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Before we show you a referral code example, let’s define referral codes. What is a referral code? A referral code is simply a unique combination of numbers, letters, or both which are used as an identifier.

referral code generator

Businesses use referral codes for their referral programs.  As we all know, a referral program is a powerful way to generate word of mouth.

Referral codes, in these types of programs, are used to track the origin of a referral.  The reason a business uses a referral code is so they can connect the referrals to the people who sent them in. This way if rewards are used, credit can be distributed to the correct person. The credit is often times monetary but doesn’t have to be.

A referral code example

To get a feel for what we’re talking about, here are a few referral code examples. As you’ll see, they all follow the same pattern, the ‘code’ is at the end of the entire referral link.

Example 1: A good referral code example belongs to Zipcar. Their referral program provides the user with their referral link, and you can clearly tell where the referral code is located.

Zipcar's referral code example

Example 2: Airbnb has a pretty well-known referral program. With this referral code example, you’ll see that they use the user’s name and a unique number to create their codes.

Airbnb's referral code example

Example 3: Ibotta’s referral program also uses referral codes. This one is a slightly different, however, as it’s just a unique code (unattached from a link). With this type of referral code example, the friend will have to download the app, and then insert the code manually. Unless of course, the user invites with one of the share button options.

referral code example

How does a referral code work?

Step 1.  Assigning a code to a customer

First, you’ll need to issue a referral code to a person who wants to refer you business… Some businesses choose to use a static code, where all the referrals use the same code. While others choose to assign unique code per individual (the person referring).

If you plan on giving out incentives per each successful referral, you may choose the latter option. This way you can tie the referral to the referrer easily.

(we’ll get into creating a code later in the article)

Step 2.  Have the customer to share the code

You have to decide on how you are going to get customers/partners to share their code. Thanks to the influx of internet and social sites, it’s very easy for people to send their referral codes. Most commonly, a referral program allows its members to send their code easily, via email, social media post/message, or text.

There are, however, plenty of cases where the referral program member will share their referral code in-person to a friend, who will later use it. In this instance, the ‘code’ might just be the person’s name and not necessarily a generated number.

Step 3.  Getting code redemption from the referral

referral code

As a business you are on the receiving end, so you’ll need a way to collect the referral code. In the online world, it’s easier to rely on links and cookies to track referrals for you.

If that’s not possible, however, you have options. You can have the new customer enter it themselves into a form or at an e-commerce checkout.  Or, if you’re a brick and mortar business, you can train your staff to take the code.

An even better option is to have a page dedicated to that referral code… Now we are getting into fancy referral marketing services (but you can still run a program without it).

On the back end, you’ll need to tie that code to the referrer somehow.  Hopefully, you kept a list of the codes you created, so that all referrals and those who referred are connected.

Why would someone use a referral code?

That’s one of the trickier points.  Often times a referral code doubles as a discount code. The code represents the incentive/discount. In other words, a person is incentivized to enter the code, as it leads to their reward.


This is where incentives, like the double-sided reward, comes in. Rewards motivate the individuals to do both step 2 (share) and step 3 (redeem).

Note: If done with a link and browser cookie tracking… you don’t need to enter a code (the link, in this case, acts as the code). Instead, the action required is to make a purchase through the link.

Ex: The referral can’t get the discount unless they use the link provided, and the referrer can’t get rewarded unless their link is used.

Is a referral code required for me to run a referral program

No. However, when dealing with multiple referees, it’s recommended. Why? Well, can you remember all your customer’s names?  For example, if you’re an online business like eCommerce… Good luck with that!

Codes also create trust, they make the whole process seem more official. It’s not just someone filling out a name and form, and wondering what the next steps are. It puts the onus on the new person to use the code. But it can be positioned to be used as a discount, which can take away the ‘burden’. Hence, leading to a 2-way incentive.

How do I generate a referral code?

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A referral code comes from the business or destination of the referral.  As a business, it’s up to you to generate the codes.  You can use referral program software and automate the process.  Or, you can even come up with the referral code(s) on your own.

If you choose to do it on your own, make sure to keep a good record. You may want to create a spreadsheet or use accounting software, CRM, etc.

What are some Referral Code Best Practices

– Make it easy to remember

– Try not to use O’s and zeros. Or capital I’s and lower case L’s.

– Make it case insensitive

– Personalize if possible (about the person, not the brand)

– Keep short enough to be memorable but long enough to be unique

Help answer common referral code questions

If or when you start your referral program, you might get flooded with questions regarding how your referral program works or what and where they can find their referral code.

While you can create the best user experience referral program, without a FAQ or knowledge base, you’re leaving room for your advocates to give up when they come across an obstacle. Also, will it save you from ton of customer support inquiries. To go above and beyond, create FAQ explainer videos to help your customers refrain from reading long documentations.

Don’t worry, we’ve gathered every single common questions that your advocates might ask regarding your referral code and how everything works. You’ll want to add your answers, screenshots, gifs, etc.

Here’s a list of all common questions you’ll want to answer:

  • How to find referral code?
  • Do you have a referral code?
  • How to create referral code?
  • How to referral code?
  • What is a referral code?
  • How to make referral code?
  • How do i get my referral code?
  • How do i generate my referral code?
  • Where do i enter a referral bonus code?
  • Where is the referral code?
  • Where to get referral code?
  • How do i enter a referral code?
  • How to share your referral code?
  • What to put under referral code?
  • Where do i find my referral code?
  • What if i forget my referral code?
  • What if i’ve lost my referral code?
  • Where can i promote my referral code?
  • How does the referral promo code work?
  • How to personalize your referral code?
  • Where can i retrieve the referral code?
  • Why would someone use my referral code?
  • Where does one find their referral code?
  • Do you have a gift voucher or referral code?
  • What to do after you receive the referral code?
  • How can i find a referral code for registration?
  • Will i be notified when someone uses my referral code?
  • How do i use a referral code to sign up for an account?
  • What is the referral code and how can i make referrals?
  • What if the customer referred forgets to use my referral code?

You might notice that some of the questions above might be asking similar question, so don’t just copy and answer all of them. Pick the questions that might relate with your advocates.


Referral codes are essential to every referral program, in fact, they are what makes them work. Without the use of referral codes, no one would be able to track the effectiveness of the program. Worst of all, there would be no way to track incentives, which would make it very unappealing for those who want to refer.


Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.