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This article is part of the “Best referral program ideas and examples” section of our guide that has over 38 resources dedicated to everything you need to know about referral programs.

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It’s a mobile world; we’re just living in it. Every day, most consumers spend more than 5 hours on their smartphones and other mobile devices. And this means that mobile experiences are defining how customers interact with your brand.

  • According to Google, almost 9 out of 10 people will recommend a brand after having a positive experience with the brand on mobile.
  • Google also shares that “80% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies with mobile sites or apps that help them easily answer their questions.”
  • Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. 57% of customers will not recommend a business with a poor mobile experience.

So, if you’re designing a referral marketing program, you’ll need to make sure it’s optimized for mobile.

How to Create a Mobile-Friendly Referral Program

For best results, follow these tips when creating a referral program designed for mobile devices.

  • Make sure that your customers can find your referral program seamlessly on your app.
    • Time on apps accounts for 89%  of media time spent on mobile.
    • It should take as few taps as possible to get to the referral screen or pop-up.
  • Like any referral program, your referral app must quickly tell your advocates what you want them to do (refer) and what’s in it for them (incentives).
    • Use a concise, compelling call-to-action.
    • Explain your referral program structure in as few words as possible.
  • The referral process should be frictionless. Make it easy for customers to send emails, messages, referral codes or referral links to their friends.
    • For best results, advocates shouldn’t have to enter their email to refer. After all, they’ve already signed into your app—so you already have their information.
    • Instead, a referral code or link should already be generated and linked to their credentials.
    • Codes and links are the easiest ways to share on mobile because customers can copy and paste them into social media posts and text messages right away.
    • Make sure advocates can copy the code or link with a single tap, instead of having to highlight the text.
    • Include a prewritten message, but ensure it doesn’t sound too “salesy” as real people will be sharing it. Also, include an option for advocates to customize their message, for a personal touch.
  • Don’t clutter your referral app page or pop-up with too much content.
    • This is especially important on mobile because the screen is smaller.
    • Make sure your advocates have all the information they need “above the fold”— before they need to scroll.

Need inspiration for your mobile referral program or referral app? Look no further. We’re breaking down 12 of the best mobile referral programs out there, and sharing why they rock.

1. TabbedOut

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TabbedOut expertly gamifies their referral program. Check out that progress bar!

What they’re about: 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 button in the menu); “Refer a friend” (on referral page)

Referral message: “Refer a friend and earn $10 when they pay their first tab.”

Ways to refer: Copying and sharing referral code anywhere; Facebook; Twitter; Instagram, SMS; email

Incentive: TabbedOut’s cumulative incentive rewards advocates $10 towards a future tab for every friend they refer who pays their first tab.

What we love:

  • Tabbed Out expertly gamifies their cumulative referral program. A progress bar tracks users’ “sharing rank,” and advocates can easily see how many referrals they need to advance to the next rank. For example, after the first 11 referrals, an advocate’s status goes from “newb” to “fan.” And there’s no limit to how many friends an advocate can refer!
  • Easy-to-access program: it takes only two taps to get to the referral page (opening the menu and then tapping “Refer for Rewards”).
  • So many ways to refer—and all options are centered around an easy-to-find referral code that’s the most prominent text on the page.

2. RobinHood

This mobile referral program from RobinHood is another awesome example and uses the element of surprise. What free stocks will you and your friends receive? Refer to find out!

What they’re about: The RobinHood app lets you buy and sell stocks without a commission fee. RobinHood exploded thanks to a prelaunch mobile referral program—the more friends you referred, the sooner you were able to get access to the app. Now, RobinHood has done it again with this “casino-style” referral program.

Referral CTA: “Get Free Stock”  (in image), “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.”

Ways to refer: Copying and pasting referral link anywhere

Incentive: One free share of stock for each friend who newly joins RobinHood. The company the share is in is decided at random: an advocate could end up with a stock worth $2 or $200.

