Last Updated on25 minutes to read
It’s a mobile world – we’re just living in it.
Every day, your average customer is spending more than five hours on their smartphones, and an estimated 70% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. A quick look around is enough to see how mobile experiences are greatly changing the way customers interact with brands today. From browsing and shopping to contacting customer support, most business interactions have already gone mobile.
Referral marketing has made an especially smooth transition to the mobile platform. With customers having easy access to all their contacts and social media apps on their phone, the act of sharing becomes virtually seamless. Someone can share straight from your brand app with just a few taps.
If your business already has a brand app, integrating a mobile referral program will have a number of benefits. It makes the entire referral process extremely quick easy, and also spreads the word about your brand app – every time a referral link or code is sent out, potential customers are invited to download the app and start building a relationship with your brand.
Why referral programs work for mobile
The success of a referral program lies in making it easy for existing customers to refer others, and for referrals to become new customers. Before, this meant offering attractive reward incentives and ideally an element of fun. Now, it means also having a great mobile referral program.
Google estimates that people have twice the number of experiences with brands on mobile as compared to all other mediums, including in a physical store. Furthermore, 89% of people will recommend a brand to others after having a positive brand experience on mobile.
To meet customers where they spend the bulk of their time, more and more companies are creating their own apps and mobile-compatible experiences. This includes referral apps and programs, which work particularly well on mobile.
When customers can share your brand with their contacts and social media followers all on one device, you are seeing the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing. Just a few taps on your referral app are enough for a customer to send your marketing message to another person, and then another, and another.
Word-of-mouth one of the most valuable marketing strategies not only to gain customers, but to further increase brand loyalty and awareness. And making sure your referral program is mobile-friendly can make the entire word-of-mouth process much easier.
Before you start a mobile referral program
If you have an existing brand app and referral program, you’re in luck – the bulk of work for your mobile referral program is already done. If you haven’t, we put together over 40 referral program resources to get you started. Once you have a strong referral strategy you’re happy with, the following steps are some other essentials to have in place before you start a mobile referral program:
Create a plan to build your mobile referral program
Referral apps are rarely stand-alone. Instead, a mobile referral program is usually built into a brand’s existing app. This integration effectively puts all the referral opportunities right in your customer’s hands, and draws even more users to your app with every successful referral.
Of course, creating a brand or referral app can be challenging – you will need the right developer or software tools to build a referral app. But even if you don’t have a brand app, you can still optimize your referral program for mobile.
Looking for an easier way to make a referral program for mobile?
Know which customers to target
Going mobile gives you access to a ton of metrics you wouldn’t otherwise have (i.e., number of downloads, time spent on app, app ratings). Combine this with your current customer data, and you might discover it’s best to target only a certain segment of customers. For example, some brands only invite their most loyal customers to their mobile referral program. Others run an initial NPS survey to find which customers would be most willing to join a referral app. If you’d rather roll out your referral program slowly, look to the customers who are most active and most willing to refer your brand to others.
Find the best time to ask for referrals
Unlike other messaging, such as text or email, referral apps are part of a larger customer journey. Have they just logged on? Are they still browsing for what product to buy? Sending a refer-a-friend message during a time when customers are engaged in another activity can likely turn them off, making them think you’re just using them as a means to another transaction.
The best time to ask for referrals is after your customers sees the value in your product or service. Oftentimes, this is only after the customer has made a purchase and is excited to receive their order. By identifying the exact moment when a customer is most open to referring your brand, you are increasing the odds of your referral app success.
Have your customer support ready
All referral programs should have some sort of customer support, or at least a referral FAQ page. This is even more important for mobile referral programs, where customers may have technical issues, as well as general questions about the program. Before launching any new customer loyalty program, it’s important to gauge how well your business is handling its existing operations. Are you able to accommodate your current customers, and have enough room for potential new ones, as well? Is your customer support staff briefed on all the referral program terms and conditions, and familiar with how to solve simple referral app mishaps?
As many as 70% of U.S. consumers spend more money with companies that deliver great service, according to a survey in Forbes. If your customers aren’t getting adequate support, they probably won’t recommend you – or worse, go to one of your competitors.
Best practices for mobile referral programs
With your resources and strategy in place, it’s time to start creating a referral program designed specially for mobile devices. Below are some guidelines to follow for a referral app that generates the best results:
Make your referral app easy to navigate
The reason why most customers use a brand app are to browse for content (i.e., Yelp, Youtube) or shop for a product (i.e., Amazon, Net-a-Porter). A mobile referral program is an additional feature that helps foster customer loyalty and incentive them to share your brand with others. To encourage customers to join your referral program, place the link and important messaging where they can easily find it. Stick to areas above the fold to keep them from having to continuously scroll for information. It should take as few taps as possible to get to the referral app screen or pop-up.
