A Cheat’s Guide To Succeed With In-App Referral Marketing

Taru BhargavaMobile Apps, Referral Marketing5 Comments

A Cheat’s Guide To Succeed With In-App Referral Marketing

Yet, many businesses fail at it in the absence of a proper strategy. Just like any other marketing campaign, In-app referral marketing needs proper planning, attention and alterations as apps continue to grow. In other words, a rock solid strategy to make you the next UBER!

That’s why we decided to decode the complete process for our readers. However, before we move any further let’s understand the concept of referral marketing and how most B2C mobile apps can benefit from the same.

In-App Referrals- What’s The Noise?

For years, we’ve valued the suggestions coming from friends and family, and nothing has changed in this arrangement until today.

One of the most iconic and quoted examples of referral marketing is the Dropbox story. With the advent of mobile apps, especially in the B2C space, referral marketing proved its merit yet again. A series of  unicorn apps such as Airbnb, Evernote, UBER and others have leveraged this marketing strategy as a part of its app ecosystem, thereby empowering its users on the go apart from ensuring skyrocketing growth.

Airbnb has gone on record and stated that app referrals helped them achieve 300% increase in user signups and bookings.

For business, In-app referral marketing supports all verticals in the sales funnel- acquisition, retention, and growth. On the other hand, its offers users-incentive, engagement and helps in building trust for your app.

In a nutshell, referral marketing is a win-win situation for everyone!

As mentioned earlier, In-app referral marketing requires a streamlined approach. In an ideal scenario, app marketers should follow the below mentioned step-by-step approach and make the most of their app referral program.

#Step 1- Identifying the right time

That’s because users may have not heard about your app and this may dissuade them from believing in the app’s incentives. A good way is to build a certain credibility for the app before seeking trust from users. The spine of a good app referral program are its genuine users/referrers. Most apps that incorporate app referrals at a nascent stage spoil it for themselves by attracting “incentive hungry” users, as opposed to ones that may be genuinely interested in referring your app.

How can app marketers segregate genuine user from fraudsters, is a valid question here. Even though a data-driven approach is more advisable app marketers can also base their decision by observing certain trends in such a situation.

For example, app marketers can set a certain download number as a benchmark, in line with their app category before they start experimenting with in-app referrals. For example, an E-commerce app may introduce In-app referrals to users when they have reached 10,000 downloads. A fitness app may need to wait more, given the “exclusivity” attached to the app category. Given the fact that such users are early adopters, they may be using an app without any bias and on their own merit.

Most app developers have access to user data in the form of lists. Early stage app marketers can also introduce “invite-only” referral schemes to users and test the data before going all out with it. Another good way of approaching users is via a Net Promoter Survey (NPS). The survey results will help you with crucial data

Once app marketers have established the right time to introduce app referral program, they need to promote it to gain visibility amongst a larger pool of users.

Step #2 Promoting In-App Referrals

Having empowered numerous In-app referrals campaigns, we’ve learned the best way to execute it is by segregating and working on online, In-app and offline promotion categories together, in order to attract maximum users.

We’ve listed various promotion methods in a previous article, however, we would love to share a few advanced methods of referral promotion that we’ve learned along the way.

Online Promotion

Given that your app will have an online presence in the form of a website and social media accounts, it is advisable to leverage these platforms for promotions as well.

Online promotion for any campaign starts with identifying the various platforms where your users are present and tweaking your strategy in accordance with it. This ofcourse will vary with your app category. For example, a fashion clothing app for youngsters may want to target users on Instagram as opposed to Twitter, considering the vast popularity of teens on this platform.

Here’s a quick pre-promotion checklist that concerns online promotion. 

pre-promotion checklist

Once your marketing team is ready to kick-start the campaign, they can experiment with the following promotion tactics on the online front.


In-App Promotions

Apart from promoting their referral campaign online, app marketers need to target tactics that make sense for an app user, obviously! This includes the below-mentioned methods:

In-App Promotion Methods

Offline Promotions

Though this will depend a great deal on the budget allocated to your referral campaign, offline integration would soar the popularity of your “app-only referral campaign” by several notches. I recently came across a juice delivery app that paid incentives in the form of an invitation to a health-themed party if users referred their friends. The same concept can be customized and upgraded depending on the category of app.