What we love:

  • Which stock will you get? How much is it worth? Oh, the suspense… you’ll need to refer a friend to find out.  RobinHood knows well that a free product offer is hard to resist. Who doesn’t love getting something you want for free?
  • But they also entice with gamification. This referral program is basically like pulling a slot machine lever, but for free: the only “cost” is the referral. And you’ll always win because you’re getting something valuable to you.
  • CBInsights explains why exactly the program is so addicting: “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.” And this is done 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 users got well-known stocks, but ones less valuable than, say, Apple. But those who did get the highest-value stocks, and shared, confirmed the potential of the program—and drove advocates to keep on referring. How’s that for the power of word-of-mouth?

3. Tile

Like RobinHood, Tile uses the “get free product” style of referral message to entice advocates.

What they’re about: The Tile app’s goal is to make sure you’ll never lose something important again. Attach a Tile to your keys, wallet, phone, or other valuable objects, and the Tile system will notify you of the object’s location when it gets lost (or ring if the device is nearby.)

Referral CTA: “Get Free Tiles” (CTA button in the menu); “Invite your friends. Get free Tiles.” (On 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: Email; Facebook; Twitter; copying and pasting referral link anywhere

Incentive: One free Tile after two friends you refer both buy a Tile via your link.

What we love:

  • Tile also rewards its advocates with a free product incentive—and in Tile’s case, the product is tangible.
  • Instead of using a friend-centric CTA button in the menu, Tile uses a consumer-centric “get free Tiles” message to entice advocates.
  • But Tile also uses a “feel-good” message with the motivation of helping friends solve a problem. So, it covers multiple bases in its messaging.
  • The “points” system gamifies the referral program. Converting the referral into a large unit of points (when multiple referrals are required) motivates advocates to get the second referral as they see how much progress they’ve made.
  • It only takes three taps to refer (advocates tap the settings gear, “Get free Tiles,” and then tap the referral link)

4. Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards’ mobile referral program has a clean, simple layout we love.

What they’re about: Fetch Rewards gives grocery shoppers rewards just for scanning their receipts, once they buy certain products.

Referral CTA: “Referral Code” (The CTA could be better, but at least it’s 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 referral link; SMS; email

Incentive: 2,000 points when a friend scans their first receipt after entering your referral code. The friend also receives 2,000 points upon entry of the referral code. Customers can use their points to “purchase” a variety of gift cards, enter sweepstakes, and even donate money to charity.

What we love:

  • Double-sided and equal rewards: both referral and friend earn 2,000 points when the friend scans their first receipt.
  • Takes only two taps to access the referral page (users tap “me,” then “referral code”).
  • Tap right on the referral code to easily copy and paste anywhere. Totally seamless!
  • The referral code itself is the most prominent text, so it’s easy to locate.
  • Clean, uncluttered layout with simple but bright coloring
  • Quickly gives advocates all the info they need to start sharing.
  • “Points” structure gives advocates so many choices of referral reward!

5. Hotel Tonight

Hotel Tonight uses an enticing, wordless gift box icon as its referral CTA button.

What they’re about: Hotel Tonight offers last-minute deals on hotel stays. Customers can book a hotel up to a week in advance.

Referral CTA: CTA button with a gift box icon (immediately visible) takes customers right to the referral page. On referral page: “Give $25, Get $25” (prominent text),  “Invite Friends” (purple CTA button)

Referral message: “Give friends $25 with your promo code, and you’ll get $25 off your next booking when they book.”

Ways to refer: Hotel Tonight’s referral program is centered around a referral code that advocates can share anywhere. After clicking the “invite friends” button, customers can also share directly via email, Facebook, or SMS.

Incentive: Friends receive $25 off their first booking. Advocates receive $25 off their next booking when a friend makes their first booking with their referral code.

What we love:

  • Gift button catches customers’ eyes—and they can access this button right away (no need to open a menu). So, it only takes one click to reach the referral page.
  • Advocates can instantly copy and paste their referral code.
  • Double-sided program with equal incentives for referrer and friend.
  • Extremely clean layout in a professional-looking black-and-white scheme (plus a standout purple CTA button that pops).
  • Hotel Tonight gets right to the point with only one sentence of offer text.

