
  • 5 referrals: Tesla wheel rims that are not available for general purchase
  • 3 referrals: Tesla owners jacket that is not available for general purchase
  • 2 referrals: Tesla duffel bag that is not available for general purchase

Besides monetary and experiential rewards, Tesla added exclusivity as the theme here. All of the rewards are one-of-a-kind and are not available for purchase, even to other Tesla customers.  

Word on the street is that top referrers are still owed a car or two… (but that’s a different topic for another time). 

3. Hi Smile

Hi Smile offers convenient teeth whitening solutions and has seen great success with their customer referral program. Their double-sided rewards offer a discount code for £10 off the referred customers’ first purchases over £54 while the referrers receive a £10 discount automatically credited into their accounts when the referrals check out using their links. Customers can easily find their links by signing in to their accounts and heading over to the Rewards tab. Their customer accounts make it easy for customers to find a summary of all their accumulated points and links that they can share with friends and family through email or social media platforms.

This type of referral program encourages customers to spread the word about their positive experiences with Hi Smile, leading to increased brand awareness and more sales. So if you're looking for a referral program that gets results, take a page out of Hi Smile's book! With the right incentives, you too can create a successful referral program like Hi Smile and see your business grow.

4. Casper

Casper includes in the email footer a referral link to refer friends and earn rewards

Casper is an online mattress and sleep products retailer. As part of their referral program, they offer a $75 Amazon gift card to anyone who refers someone to buy their product while the referrals receive 10% off their first mattress purchase.

To optimize the success of its referral program, Casper targeted key influencers in their existing customer base. They identified their customers who left positive net promoter score (NPS) or positive product reviews and created a VIP ambassador program for them. This allowed them to reward loyal customers and create brand ambassadors that could help generate additional referrals.

Casper also built their referral program into their post-purchase email marketing. Customers were given access to the referral program in the order confirmation email footer, making it easy for them to share. This made the process of referring new customers simple and streamlined, increasing the chances that they would complete the referral process.

By creating attractive rewards, targeting key influencers, and designing a user-friendly email referral, they were able to increase their customer base without spending any additional money. Their success serves as an example to other businesses looking to create effective referral programs.  

5. Ztylus

One great example of a successful referral program is that of Ztylus, an online store for mobile accessories and photography equipment. They created a product-specific referral program to help drive more customers to their website. 

The reward system Ztylus chose was to give a 25% discount to the referrals, and 10% of the purchase as a cash reward to the referrer. Ztylus created a custom referral link for each of its customers. This link was then shared via email and social media. Whenever someone clicked on the link and completed a purchase, both the referral and the referrer received their rewards. In addition, Ztylus used its referral program to drive email signups and turn customers into brand advocates.

Besides customer referrals, Ztylus also focused on another distribution. Product reviews, e.g. “the best looking iPhone accessory that I’ve ever seen” by popular influencers, YouTubers and bloggers have been a great source of referrals for Ztylus.

6. Chase Card

The Chase Card Referral Program is a great example of how a well-crafted referral program can be successful. This program was launched in 2009 to encourage existing customers to refer friends and family. Chase Bank offers up to 75,000 bonus points or up to $500 cashback per year for each friend that gets referred, depending on the type of card the person was referring for. From a psychological perspective, presenting customers with a larger number (75,000 points) makes them think they’re getting a significant amount more of a reward which is a brilliant strategy.

To promote the program, Chase used email campaigns, direct mail pieces and television commercials. The success of this program was attributed to its targeted promotion, attractive reward incentives and a focus on building a base of brand advocates. Chase used both traditional and digital marketing channels to reach out to existing customers and encourage them to spread the word about their card offerings. By incentivizing people who were already familiar with the brand, Chase was able to generate more interest in their products and services.

7. Hydro Flask

Hydro Flask is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance insulated stainless steel bottles. They launched one of the most successful customer referral programs of all time. The program takes an interesting approach to reward customers and their referrals with “a little something”. It has successfully piqued the customers’ interest to refer and find out which leads to a massive surge in referrals.

Hydro Flask’s referral landing page is simple and straightforward. They provide a few popular sharing options that customers can conveniently use to refer their friends. All the customers have to do is enter their email address and choose the platforms for sharing: Messenger, Facebook or Twitter. They can also use the click-to-copy referral link or simply send their friends an email with their own message or opt for a pre-populated message to save time.

Overall, the Hydro Flask customer referral program was incredibly successful. It demonstrates how offering attractive reward incentives can be the key to engaging customers, building loyalty, and ultimately increasing profits. 

8. Paypal

One company that has made an impressive impact through its referral program is PayPal. Over the years, PayPal’s referral program has helped the company acquire millions of new customers and grow its revenue. Let’s see what made Paypal’s referral program so successful.