Keep your referral program messaging simple
Like any referral program, your referral app must tell your customers what you want them to do (refer) and what’s in it for them (reward incentives). If you can explain your referral app program in as few words as possible, customers can quickly understand and start referring right away.
On a referral app page, it’s a good idea to present a clear call-to-action and focus on placing social share buttons where users can easily click. A catchy phrase, like “Give $20, Get $20” are commonly used – and for good reason. They clearly communicate the reason to participate and promote the referral program. Plus, they’re short enough to be placed above the fold, leaving room for a separate link or CTA button that takes customers to other program details.
Make referring others worth their while
Even if their friends are just a click and message away, there are a million other things users can do on their phone. Make referring others to your brand one of the more attractive ones by offering valuable rewards and incentives.
For example, Uber does this masterfully with the “Free Rides” link in its menu. In their double-sided referral program, your friend’s first ride will be free. And once their first ride is complete, the referrer’s next ride will be free, too.
For more on all the types of referral rewards and incentives, read our dedicated article here.
Take advantage of social sharing
The beauty of a referral app is it’s already on the same device customers use to communicate with others. Enable them to do so with ease by including multiple social media sharing options in your referral app, based on the platforms your audience frequents most.
To make things even easier, you can already pre-fill the referral message box with a standard, but not sales-y, message (here are a few effective ones). These messages can be customized, depending on the platform (e.g., Twitter sharing option must only allow 280-character messages), and helps lessen the time and effort required by customers to start referring their friends.
You may also want to include messaging for instant SMS referrals, where customers can send a referral text right from your referral app. If you’re allowing email referrals, make sure the email format is optimized for both mobile and desktop view, with the subject line short enough not to be cut on mobile devices.
Create a seamless referral process
As with any form of referral marketing, your mobile referral program should be easy and friction-free. The more steps and pages you require a customer to visit, the less likely they’ll actually make it to the end of the referral process.
Think of all the ways you can create a more seamless referral process. Can you pre-populate any customer information? Those interested in referring shouldn’t have to enter their email in order to do so. After all, they’ve already signed into the app, so you already have their information.
Pre-generated referral links and codes are also the easiest ways to refer on mobile. Customers can simply copy and paste them into social media posts and messages right away. (Note: It’s a good idea to make these links copied with a single tap, instead of requiring the entire text string to be highlighted.) However, always allow customers the freedom to customize all messages and personally select the contacts they are referring.
When you’re done outlining the steps in your referral app, take a step back and see the overall picture. Does it still look cluttered? Are there too many options that can slow down the customer? This step is especially important for referral programs on mobile because the screen is much smaller.
The main goal is to make it easy for customers to send messages and referral links to their friends – anything else should be reconsidered. A good practice would be to regularly test and reoptimize your referral app so people can navigate through as fast as possible.
12 best referral app examples
Need some inspiration for your mobile referral program or referral app? Look no further. We bring you 12 of the best mobile referral programs out there, and explain exactly what makes them work so well.
TabbedOut expertly gamifies their referral program. (Check out that progress bar!) TabbedOut’s app lets customers at participating restaurants pay their bills quickly and easily via mobile, without having to wait for a server.
Referral CTA: “Refer for Rewards” (CTA in the menu), “Refer a friend” (on the referral page)
Referral message: “Refer a friend and earn $10 when they pay their first tab.”
Ways to refer: Copy and share the referral code anywhere, social sharing through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SMS, and email
Reward incentive: TabbedOut rewards customers with $10 for every friend they refer who pays their first tab. These rewards are cumulative toward a future tab for the referring customer.
Why it works:
- TabbedOut is a master at making their mobile referral program fun. A progress bar tracks the current sharing rank, and allows customers to see how many referrals they’ve accumulated, and how many they need to advance to the next rank. For example, after the first 11 referrals, a customer’s status goes from “Newb” to “Fan.” Plus, there’s no limit to how many friends an advocate can refer!
- It takes only two taps to get to the referral page – opening the menu, and then tapping the “Refer for Rewards” link.
- There are so many ways to refer. Plus, all the available sharing options are found around a central referral code, which is in large text and in the most prominent spot on the page.
This mobile referral program from RobinHood is another fun example, which uses the element of surprise. What free mystery stock will you and your friends receive? Refer to find out!
The RobinHood app enables you to buy and sell stocks without the usual commission fee. The brand quickly rose to fame, thanks to its prelaunch mobile referral program – the more friends you referred, the sooner you were able to get access to the app. Now, RobinHood has made marketing magic happen again with this exciting casino-style referral program.