6. Tropical Smoothie Cafe

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Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s mobile referral program innovates with a referral QR code.

What they’re about: Tropical Smoothie Cafe serves up healthy, flavorful smoothies, wraps, sandwiches, and flatbreads.

Referral CTA: “Refer A Friend” (on CTA button; same CTA on 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: Facebook; Twitter; email; personal QR code

Incentive: $5 store credit after a referred friend spends $10.

What we love:

  • 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 both pull out their phones, and the friend can scan the code right away. No worries about copying down a string of numbers!
  • Plus, advocates can screenshot their QR and post directly to their social media.
  • “Refer a friend” CTA  button is easy-to-find on the app’s homepage. No need to open a menu. Instead, it only takes one click to access the referral page.

7. Wish

Cumulative, stackable referrals give Wish customers an awesome incentive to share with friends.

What they’re about: Wish is an online marketplace where customers can score deals on various items, including clothing, accessories, and tech items.

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 referral code anywhere

Incentive: Advocates earn $2 in Wish Cash (store credit) for every successful referral who places their first order. Rewards are cumulative, and advocates can use all the Wish Cash they’ve racked up at once. Advocates can earn up to $20 per month. Friends receive up to 50% off their first order.

What we love:

  • Access the referral program from the menu in just two taps.
  • Cumulative store credit provides an enticing referral reward. Plus, the image looks like a credit card or gift card and signals “free money!
  • Double-sided program: Potentially large gift for the friend (at up to 50% off) encourages the friend to not only buy, but place a large order.
  • Simple and clean layout with on-brand colors.
  • Easily copy the referral code.

8. Uber

Uber’s mobile referral program is one of the most well-known (and one of the most notable uses of a free offer on mobile).

What they’re about: Uber is a mobile rideshare pioneer that exploded thanks to its referral program. Yes, the main reason for Uber’s success is that it disrupted the traditional taxi industry, but referrals have also played an important role.

Referral CTA: “Free Rides” (CTA button 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; email; SMS.

Incentive: Here, the referral incentive displayed is 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 4 rides). These credit incentives are cumulative. Note, though, that Uber’s referral rewards often vary based on city and time; the referrer’s incentive can be worth up to $20 in some cities.

What we love:

  •  From the beginning, Uber used the “free rides” strategy to drive referrals—by placing that enticing  “free rides” CTA button where users would regularly check. Customers want to see how to ride for free as soon as they find the button!
  • This mobile referral program meets customers where they are. Since Uber users keep the app open while they’re awaiting their rideshare, this increases the odds that they’ll find and engage with the referral program.
  • Like many companies on this list, Uber is extremely app-centric, so they knew exactly how to optimize for mobile. But even if you use both desktop and mobile referral programs, you can still take a page out of their book.
  • Their layout is simple and clean, the referral offer is double-sided, and you can access the program with only two taps.
  • Plus, you can copy the referral code instantly with just a tap.
  • And the offer is cumulative— as long as Uber riders 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

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Fittingly, Uber Eats also uses a version of Uber’s “free” strategy for its referral program.

What they’re about: The food side of Uber, Uber Eats delivers food from chains or local restaurants to your door or office. Like Uber’s original ridesharing app, they’ve revolutionized the game with the help of mobile referrals.

Referral CTA: “Free Food” ( first CTA button in the menu), “Get $5 off your order” (second CTA button in 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: Copying and pasting referral code; SMS and email, among other options

Incentive: Here, the double-sided program offers $5 off of the friend’s first order, and $5 off of the referrer’s next order after the friend places their first order. Like Uber, though, the incentive offered varies by city.

