8 Referral Program Examples to Inspire Your Strategy

Originality is overrated. Just as countless hit songs remix elements from other artists and celebrated chefs fuse flavors from existing cuisines, your referral program can and should take inspiration from brands that have demonstrated marketing excellence. 

To help you come up with your own creative and effective strategy, we’ve curated a list of top referral program examples: 

  1. Hellofresh – Multiple ways to earn new customers
  2. PayPal – Cash bonuses that lower acquisition costs
  3. Policygenius – Leveraging the power of dynamic referrals
  4. Canva – A sneak peak into premium features
  5. Robinhood – Gamified referrals with the potential to strike big
  6. GO2bank – Testing to optimize the customer experience
  7. GetResponse – Tiered referrals for greater rewards 
  8. Stasher – Referral program meets the lottery

1. Hellofresh: Multiple ways to earn new customers  

Meal kit delivery service HelloFresh has a people-centric marketing strategy that features influencer campaigns, celebrity endorsements, social media, and, of course, a strong referral program. They offer two options for customers to share their products: 

  • Freebies: Customers can send a meal kit box to a friend, free of charge, and accumulate additional free boxes to send. 
  • Referral codes: Customers can send a friend a referral code for $40 off their first meal kit box, and the existing customer receives a $20 credit on their account. 

Source: Hellofresh.com

Lesson learned: Giving people multiple ways to introduce new customers to your brand can expand the reach of your referral program. 

2. PayPal: Cash bonuses that lower acquisition costs 

Fintech giant PayPal offers an enticing referral program that allows users to earn extra cash. Users earn $10 for each friend that joins the platform using a referral link — up to $100 per year! — and the new customer also receives $10 if they spend or send $5 within 30 days. After experimenting with advertising and traditional business development, PayPal found referrals to be the most cost-effective way to get new customers. 

Source: Paypal.com

Lesson learned: Referral programs can be an incredibly powerful lever for lowering your customer acquisition cost (CAC). 

3. Policygenius: Leveraging the power of dynamic referrals  

Policygenius, an online insurance marketplace, has a dynamic referral program that allows customers to receive a $50 or $100 reward when they share the platform, depending on the insurance plan their friend chooses. Whereas the company previously struggled to adapt referrals to disparate customer journeys, Extole now powers Policygenius’s industry-specific referral program, resulting in 60% of referrals with a free account deciding to purchase a policy. 

Source: Policygenius.com

Lesson learned: Using a customer engagement platform to manage your referral program can help you better understand the marketing funnel and unlock insights that drive results. 

4. Canva: A sneak peek into premium features

The free-to-use design app Canva features a unique, credit-based referral program to drive engagement and expansion. When users refer a friend with a custom link, both parties earn a credit that can be used to buy premium elements (special images, illustrations, etc.). This encourages new and current users to return to the app and can motivate them to upgrade to a paid subscription if they enjoy the premium features. 

Source: Canva

Lesson learned: Giving paid or freemium customers a taste of what a more robust plan entails can help with upselling. 

5. Robinhood: Gamified referrals with the potential to strike big 

Financial service, trading, and investing platform Robinhood has relied on referrals to acquire new customers, as the company has found that referrals “generally have lower direct expense rates as compared to other marketing methods.” Under their program, a customer and their friend both receive a stock drawn from a pool, with a potential value between $2.50 and $225 per stock. This incentivizes repeat referrals, as platform users can receive up to $1,500 in gift stocks each calendar year. 

Source: Robinhood.com

Lesson learned: An element of chance in a referral program can make customers want to “spin the wheel” again to win a bigger reward. 

6. GO2bank: Testing to optimize the customer experience 

GO2bank, a leading digital bank, understands the importance of referrals as a consistent revenue stream. The company currently hosts a program in which referrers and their friends both earn $50 when a new customer opens an account and receives a qualifying direct deposit. To maximize the ROI of their offer, GO2bank used Extole’s customer engagement platform to execute A/B tests and determine which user experience drove the most activity from existing customers. 

Source: Go2bank.com 

Lesson learned: Split testing is the ideal way to hone in on the messaging, formatting and graphics that best resonate with your customers. 

7. GetResponse: Tiered referrals for greater rewards 

GetReponse, an easy-to-use email marketing tool, runs a tiered program that is designed to drive engagement and repeat referrals while creating super advocates. With their referral program, customers save $30 on their bill each time they refer a friend. Not only that, they can earn a free digital marketing certification course (valued at $199) if they invite three friends who join on a paid account. 

Source: GetResponse.com

Lesson learned: Rewarding customers for sending multiple referrals can improve reach and loyalty for your program. 

8. Stasher: Referral program meets the lottery 

Eco-friendly bag company Stasher combined  referrals with a sweepstakes model. When a customer refers a friend who makes a purchase, the new customer gets 20% off their order, while the existing customer receives $20 off  their next order and a chance to win a Yeti Cooler plus a $20 gift card. 

Source: Stasherbag.com 

Lesson learned: Combining an already enticing bonus with the potential for an even bigger payoff is a great way to expand the reach of a referral program. Parlaying initial bonuses into the possibility of even greater rewards can bring in referrers who may not have participated without the extra incentive. 

A customer engagement platform for all your referral needs 

As you can see from these referral program examples, there is no shortage of options for running your program. Many companies experiment and optimize their program to always evolve and drive the intended results as the business changes. To that end, Extole’s customer engagement platform provides the ideal blend of customer profiles, targeting, analytics, and advocated features such as tiered rewards and personalized recommendations. 


Download the Forrester Total Economic Impact™ of Extole to discover how the platform can drive $19.1M in incremental revenue over three years. 

Most Recent Articles