Referral CTA: “Get Free Stock” (image pop-up), “Invite Friends” (CTA button)
Referral message: “1 in 80 chance of getting Facebook, Apple, or Microsoft. 1 in 80 chance of getting Ford, Sprint, or GoPro. 100% chance of getting a free share of stock for each friend that joins.” (Perfect message from a brand that specializes in numbers and odds. More finance referral programs are listed here.)
Ways to refer: Copy and paste the referral link anywhere
Reward incentive: One free share of stock for each friend who joins RobinHood. The exact company share is decided at random – a customer could end up with a stock worth $2 or $200.
Why it works:
- Which stock will you get? How much is it worth? RobinHood knows well that a free product offer is hard to resist. And the added suspense makes it even more appealing.
- But they also entice with gamification. RobinHood’s referral program feels just like pulling a slot machine lever — for free. The only “cost” is the referral.
- As explained by CBInsights: “Plenty of the time, the stocks people get aren’t Apple — they’re Sirius, or Groupon, or Zynga. Like a slot machine, Robinhood’s referral program has you (most of the time) winning small, consistent amounts that are calibrated to be just enough to keep you gambling referring.” This makes for an addicting mobile referral program that comes at a relatively low cost to RobinHood.
- RobinHood’s referral program quickly gained traction on forums like Reddit, where people gathered to share thoughts on the stocks they received as incentives. Many participating customers got well-known stocks, although less valuable than, say, Apple. But those who did get high-value stocks shared this to the public and drove others to keep on referring. How’s that for viral word-of-mouth?
Like RobinHood, Tile uses the allure of free products to entice advocates. Tile’s goal is to make sure you’ll never lose anything important to you again. Simply attach a Tile to your keys, wallet, phone, or other valuable object, and the Tile system will notify you of the object’s location if it gets lost (or ring if the device is nearby).
Referral CTA: “Get Free Tiles” (CTA in the menu), “Invite your friends. Get free Tiles.” (on the referral page)
Referral message: “Know someone that loses everything? Help a friend out by sharing the link above via social media or email. You get 25 points for every friend who buys a Tile – and a free Tile once you have 50 points.”
Ways to refer: Copy and paste the referral link anywhere, social sharing through Facebook, Twitter, and email
Reward incentive: One free Tile after two friends you refer both buy a Tile using your link
Why it works:
- Tile incentivizes its customers with a free product. And in Tile’s case, the product is tangible.
- Instead of using a friend-centric CTA, Tile uses a consumer-centric “Get Free Tiles” message to further encourage referrals.
- Tile’s referral program doesn’t just motivate customers to a refer a friend for rewards – it also adds a feel-good message that referrals can actually help friends solve a problem.
- It only takes three taps to refer – the settings gear, tapping “Get free Tiles” on the menu, and then the referral link.
4. Fetch Rewards
Fetch Rewards has created a mobile referral program with a clean, simple layout we love. Fetch Rewards gives grocery shoppers points just for buying certain products and scanning their receipts. (Read about other popular grocery referral programs, like Walmart and iHerb.)
Referral CTA: “Referral Code” (although the CTA could be better, it is easy to find)
Referral message: “Give a friend 2,000 points and get 2,000 points when they scan their first receipt.”
Ways to refer: Copy and paste the referral link anywhere, SMS, email
Reward incentive: Fetch Rewards offers a double-sided incentive – 2,000 points go to the referring customer when a friend scans their first receipt, and 2,000 points goes to the referred friend upon entry of the referral code. Customers can then use their points toward a variety of gift cards, to enter sweepstakes, or even donate money to charity.
Why it works:
- Equal, double-sided rewards: Both the loyal and new customer earn 2,000 points as soon as the first receipt is scanned.
- It takes only two taps to access the referral page – the “Me” icon, and then “Referral code” on the menu.
- The referral code is easy to locate, and automatically copies and pastes as soon as you tap it. Totally seamless!
- Fetch Rewards has designed a clean, uncluttered layout with a simple but bright color scheme. The referral app also gives users all the info they need to start sharing.
- The program’s points structure gives customers their choice of several referral rewards.
5. Hotel Tonight
Playing up on the quick and easy process of booking a hotel stay, the Hotel Tonight app has a streamlined look and its referral CTA is a simple, gift box icon. Hotel Tonight offers last-minute deals on hotel stays, allowing customers to book up to a week in advance.
Referral CTA: A gift box icon serves as the CTA button (immediately visible on page) to take customers to the referral page, “Give $25, Get $25” (on the referral page), “Invite Friends” (CTA to refer friends)
Referral message: “Give friends $25 with your promo code, and you’ll get $25 off your next booking when they book.”