Step #3 Ensuring Quality Checks

Most app marketers expect a surge in app downloads post promotions and rightly so. Therefore, it is also imperative to monitor the kind of user engagement that it brings to the table along with ensuring frequent quality checks.

Here’s a quick list of quality checks that need to be in place while executing an app referral program.

  • Number of installs generated via a campaign– App marketers should constantly monitor the number of app installs that are generated via a campaign. What made an In-app referral campaign work or did not work are answers that need to be answered analytically. This data will also help app marketers in adjusting the incentives or improving other components of the app referral campaign.

  • Fraud Detection– At the beginning of the article we’ve mentioned how a few users may want to gain from In-app referrals by gaming the system. This is a kind of fraud and needs constant monitoring. We have discussed it at length in this post.

  • Influencer Monitoring– Separating loyalists from generic users should be on priority list for all app marketers, especially when it involves referrals. Given that such users are building substantial word-of-mouth for your app, they need to be monitored closely!

  • Status of coupons and incentive payments– Very often it is witnessed that a user refers a friend, however, does not receive incentives or coupons on time. Irrespective of the reason, this makes them less responsive and deter them from future participation in the campaign. Another area of concern are negative reviews on play or app store and social media following disappointment.

AppVirality’s In-app referral program offers comprehensive solutions to app marketers and can help them in continuous monitoring on the above-mentioned quality checkpoints. 

#Step 4 – Growth Hacking

What’s an In-app referral program without growth hacking? To keep a user’s interest sustained, app marketers need to provide them with avenues that not only simplify the decision associated with referring a friend but also keep them equally excited.

Here’s a list of hacks that can help app marketers while implementing In-app referral campaigns

  • In-App share intent– In-app share intent helps app developers by showing channels that actually matter to a user. This helps them in sharing a referral link or code swiftly, without losing patience. Here’s an article that discusses this concept at length.

  • Positive wallet balance– A positive wallet balance tends to decrease uninstall rates of mobile apps by almost 60%*. In-app referrals and a positive wallet balance can be tied together and can work wonders for your app referral program. Read here to know more about this growth hack!

#Step 5- Follow Up

That’s because it takes a while for users to trust and implement actions associated with a campaign even if it means instant incentives and gratification.

The ideal way of a follow-up is to gently remind the users without spamming their mailbox or push notification feed. The idea is to keep the users updated without being desperate. Here’s a quick list of what can be shared with users

  • An email/ push notification update when a friend onboards using an In-app referral link– This email serves the purpose of maintaining a sense of positivity and thereby increasing positivity.

  • An email/ push notification sharing incentive history– Again a great boost for dormant participants.

  • An email/ push notification sharing important updates – A good example is sharing validity of coupons or “we’ve missed you” emailers.

#Step 6- Analysis

The last step of any marketing campaign is to measure its effectiveness and the same stands true for app based referral campaign as well. However, a lot depends on analyzing genuine metrics as compared to vanity numbers. AppVirality has been instrumental in providing a 360 approach to brands with an excellent In-app referral program complete with analytics. This includes in-depth analysis of the number of invites, clicks, installs and overall revenue generated by an app referral campaign.

Over To You!

What strategies have you used while implementing in-app referrals for your mobile app? How has this strategy helped you in overall growth? Do share your feedback in the comments below!

About the Author

Taru Bhargava


Taru is the Content Ninja at AppVirality Inc. She has a keen interest in mobile and digital marketing stories and dissects them - word by word. She loves good food, tea and slapstick humor.

  • Great post Taru m/

    The check list especially is a life saver.

    Also, I really want to add something useful to this post but darn, you already wrote it all down.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Taru Bhargava

      Thanks so much Sujan for your awesome post! Coming from you it means a great deal for us.

  • Isaac Kim

    Hey Taro,
    The company that I work for is fairly new (Topdox) and we are trying to implement a referral strategy.
    Your post is gonna help us a lot to develop a proper referral strategy.
    Thank you for the post!

  • Hey Taru,

    Those point you mention in your blog are helping me a lot. I would like to write a post about it. If you have time please give me some tips on writing.


  • William Ruiz

    Professional in-App Promotions yunoapp.com, they make so hard work to develop and promote my app. I’m so happy about that.