According to Forbes magazine, Amazon has topped the e-commerce industry once again in terms of sales volumes since the pandemic began. In 2020, it cornered 40.4% of all online purchases in the US alone. By comparison, the closest competitor, Walmart, could only muster only around 4.6%.
Amazon’s outstanding sales performance during a period of unprecedented disruption is no coincidence. The credit goes to their top-notch marketing and sales strategy, centered on “customer obsession”- an unwavering focus on customer experience.
For example, the ‘one-click-buy’ option on Amazon.com lets customers make multiple purchases without entering their billing details and address details over and over again. Their checkout experience is designed to be seamless. In fact, customers can share a product description with their friends or colleagues right from the checkout screen. The company has also introduced its own payment service, Amazon Pay to address the cart abandonment problem.
However, the biggest factor in Amazon’s sales growth has undoubtedly been its Prime program. It now has over 200 million subscribers around the world. Research shows that each Prime member typically spends more than $1000 a year. That’s around $200 billion in sales right there! However, it is important to remember that the program has evolved steadily since it was first launched in 2005. Over the years, what started as a referral program has gone on to become the world’s biggest premium loyalty program.
Does it have any lessons for smaller ecommerce brands on how to leverage referral marketing to increase sales? No doubt, most online brands come nowhere close to matching the deep pockets of giants like Amazon. However, the basic philosophy behind its referral marketing strategy- or any successful referral program, for that matter- is worth emulating. It can certainly give you a fresh perspective on increasing the effectiveness and revenue-generating potential of your own referral program.
Strategies to Uplift Your Ecommerce Referral Marketing Game in 2021
Here are some of the key referral marketing strategies you can use to boost sales:
1. Focus on customer experience
Remember: your referral program is but an extension of your brand.
If customers are generally satisfied with your products and service, you will attract plenty of referrals and repeat sales as a matter of course.
Conversely, customers would only recommend you to their friends if the returns are worthwhile.
Here’s what this means in the context of referral marketing: Creating innovative rewards options based on customer feedback. In the post-pandemic environment, the cost factor is likely to influence your choice of rewards more often than not. However, sticking to the same set of rewards can result in customer disengagement.
Educate them and be completely transparent about the terms and conditions of your referral program. Also, it is critical to simplify the referral process. For example, provide easy sharing options via social media and email. This will encourage customers to recommend your brand to others. In a nutshell, your referral program must be engaging in terms of providing value and ease of use.
2. Identify customer advocates and partner with them:
To steadily grow your sales, you need to identify new marketing channels. Here, your most loyal customers can be your biggest assets. Identify the top 20% of your customers and research how influential they are on social media. Over a period of time, you should be able to identify some ‘customer advocates’ with a large following. You can persuade these influencers to help you spread the word about your referral program online. You can also offer a higher discount for each successful referral to them as an incentive.
Remember: partnering with customer advocates on social media can create social proof and boost sales significantly at no extra cost.
3. Incentivize positive online reviews:
Customers who aren’t very popular on social media can also play their part in growing the tribe! For example, online reviews can be just as effective at attracting new customers as direct referrals. In fact, an Adweek study has found that online reviews equally influence 83% of customers as direct recommendations from people they know. It is also known that online shoppers search for user reviews online before buying products online.
So if your store has only a few reviews till date (or none at all), your referral program can be used to give customers a reason to do so! Offer a 5% discount to customers leaving positive online referrals on sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Amazon (and of course, your own website). This is sure to generate more traffic and sales over a period of time. You can even give out bonus rewards to customers with the most reviews at the end of the offer period.
4. Create referral contests
You have already built a team of customer advocates, you have been getting positive engagement on social media and review sites, why not go all out and start a referral contest? Such contests can make referrals a habit for your customers. Since the goal is to increase sales, you can add a qualifier: a minimum of 10 referrals. The winner can be decided by a lucky draw.
You can even have one or more runner-ups and other consolation prizes. Referral contests like these can attract many customers- existing as well as new. They can also bring in word-of-mouth publicity for your brand.
Your referral marketing efforts will need to be backed by a strong customer service team to be truly successful. After all, customers are bound to have questions about the program terms and conditions, redemption, etc.
Scaling a small customer support team does not have to cost a lot of money. Outsourcing to an experienced provider like Helplama can be a better alternative. Our flexible and affordable plans give you on-demand scalability with none of the associated training and hiring costs. We believe that restrictive long-term contracts are not a good way to do business. This gives you better value for money.
Ask about our Zero-Risk Guarantee that offers your money back in case you are not satisfied. Contact us today for more information!