Ways to refer: Share the referral code anywhere, social sharing through email, Facebook, or SMS (by clicking the “Invite Friends” button)
Reward incentive: Customers receive $25 off their next booking (when the referred friend makes their first booking), and friends receive $25 off their first booking
Why it works:
- The familiar gift icon catches the eye, and can be accessed right away (no need to open a menu). It only takes one click to reach the referral page.
- Hotel Tonight’s referral app is extremely clean, with a professional-looking black and white palette and single line of text. This makes the purple CTA button pop out even more.
- Customers can instantly copy and paste their referral code.
- The double-sided referral program offers equal incentives for the customer and their friend.
6. Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Tropical Smoothie Cafe offers an innovative referral app, complete with an easy-to-use QR code. Tropical Smoothie Cafe serves up healthy, flavorful smoothies, wraps, sandwiches, and flatbreads.
Referral CTA: “Refer A Friend” (on CTA button and referral page)
Referral message: “Invite your friends to download the app. After they spend $10, you will receive a $5 referral credit!” “Or, have them download the Tropical Smoothie Cafe app, register, and use the ‘scan’ feature to scan your personal referral QR Code.”
Ways to refer: Social sharing through Facebook, Twitter, email, and a personal QR code
Reward incentive: $5 store credit after a referred friend spends $10
Why it works:
- Not many mobile referral programs use QR codes, but Tropical Smoothie Cafe takes advantage of them for seamless referring. If an advocate is talking to a friend and wants to share Tropical Smoothie Cafe in person, they can do so easily on their phones – no extra hassle of copy and pasting a string of numbers. (Plus, brand advocates can post a screenshot of the QR code directly on their social media account.)
- It only takes one click to access the referral page. The “Refer a friend” CTA is easily found on the app’s homepage, eliminating the need to open any menu.
Cumulative, stackable referrals give Wish customers a compelling incentive to share with friends. Wish is an online marketplace where customers can score deals on various items, including clothing, accessories, and tech gadgets.
Referral CTA: “Refer friends & Earn up to $20 Wish Cash!”
Referral message: “Give your friend up to 50% off when they sign up with your link. Receive $2 Wish Cash for each referral after their first order ships. Earn up to $20 per month.”
Ways to refer: Copy and paste the referral code anywhere
Reward incentive: Customers earn $2 in Wish Cash (store credit) for every referral who places their first order. Rewards are cumulative, and referring customers can earn up to $20 per month. Plus, the referred friend receives up to 50% off their first order.
Why it works:
- It only takes two taps to access the referral program from the menu.
- Cumulative store credit offers an enticing referral reward.
- Simple and clean layout with on-brand colors. Bonus points for designing an image that looks like a credit card or gift card that signals free money!
- A double-sided referral program: In addition to referring customers getting cumulative points, new customers can get a potentially large discount of up to 50% off.
- Wish’s referral app provides an easy way for customers to copy the referral code.
Uber’s mobile referral program is one of the most well-known and most-used mobile referral programs. Uber is a mobile rideshare pioneer that gained traction thanks to its appealing referral program. Yes, Uber achieved success by disrupting the traditional taxi industry, but its referral marketing efforts have played a big part in its mass acceptance.
Referral CTA: “Free Rides” (CTA in the menu), “Want more Uber for less?” (on referral page)
Referral message: “Get a free ride worth up to $5 when you refer a friend to try Uber.”
Ways to refer: Copy and paste referral code anywhere, email, SMS
Reward incentive: A free ride worth up to $5, or $5 in ride credit towards a ride worth more than $5. Friends receive free rides valued at up to $20 ($5 off their first four rides). These credit incentives are cumulative, but often vary based on city and time.
Why it works:
- Since the start, Uber placed the enticing “Free Rides” CTA on its main menu for all customers to see.
- This mobile referral program meets customers where they are. Since the Uber app remains open while customers are waiting for their ride, this increases the odds of them finding and engaging in the referral program.
- Like many companies on this list, Uber is extremely app-centric. They knew exactly how to optimize for mobile. But even on desktop, their referral program layout is simple and clean.
- It takes two taps to access the referral program page, and one tap to instantly copy the referral code.
- Uber’s referral reward is cumulative. As long as customer’s don’t exceed the referral cap in a given timeframe, they will earn stacking free ride credits for every new friend they refer.
9. Uber Eats
Fittingly, Uber Eats also uses a version of Uber’s “free” strategy for its referral program. As the food arm of Uber, Uber Eats delivers food from chains or local restaurants straight to your door or office. And like Uber’s original ridesharing app, they’ve revolutionized the game with the help of mobile referrals.
