Everything You Need to Know About Omni-Channel Referrals
With 84% of respondents ranking “consistent customer experience across all channels” first in importance in a company’s multi-channel strategy (Retail Systems Research), it is clear that omni-channel shopping experiences are becoming the norm. However, traditionally omni-channel has been focused on elements of the shopping process like using online tools to check the inventory availability in a brick and mortar store. It hasn’t always applied to other aspects of brand engagement, such as refer a friend programs. Referrals are extremely valuable! One of our clients is experiencing a 10:1 ROI and a 38% order increase thanks to Sharing and Referrals and Social Login. As strong as refer a friend programs can be, though, they can fall prey to internet noise, and they’re often not implemented in brick-and-mortar stores. Given that, here’s your need-to-know breakdown of optimized omni-channel referrals.
Consumers make referrals in four ways:
- Online to Online
- Online to Offline
- Offline to Online
- Offline to Offline
Let’s take a look at the omni-channel referrals capabilities for each of these methods.
1. Omni-Channel Referrals: Online to Online
This is perhaps the most straightforward, or at least well-known, of referral programs, as it consists of one shopper sending an online referral to another consumer, who then purchases online. There are four main ways to share referrals online:
- A: Email
- B: Social Media
- C: Direct Link
- D: Direct Code Sharing
Mobile Friendly Website Referrals: 59% of U.S. smartphone owners have used their devices to research an item before purchasing it (Nielson, 2014) and 84% of U.S. smartphone shoppers use their phones to assist with shopping while in physical stores (Google Shopper Council). With those kinds of statistics, it’s clear that consumers are browsing your site on their mobile devices. It would be a shame to miss this opportunity to get them to participate in your Refer a Friend program just because your referral program isn’t mobile optimized. Mobile responsive and mobile adaptive are the two approaches to solve this problem.
Responsive means your website and your Refer a Friend page have an optimal viewing and user experience no matter what type of device they use because your site actively resizes to each device to offer the same view no matter the screen size. This means your Refer a Friend call to action will still be clearly visible no matter where on the page it is and no matter what kind of device your customer is using.
Adaptive means your Refer a Friend program and website come in several different layouts depending on the screen size. When a user visits your site, your site detects the type of device they are using and pre-selects the layout specific to that device size. This gives you the opportunity to adapt your call to action and functionality to fit the mobile experience. Within an app, there are two ways to set up a refer a friend program: deep linking and code-based.
When referral consumers are using your app, there are two main ways that they can obtain their discount.
E. In-App Deep Linking for Refer a Friend – With deep linking, when a customer is referred and takes action by downloading or opening the app, the referral traverses the downloading of the app and is automatically tracked and recorded so both parties receive their rewards automatically.
F. Code-Based Refer a Friend Apps – With code-based Refer a Friend, a referral code can be sent to the referee and there is a location within the app to input the referral code to redeem their reward.
One last way of enabling referrals from an online purchase links the physical experience of receiving the product to the referral.
G. Referral Cards in Shipped Boxes: A common practice among Refer a Friend programs is a post purchase referral solicitation. Placing printed-out referral cards in shipped orders takes this one step further. While Instead of gauging when a customer will receive and open a package, and then sending a digital solicitation, this ensures that they see the referral request and incentive right at the height of their excitement about a new product. Personalized referral cards also create an opportunity to establish a personal connection with customers. The referring friend can then give the card to a friend, thereby leaving them with a physical reminder of your brand. The friend can then enter the code on the card when they make an online purchase.
2. Omni-Channel Referrals: Online to Offline
In this scenario, a consumer sends a digital referral through social media, email, text message, or another online channel to a friend, who then makes an in-store purchase.
A. In-Store Code Redemption: One of the most straightforward ways to let an in-store shopper redeem their referral is by having your cashiers enter their friend’s unique referral code into your system. This works regardless of the method used to communicate the referral–social, email, text, or referral card.
B. In-Store Email Lookup: A slightly less bulky method is to let shoppers redeem their referral by giving the cashier their email address. Since emails are already one of the unique identifiers in most systems for refer a friend programs, and email addresses are obviously more memorable and easier to repeat and type than codes, this method is popular. We’re currently enabling it for Bebe and their Refer a Friend capabilities within their Customer Loyalty program.
C. QR Codes: Another omni-channel capability consists of creating referral QR codes, which shoppers can have scanned at the register. As customers are getting more and more
3. Omni-Channel Referrals: Offline to Online
In the offline to online premise, an in-store customer has the ability to refer a friend who then buys online. The key to these interactions is the unique referral code that can be generated for every customer. That code–whether it’s conveyed by the following two methods or something else–should be redeemable online during the referred friend’s checkout process.
A. Receipt Referral Codes: One way to get customers engaged in an omni-channel sharing program is through referral codes printed on their receipts. By integrating your referral program with your POS system, you can offer unique referral codes for customers to share with their friends.
In order to properly track the referral and reward the referring customer, your omni-channel referrals with receipt codes will need to be linked to your loyalty program or other database of registered users. Shoppers will then be able to give their email address or phone number at checkout, so they’ll get their reward once their friend purchases.
The key here is coaching store employees to point out and encourage the use of these referral codes. This not only boosts the customer experience, it creates an opportunity to alert customers to something they often times would overlook. Receipt-based referral codes also improve the Refer a Friend interaction, as a face to face referral action is more genuine and less likely to be ignored. The referred friend then has the ability to enter the referral code during online checkout to redeem their discount.
B. eReceipts: Another way to make use of your database to solicit referrals is to follow up an in-store purchase with a referral solicitation accompanying their email receipt. If shoppers give their email addresses at the register, we can then send post-purchase emails requesting that they refer friends. This is possible whether or not the shopper belongs to your loyalty program.
Once the shopper clicks on the email and decides to refer, they can share using the same array of options mentioned earlier–email, social media, copy-and-paste links, and copy-and-paste codes.
4. Omni-Channel Referrals: Offline to Offline
In terms of purely offline referral interactions, receipt codes are the name of the game. However, there are several other ways for offline shoppers to share with other offline shoppers. Of course, in-store referral solicitation, such as signs or kiosks promoting online signup for the refer a friend program, will drive some of your brick-and-mortar shoppers to make digital referrals. If you do e-receipt solicitations for in-store shoppers, that will drive traffic to your referral landing page as well.
These in-store shoppers can then make the same sorts of online referrals to their friends. Their friends who want to use their discounts in-store can then use one of the options detailed above–namely, by giving the cashier their friend’s code or their own email, or by having their QR code scanned.
To sum up the offline referral solicitation experience, then, our options for solicitation are:
- A. Receipt Codes
- B. In-Store Referral Solicitation via Kiosk, Signage, Employees, Etc.
- C. eReceipts
Our redemption options are:
- D. Code
- E. Email
- F. QR Code
To learn even more about optimized refer a friend programs, check out our Must-Have Beginner’s Guide to Refer a Friend, our case study with Vivobarefoot in which they saw a 10:1 ROI on Sharing and Referrals and Social Login, and our Step-by-Step Guide for a Powerful Referral Program!