What we love:

  • Two enticing, offer-centric referral CTAs in the menu. One offers free food and one offers a discount (both direct customers to the same referral offer)—making it even harder to resist and creating multiple pathways to the referral page.
  • Double-sided program with equal incentives for both referrer and friend.
  • The referral code is the most prominent text on the page.
  • Eye-catching image of a big burger makes great use of space. Yum!
  • Uber’s rideshare app and Uber Eats use the same referral code for a user who signed up for both services via the same email address. So, it’s even easier to share Uber Eats!
  • Since Uber Eats users often keep the app open while they’re awaiting their food delivery, this increases the odds that they’ll find and engage with the referral program.

10. Airbnb

Airbnb has designed both mobile and desktop versions of their referral program —and their mobile version is super clean.

What they’re about: Airbnb has revolutionized homestays—and like Uber, their referral program is one of the most well-known.

Referral CTA: “Earn travel credit” (prominent text), “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; Facebook; email

Incentive: $75 when a new Airbnb user first rents out their home; $25 when a friend stays in an Airbnb for the first time. Each referred friend gets $25 credit towards their first Airbnb rental.

What we love:

  • Airbnb is an awesome example of a multi-platform referral program (with desktop and mobile-optimized versions).
  • Advocates can instantly copy their referral link with one tap.
  • Rewards advocates at different levels, both when their friend opens their home with Airbnb and when a friend stays in someone else’s Airbnb. So, the program covers multiple bases!
  • Clean, uncluttered layout gets right to the point.

11. TaskRabbit

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TaskRabbit is another company with both mobile-optimized and desktop referral programs. So, they offer a great example of how to tailor an established referral program to mobile.

What they’re about: TaskRabbit lets people find freelance workers to help them with tasks like 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 referral link anywhere; email; Facebook; Twitter; SMS

Incentive:  $20 for the friend to use towards their first Task; $20 for the referrer to use towards a Task once the friend pays for their first Task.

What we love:

  • Double-sided, equal rewards motivate both advocates and friends.
  • Super-clean layout with easy-to-understand offer text.
  • Copy the referral link with one tap.
  • So many ways to refer, so advocates can pick the most convenient option.

12. Upthere

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Upthere’s mobile referral program is carefully crafted to encourage users to stick with the program for a long period.

What they’re about: 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: Copying and pasting invite code anywhere; email; social media 

Incentive: One free month of Upthere storage for every friend who starts an Upthere trial. The friend also gets another free month of trial.

What we love:

  • Upthere knows how important loyal customers and referrals are to any business, but especially the cloud storage business. So, the Upthere app prompts users to refer their friends right away when they open the app for the first time.
  •  From this pop-up, it only takes one tap to access the referral program, without opening a menu.
  • Easily copy the referral code with one tap.
  • Even trial users can refer friends and earn another month of the free trial for each successful referral. This smart strategy both helps boost the number of new users who join Upthere, and encourages established users to stick with the app longer (making them more likely to buy a subscription when their trial runs out.

Key Takeaways

Starting a referral program? Whether you’re completely app-based or run on multiple platforms, you’ll need to meet advocates where they are and optimize for mobile.

  • Your referral program must be easy-to-find in your app.
  • Make sure customers can access the program with as few taps as possible, and that they can copy a referral code (or share via email or social media) with a single tap.
  • Your advocates shouldn’t have to enter any extra info to refer: the link or code should be tied into their existing app credentials.
  • A clean layout is more important than ever on the smaller smartphone screen.
  • Be sure to offer enticing incentives!
  • Gamifying your referral program, as TabbedOut, RobinHood and others have done, will “addict” customers to sharing (in a healthy way). So will giving opportunities to “stack” cumulative rewards.

Looking for referral program software?

This article is part of the “Best referral program ideas and examples” section of our guide that has over 38 resources dedicated to everything you need to know about referral programs.

You may enjoy other articles from this section:

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Jessica Huhn

Posted by Jessica Huhn

Jessica Huhn is a writer at Referral Rock. When she is not writing, there is a good chance that Jessica is singing, arranging songs, sharing and enjoying content on social media, or hanging out with her mini Goldendoodle. She believes that it's always important to cultivate gentle strength.