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The Uber Referral Program: Why Is It So Successful?

Updated September 21, 2020

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One of the most well-known referral programs out there is the Uber referral program. Uber has definitely used the power of referrals to build their business.

In fact, a substantial amount of their growth can be attributed to their referral program (although referrals aren’t the only reason for its success). Let’s break down why Uber’s referral programs, both for drivers and for riders, are powerhouses. We’ll also cover the elements of the Uber referral program you can apply to your own referral program.

Why is Uber so successful?

Before a company can build a successful referral program, they need to have a product or service worth sharing.

Uber tapped into an industry people need and use every single day: public transportation. By providing another way to commute – one that’s accessible and convenient – Uber filled an urgent need among commuters. Plus, the company provided the solution in a way that put the rider in control of their commute. They could easily find a car to take them where they wanted to go, when they wanted to go there.

Through Uber’s free downloadable app, a ride could be requested with just one tap, and even included an estimated timeframe for its arrival, so riders don’t have to waste time waiting outside. All riders need to do is enter their email and credit card information, and they’re all ready to book their first ride. (If you’re an Uber driver, it’s also easy to use the app to find driving opportunities in your area.)

Because Uber’s product is needed, wanted, and easy for both drivers and riders to use, it provides the perfect opportunity for a referral program. Mix the easy-to-use Uber app with a referral program (and a great reward), and success is bound to happen. Here’s more on the Uber referral program.

(Update: As of July 2020, Uber no longer offers a referral program for drivers and riders. However, there’s still  plenty to learn from this referral program powerhouse.)

Uber referral program for customers (riders)

Uber started back in 2009, and has since spread to over 65 countries and 10,000 cities and towns. It is easily one of the top-ranking ridesharing services of all time. When Uber first started, it used a $10 dual-sided referral incentive (paid in Uber credits) to attract new riders and encourage existing riders to share with their friends.

Later, they upped the ante and offered $20 and $30 dual-sided credit rewards. What makes this so attractive is the amount usually covers one free ride, which is how the referral program has typically been advertised for existing riders. Since then, the Uber referral rewards have fluctuated in amount, but Uber has consistently offered valuable, dual-sided Uber credits.

Uber referral program for riders

All someone has to do to earn the rewards is sign up and share. The referred friend then has to sign up and their first ride is free. Pretty easy. Here’s more on why the Uber referral program works so well.

  • Easy to access and enticing: Uber riders can tap on the “free rides” option in the menu to access the program. The choice to use “free rides” for the call-to-action, rather than “refer a friend,” effectively catches a customer’s eye and makes them want to tap and learn more.
  • Mobile-centric: Since Uber is app-based, its referral program is extremely mobile-friendly. Sending a quick referral on the go is easy.
  • Unique referral codes: Each customer has a unique invite code for instant sharing with friends. This also makes tracking referrals and distributing rewards easy for Uber.
  • Several sharing options: Customers can share via email, social media (Facebook, Twitter), SMS, or directly copying and pasting their personal referral code. Multiple options make sharing easy, accommodating all the ways a customer usually connects with their friends.
  • Dual-sided rewards: Both the referring customer and their friend have the opportunity to earn rewards. When a referred friend takes their first ride with Uber, the person who referred them instantly earns credit equal to a free ride. The referred friend also gets ride credits spread across their first several rides, which encourages them to become a loyal customer.

Uber referral program for drivers

On top of a successful customer or rider referral program, Uber also created a driver referral program. Uber understood that with two separate interfaces for drivers and riders, it would have the most success by creating a separate, tailored referral program for drivers (similar to an employee referral program).

When a driver refers someone by sharing their personal code, and the referred person becomes a new driver, the referrer earns a bonus reward. Just like the rider referral program, the Uber driver referral program also offers a dual incentive, which gives the new driver a “starting bonus” once they start driving for Uber.

The driver referral bonus has changed in the past (likely relative to how in demand drivers are). It typically ranged between $200 and $500 for each referral. But at one point, a driver could earn rewards as high as $1,500 (if they referred a friend who started driving for Uber with a rental car), while the friend earned a $500 bonus. At another point, Uber even offered a bonus for referring drivers who were already driving for Lyft, Uber’s main competitor.

Reviewing Uber’s referral success

Why has the Uber referral program been so successful? Most of its success is because it made referring so easy and enticing. With one click, you can share your referral code and earn money. And since the company relies heavily on its app and mobile riders and drivers, sharing with others is effortless even when you’re on the go.

The second reason for Uber’s referral success is its attractive dual-sided rewards. Both parties in the equation, whether you’re a rider or a driver. are incentivized to use the ridesharing platform. Plus, if you’re a rider, the incentive usually covers your entire first ride, making your first experience with the company essentially free.

No matter what industry you’re in, Uber’s referral program offers a lot of great tips to use when building your own successful referral program.

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