Referral CTA: “Free Food” (the first CTA on the menu), “Get $5 off your order” (a second CTA on the menu)
Referral message: “Share this special code with friends. When they use Uber Eats for the first time they’ll get $5 off their first order and you’ll get $5 off of yours.”
Ways to refer: Copy and paste the referral code anywhere, social sharing through SMS, email, and more
Reward incentive: A double-sided program that offers $5 off the referring customer’s next order (once the friend places an order_, and $5 off the friend’s first order. However, like Uber, this incentive often varies per city.
Why it works:
- This referral app has not one, but two enticing, offer-centric CTAs in the menu. One offers free food, while the other offers a discount – both links send customers to the same referral offer.
- Uber Eats offers a double-sided program with equal incentives for both the referring customer and their referred friend.
- The referral code is placed front and center, and is the most prominent text on the page.
- The eye-catching image of a big burger makes great use of space. Yum!
- Uber’s main rideshare app and Uber Eats use the same referral code if the user is signed up on both services using the same email address. This makes it even easier to refer from both platforms!
- Customers often keep the Uber Eats app open to check the delivery status of their food delivery, which increases the odds they’ll find and join the mobile referral program.
While Airbnb has designed both mobile and desktop versions of their referral program, we think their mobile version is particularly clean and engaging. Airbnb has revolutionized homestays – and like Uber, their referral program is one of the most well-known ones today.
Referral CTA: “Earn travel credit” (text on page), “Invite Friends” (CTA button)
Referral message: “You’ll get $75 when they rent out their place and $25 when they travel. Give each friend $25 towards their first trip.”
Ways to refer: Copy and paste referral link anywhere, social sharing through Facebook and email
Reward incentive: Customers get $75 the first time the referred friend rents out their home, and $25 the first time the referred friend stays in an Airbnb accommodation. Plus, the referred friend gets $25 credit toward their first Airbnb rental.
Why it works:
- Airbnb is an awesome example of a multi-platform referral program, offering both desktop and mobile referral programs. Its clean, uncluttered layout gets right to the point.
- Customers can instantly copy their referral link with one tap.
- The referral app rewards customers at different levels – when the referred friend rents out their accommodation on Airbnb, and when the friend stays in someone else’s Airbnb accommodation.
TaskRabbit is another company with both desktop and mobile referral programs. Their referral app is a great example of how to optimize an established referral program for mobile. TaskRabbit enables people to find freelancers to help them with odd tasks, such as home repairs, moving, cleaning, and yard work.
Referral CTA: “Give $20, Get $20”
Referral message: “Refer friends to TaskRabbit. They get $20 off their first task. You get $20 off when they complete it.”
Ways to refer: Copy and paste the referral link anywhere, social sharing through Facebook, Twitter, SMS, and email
Reward incentive: $20 for the referring customer to use toward a Task (after the referred friend pays for their first task), and $20 for the friend to use toward their first task
Why it works:
- An equal double-sided reward motivates both the current customer and potential new customer
- TaskRabbit keeps its referral app super clean, with a simple layout and easy-to-understand text
- The referral link can be easily copied with just one tap.
- The referral app offers so many ways to refer, allowing customers to pick the option most convenient to them.
Upthere has carefully crafted its mobile referral program to encourage long-term referral relationships with its customers. Upthere offers cloud storage subscriptions and file-sharing options for all devices.
Referral CTA: “Invite friends, get free Upthere!” (pop-up prompt), “Share my invite code” (CTA button)
Referral message: “When a friend signs up and starts their trial, you both get an extra month free.”
Ways to refer: Copy and paste the invite code anywhere, social sharing through several platforms and email
Reward incentive: Referring customers get one free month of Upthere storage for every referred friend who starts an Upthere trial. The friend also gets their own free trial month.
Why it works:
- Upthere knows how important loyal customers and referrals are to any business, but especially the cloud storage business. Their referral app prompts users to refer their friends as soon as they open the app for the first time.
- From the first pop-up, it only takes one tap to access the referral program, without needing to open a menu.
- The referral code can be easily copied with just one tap.
- Even trial users can join the referral program and add another month to their free trial for every successful referral. This smart strategy helps boost the number of new users who join Upthere, and further encourages existing users to stick with the app (making them more likely to purchase a paid subscription when their trial runs out).
Every business knows it’s important to be where your customers are — and these days, that’s on mobile. With a referral program strategy, the right software tools, and the above tips to develop your own referral app, you’ll be able to engage both loyal and new customers on one seamless platform.