  • An attractive double-sided reward: PayPal offers a generous cashback incentive for both the referrer and the referred. 
  • Easy for customers to refer: Customers can send referrals directly from their account or via a convenient link. This minimizes the effort required by the referrer, increasing their likelihood of referring others.
  • Track and monitor referrals: PayPal’s referral program tracks each referral and monitors its progress through every stage of the sales process. This allows them to identify trends and areas for improvement.
  • Reward users at the right time: the reward money was deposited to the referrer and the referral’s accounts as soon as the verification was approved. Rewarding at the right time ensured that Paypal wouldn’t get too many junk users and the participation rate was high because users saw value in using their product. 

9. Harry’s

Harry's is a men’s grooming brand. Instead of spending a ton of money on Google and Facebook, Harry’s focus was on building an effective referral campaign that helped people spread the word to their friends. The campaign was so successful that they managed to gather 100,000 emails in a single week, with referrals accounting for over 65,000 signups; 77% of the campaign total! This means about 20K people referred about 65K friends or an average of 3 referrals for each organic signup! 

Harry’s referral landing page was a relatively simple two-page microsite. The first page was used to capture users’ email addresses and the second to display their share screen which contained the users’ referral links and social share buttons on Facebook and Twitter.

Harry’s super doable (who doesn’t know 5 or 10 guys that shave?) referral rewards were also clearly emphasized on the page, “Invite friends & earn product”. There were four reward tiers in total:

  • Referred 5 friends = free shave cream
  • Referred 10 friends = free razor
  • Referred 25 friends = free premium razor
  • Referred 50 friends = free shaving for a year

Users could easily check the campaign progress tracker on the page for info such as how many friends they had referred and what prize they had won - or not yet won.

10. The Hustle

Another great example of how to create an effective customer referral program comes from the Hustle. Founded in 2014, the Hustle was seeking to become the premier source for technology and business news among young professionals.

To help spread their message and reach, The Hustle implemented a milestone referral program. They made the program easily accessible to readers in two ways,
i. a dedicated landing page which can be accessed anytime from their website’s footer
ii. an email from the founder which includes the readers’ unique referral link and the reward tiers, 

  • Four emails to earn access to The Hustle’s private community with special content
  • 25 emails to earn a custom The Hustle shirt
  • 100 emails to earn a ‘Hustlin’ hoodie
  • 5,000 emails to earn a trip to San Francisco to hang out with the Hustle’s team

The results were incredible: A staggering 300K subscribers in just a few months!

The Hustle’s case study shows how effective referral programs can be when done correctly. It serves as an example of how to create an appealing reward system for customers, one that will incentivize them to actively refer others.  

Referral Program Key Takeaways

For any business looking to create an effective referral program, these 10 case studies are excellent examples to draw inspiration from. We’ve put together a summary of 10 key takeaways to help you make the most of your referral program:

1. Offer attractive rewards - Make sure that your reward incentives are attractive enough to motivate customers to refer your brand.

2. Target specific audiences - Focus on targeting your existing loyal customers and email subscribers as they’ll be more likely to refer your brand to their friends and family.

3. Encourage social sharing - Use social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to spread the word about your referral program. This will help you reach a wider audience and increase engagement with current customers.

4. Use an automated system - Automate the entire referral process using a specialized software solution like ReferralHero. This saves time and helps ensure that referrals are tracked accurately.

5. Integrate with other marketing campaigns - Make sure that your referral program is integrated into all of your other marketing strategies, such as email and search engine optimization (SEO). This will help you to maximize the reach of your program.

6. Create a unique link for each customer - Create a custom referral link for each customer that they can share with their contacts (ReferralHero software does this for you). This will help you to track the success of your program more accurately.

7. Leverage influencers - Reach out to social media influencers in your niche and offer them rewards for referring their followers to your brand. This can be a great way to boost engagement and attract new customers.

8. Provide exceptional customer service - Make sure that your customer service is top-notch so that customers have a positive experience with your brand and are more likely to refer it to others.

9. Gamify the referral process - Use game mechanics such as leaderboards, badges, and reward tiers to encourage customers to refer more people to your brand.

10. Launch an ambassador program - Create a brand ambassador program in order to turn your most loyal customers into advocates for your product or service. Offer rewards such as exclusive discounts and free products to incentivize ambassadors to refer more people.

Ready to 10x your software platform, mobile app, or web3 company with our automated growth engine?

In just 14 days, we help you build the same waitlist, contest, or referral program used to launch and scale Airbnb, Uber, PayPal, and 1000s of other businesses. Start your ReferralHero free trial today.

This article was written with the help of Vy from Removal.AI, an AI tool used to remove bg from images for social media, eCommerce, web, app development, and marketing automation.

Don't miss out on more amazing content

Join 12,000 subscribers and get new content straight into your inbox
Success! You're subscribed.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Up Next ➞