The concept of people sharing what they love isn’t new. Referrals have been around since the first Egyptian beer connoisseur leaned over and said, “Sheteptawy, I know you are a fan of the good stuff. You have got to try the ale that Akheoerkare is brewing right now.” It has progressed steadily since then. It has become more effective as different technologies have arrived (those papyrus chits that Akheoerkare distributed lacked segmentation capabilities). But, never before have critical factors come together to create the conditions perfect to create a full-fledged customer acquisition channel from referral marketing…until now.
Here are a few of the reasons why this is the perfect moment for referral marketing:
1. Gen Y grew up on computers and lives online. Millennials didn’t know a world without computers and don’t remember one before the Web was ascendant. An old study (by Reynol Junco & Jeanna Mastrodicasa, in 2007) found even then that among college students born between 1982 – 2003:
97% own a computer
94% own a cell phone or iPhone
99% use the Internet for research or homework
75% have a Facebook account
Today’s prime consumers treat the mechanisms of the Internet as second nature, which leads to the next factor.
2. The Internet is no longer solitary. It’s social. Web 2.0, social…whatever you call it, it’s how we live now. For a while there, when the Millennials were young and Gen X was in the online vanguard, people experienced the Internet by navigating to various pages and checking out text and images. Affiliate marketing mattered. The internet was solitary. We were fed content. Now, we don’t just consume media but create it and share it. We relate to people on the Internet, not pages. We chat, post, tweet, comment, like, blog, take pics and Snapchat them. The Internet is in our pockets and built into our glasses. So not only are people not surprised when the products they see online come attached with personal ratings and social sharing mechanisms — they expect them, and they use them. Sharing is the medium.
3. SaaS has evolved. We’ve moved from internally built standalone referral capabilities to first-gen SaaS sharing widgets to Extole’s platform to deliver a complete referral program. Combined with the rise of Big Data, you can not only rapidly deploy a beautiful and robust referral program, but you can quickly see the results of your efforts, determine what to do with the knowledge you’ve gained, and optimize performance. True, modern SaaS delivers a steady flow of new capabilities to make your referral marketing efforts better and better. SaaS’s growth not only enables referral marketing providers, but it allows consumers to get instant gratification from the companies that use it, too. Instead of having to redeem a code and download and install a product, now a referred customer can simply follow a link in a tweet and convert. No hassle, no wait…new customer.
For referral marketing, the technology is here and the audience is ready. It really is referral marketing’s time down here.