6 Innovative Drop-a-Hint Program Ideas to Boost Sales and Acquire New Customers

The most effective advertising comes from word-of-mouth marketing, according to a Nielsen report. A referral sale, which takes advantage of word-of-mouth marketing, is the purchase a customer makes as a result of a recommendation from someone else in their life – whether it’s friend, family, or influencer.

Drop-a-hint sales are a different take on referral sales. They’re a purchase a new customer makes for the person who recommended the product or brand to them. The referrer “drops a hint” via email or an instant-messaging application, with a link to the exact product the referrer wants. Brands can take advantage of this type of sale with drop-a-hint programs.

As it stands, referred customers are already four times more likely to make a purchase. Drop-a-hint programs are even more effective because people are often happier buying things for others than for themselves. A stronger, more compelling message containing a gift recommendation from the person who is going to receive the gift is more likely to get you that referral sale.

If you’re thinking about implementing a drop-a-hint program with your ecommerce store, here are some companies that are doing it right and getting results.

1. Ninja Foodi: Give $20, Get $20

Ninja Foodi encourages existing customers to tell their friends and families exactly what they need in their kitchens by offering both parties a $20 discount upon a purchase of over $100.

Description: Ninja Foodi’s drop-a-hint pop-up

Why the Referral Program Works

Kitchen appliances are unconventional gifts because no one really knows what a friend or family member needs or wants in their kitchen. It’s not something that a lot of people talk about. But what if there were a way to know exactly what kitchen appliance your mom wanted for Mother’s Day?

The program works because it turns a hit-or-miss gift into a perfect, useful present that the recipient definitely wants-they requested it, after all. The “hint,” in the form of a personalized gift request, also sends a reasonable discount for purchases over a specific amount. This encourages existing customers to ask for something over $100 to get that $20 off coupon or referred customers to buy enough to amount to $100. And even if neither party spends $100, it is still highly likely for the referred customer to take the hint, giving you a referral sale.

2. Keds: Hint with Social

Keds uses a drop-a-hint program that allows existing customers to let their friends know which pair of shoes they want, down to the size and color, by sending a personalized, templated note through email, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp.

Description: Referral email sent after someone clicks the “drop-a-hint” button

Why the Referral Program Works

Another gift that can be difficult to purchase for others is a pair of shoes-and Keds sells shoes. Shoes are a particularly challenging present because it’s easy to get foot size or comfort requirements wrong. But Keds’ drop-a-hint program solves that problem by letting customers tell their friends exactly which pair they want, along with what size they want it in.

Keds also gives users the option of sending their “hint” through email or social media messaging applications, which increases the probability of the product referral being seen. The templated message itself is very interesting and engaging, as it makes use of photos, colors, and humorous language. Allowing users to personalize the message also adds a little personality to the referral.

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3. Clarks: Give comfort in a box

Clarks added a “drop a hint” button to all their product pages so that customers could send their friends or family members compelling gift request messages that link to personalized product landing pages.

[SourceDescription: One of Clarks’ drop-a-hint Program ads

Why the Referral Program Worked

Clarks created another drop-a-hint program that encourages people to get their friends shoes as gifts. But the unique part of this program was their underlying marketing message: “Ask your friends for the gift of comfort by telling them which pair of Clarks shoes you want.”

The “drop a hint” button was on every product page, making the program very visible and easily accessible. All existing customers needed to do to send a gift request to their friends or family members was click a button. Which is why Clarks’ customers dropped 3,800 hints and generated 646 referral sales.

The program encouraged referred customers to give their friends or family members the “gift of comfort” by buying the comfortable shoe that they had requested. The personalized product landing page also helped further compel referrals to complete the gift purchase.

4. Bashert Jewelry: “Mad Libbed” Message

Bashert Jewelry makes another difficult gift into a great idea by allowing existing users to fill out a form that auto-generates a gift request in the form of an email containing a short message and the a photo of the piece of jewelry that they want.

Description: Bashert Jewelry’s drop-a-hint pop-up form

Why the Referral Program Works

Jewelry is another uncommon gift, given that it can be a very personal gift with a lot of meaning behind it. On top of that, pieces of jewelry can be pricey, and each person has their own preferred style. Bashert used a drop-a-hint program to reduce uncertainty when it comes to jewelry gift-giving.

The program itself is simpler compared with other drop-a-hint programs that require customers to fill out a personal message or redirect them to a form with over 10 blanks. Customers fill in four blanks and hit send, and the drop-a-hint software takes care of the rest. Friends or significant others will receive an email containing a photo of and a link to the exact ring or necklace that would make the perfect gift.

5. IDALIA Co.: Discount Included

Like Bashert Jewelry, IDALIA Co. lets existing customers to fill out a short form that sends their friends or family members an email with the photo of the item that they want-along with a 10% discount.

Description: This IDALIA Co.’s drop-a-hint pop-up form, including the discount code preview

Why the Referral Program Works

IDALIA Co.’s drop-a-hint program is unique because it’s accompanied by a discount. Existing customers can email their friends what they want, along with a discount code for 10% off. In addition to that, their product pages are designed to recommend other, similar gifts as soon as you scroll past the product description.

6. Sideshow: A Personalized Nudge

Sideshow lets existing customers send their friends an email gift request containing a personalized message, a photo of the product they want, and a link to the product landing page.

Description: This Sideshow’s drop-a-hint email template, including a personalized message

Why the Referral Program Works

Unlike other drop-a-hint programs that auto-generate their emails based on answers to certain blanks, this program allows you to send a completely personalized message right above the “check it out” button that links to a product landing page. Something from Sideshow’s collection of rare and collectible figurines might not be someone’s first choice for a gift, but it can become that if a friend specifically asks for a Baby Yoda figurine.

The email itself is eye-catching, with a nice photo of the product and a clear header: “[Person’s name] visited Sideshow and wanted you to know they really want this [Product Name].”

Boost Referral Sales by Enabling Your Customers to Nudge Their Friends

Drop-a-hint programs work because they are personal recommendations that tell referrals exactly what they should buy to make the requester- someone they know and care about-happy. Each of the drop-a-hint programs above successfully made items on USA Today’s list of 10 bad gift ideas into good gift ideas by allowing people to tell others exactly what they want.

Building a drop-a-hint program can help you gain more referral sales and happy, recurring customers. Check out Extole’s automated drop-a-hint program to see how both you and your existing customers can benefit.

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