When it comes to organic tactics to grow your ecommerce store, most folks chip away at SEO and a combination of social and referral traffic. After all, those are tried-and-tested options and likely to pay off with continued effort.
Another way to grow organically is to build word-of-mouth: offer a great product, and convince customers to talk about you, writing their own social media posts or blog reviews or coming up with their own content to promote your company.
According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising. In short, the authenticity and trust users receive from those close to them can’t be simply replicated online.
That’s the problem Singaporean Shopify Partner ReferralCandy aims to solve for the millions of ecommerce merchants worldwide powered by the Shopify platform.
“User-generated content is an underrated aspect in ecommerce marketing,” explains Zach, the Co-Founder of ReferralCandy. “Merchants can use user-generated content like reviews to build trust in their brands and connect with potential customers.”
A referral program encourages other people to work on your marketing for you. And that could free up time for you to do the things that don’t scale and build a brand or product your customers are passionate about.
As this community of people discover and fall in love with your products, they’re likely to tell their friends and family about it. They might even engage in humblebrags on Instagram or excited Snapchat updates.
Slowly, but surely, more people find out about you — and they give your brand a go.
And suddenly, you have new customers. That’s the power of word-of-mouth.
Word of mouth is king
Zach is passionate about helping fellow entrepreneurs succeed. He talks about how important it is for new stores to get good word-of-mouth, and how often people ask for recommendations and opinions for brands and products they might want to buy.
“At ReferralCandy, we go one step further for merchants: we get their customers to talk about their brand, and also to vouch for them personally. We go beyond ‘I like this brand’ to ‘I recommend you try it,” he says.
It’s imperative to view the initial positive impression and resulting conversation as a priceless opportunity to generate more revenue, he maintains. While it’s microinfluence at its very best, this chatter can have massive compounding effects for your business.
Look no further than how Vessi Footwear used a successful Kickstarter campaign to build a big online brand, with a similar story for New York-based Atoms.
“It all started with us wanting to help a merchant succeed - and that’s still our goal today. We were having lunch with a friend who sold beads,” recalls Zach. “He knew his existing customers loved him, and he wondered if there was a way to build on his happy customers. This was back in 2009 [...] when social networks were on the rise.”
That’s the genesis of how ReferralCandy got off the ground. However as compared to the early days, its current feature list is far more extensive.
ReferralCandy’s Shopify app assists merchants to set up and automate their own referral programs, without the need to know how to code or design a fancy landing page
Customers who initiate a referral that eventually converts into a sale get a share of the cash or a similar reward, thereby introducing a powerful incentive option to promote the product in the first place.
“The two things most store owners care about are bringing in new customers and growing sales. ReferralCandy does both,” affirms Zach.
The ReferralCandy Team
Helping Real Businesses
In one example, ReferralCandy was able to supercharge toy ecommerce store Riff Raff & Co’s referral rate to 24%, significantly higher than the industry benchmark of 2.4%. The campaign offered a free toy to those customers who could generate at least 5 referrals.
Knowing that sleep toys would likely be discussed and recommended in close-knit parent communities, Riff Raff sequenced the campaign in three critical steps.
Emails were sent out immediately after the purchase of the toy so that it would stay top of mind. Another would go out after the customer received the toy and when they could feel and touch it, perhaps even test it with their babies.
And the third was generated after 8 weeks, when they were satisfied that the product met their needs.
The result? Over 2,000 referrals in total, with one customer generating 400 referrals on their own!
Another challenge ReferralCandy took head on was to help grow Critical Pass and its study guides for students sitting the bar exam for lawyers. Textbooks and study guides are always a tough business to get into.
While the number of students is high, most folks tend to trust what’s already out there rather than take a chance on a new product lest they fail the exam.
With ReferralCandy, Critical Pass built a referral program that saw senior students and mentors referring juniors to Critical Pass, who then helped create a referral loop by passing it on to their juniors.
The end result was a 3327% ROI for Critical Pass, meaning they made $33.27 for every dollar spent on marketing.
Fervent about solving problems
It’s hard to believe, but ReferralCandy has been around for around a decade now. Since launch, Zach explains the team has also built CandyBar.co, simple software to help brick-and-mortar merchants activate their customers with rewards programs. And they’re just getting started, with new products and offerings on the horizon.
Part of this relentless drive to serve internet entrepreneurs is a desire to get their feet wet.
“We grew up in a time where the internet and ecommerce were taking off and growing exponentially. We love solving problems and we loved how, with the internet, you could solve problems for merchants all over the world using software,” exhorts Zach.
Before ReferralCandy, the team toyed with the idea of helping businesses make use of social media. While that didn’t work out exactly as expected, it did help Zach and team lay the foundations for what was to become a referral platform.
“That’s where we saw far more powerful impact [..] to help businesses struggling to increase their audience. ReferralCandy was born.”
Hand-in-Hand with Shopify
Shopify has been a close partner of ReferralCandy, ever since the early days. The first version of the app launched on Shopify in 2010, so the association is time-tested.
“Working with Shopify has definitely been a great experience that has helped us grow our business from day one,” affirms Zach. “It has been amazing to see Shopify grow as a platform to what it is today, and we particularly love that Shopify devotes resources to help build up the global ecommerce ecosystem.”
Alluding to Shopify’s global appeal, Zach says he’s particularly proud of the fact that he can build world-class internet products from his preferred base in Singapore.
“Our very first Shopify app install was of a retailer that was based in North America. We were so amazed that someone in North America would trust a startup in Singapore to run their referral program without even meeting them. That was awesome!,” he beams.
Trusting the journey
Zach’s startup has navigated the uncertain and unsteady waters of entrepreneurship, but he believes the path to salvation lies internally.
“The biggest challenge in doing a startup is in managing yourself: your own thoughts, fears and doubts. You are charting your own path, and it's on you (and your other founders) to figure out what to do. Setbacks will happen (frequently!) which you will have to solve yourself,” he explains.
Nonetheless, he believes that it’s important to trust others who work with you and lean on them when necessary. Having another co-founder helps as does a desire to constantly learn new things and hustle for the end goal.
“Chatting with other startup founders going through what you are going through helps a lot too.”
That doesn’t mean entrepreneurs should go to extreme lengths and burn out in the process. It’s equally necessary to invest in self-care and mental health.
“Building a business is exciting, challenging and requires hard work. There's a ton of things that you need to learn, do and care about. It's easy to get so focused about caring about those things that you forget about your own mental and physical well being,” affirms Zach.
One of the drivers of ReferralCandy’s growth has come from its mission of solving problems for others. Since the company started with the idea to ease merchant worries, Zach says this premise can be applied to your marketing strategy too.
ReferralCandy’s content marketing engine has helped it stand out from the rest. Since day one, the focus of the strategy has been to create content that can solve merchants’ problems, similar to what the app does.
“Referral marketing is one of the solutions to some of their problems, and if merchants haven’t yet considered it, it would be useful to help inform them about it and the ways to achieve it,” explains Zach.
As for the future, Zach believes he’ll build and grow new products, but keep his head firmly on the ground while doing so.
“A quote from the Dalai Lama resonates with me, that I try to keep in mind -
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
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