Earlier this year Google selected several thousand people to participate in its Google Explorer program, giving them (the Explorers) the chance to shape the future of Glass. Now, seven months in, and Google is looking to expand the program and test an updated product. To build out its Explorer group, Google has asked current Explorers to refer three of their friends to join the program and purchase the new glasses at a cost of $1,500.
While Google is very much a market leader, Google Glass, like other types of wearable technology, is still a challenger brand at this time. Given the contacts that Google has I’m sure they weren’t short of ways to identify and select future Explorers. So, why did Google make the decision to invite current Explorers to refer future Explorers?
It isn’t out of laziness that Google asked its current Explorers to select the next group, that’s for sure. Rather, referral programs offer challenger brands a powerful means to connect with new customers through their existing loyal customers and build buzz around brands, products or services. This is nothing new for Google, as it also used referrals to build is email service, Gmail.
Giving existing Explorers the authority to invite others to participate in the Glass program is a smart move by Google, as it clearly demonstrates that they value the feedback from existing Explorers and trust their judgment – thus reinforcing their relationship. For the friends that receive the invite to take part in the Explorer program, it is likely to result in a high level of adoption. First, because it is an awesome product, and second because the friends feel valued as they are being selected for a unique opportunity thanks to their friends. I also think it is telling that Google has given its Explorers 14 days to nominate friends for the program to ensure a quick expansion of new users.
The impact of Google using referrals to take on the next step of the Glass project is that they will have an expanded user group that feels respected and valued, which should lead to positive reviews and engaged users ahead of taking the product to the mass market in late 2014. The financials don’t look too bad either with 30,000 people referred and all geared up to each pay $1,500 to join the Explorer program (this could generate $45 million for Google, not bad when you consider the glasses are only thought to cost $300).
So, whether you are a global company like Google or a challenger brand trying to break through with a new product, there is enormous value in using a referral marketing program to reach a new audience.