The Must-Have Beginner’s Guide to Refer a Friend

by Sean Ogino |

The Must-Have Beginner’s Guide to Refer a Friend

friends restaurant-hands-people-coffee

In the past, word of mouth was limited to person-to-person communication. But today, with the jaw-dropping mushrooming of countless digital and social media platforms, it’s quite possible for the conversations to quickly spread around the world and influence millions of people. Besides, the tried and tested methods of glossy advertising have failed to win over the trust of people, as they know that more than often, there is a huge difference between what they see in ads and what the product actually offers. Instead, they trust the word of their friends and family members more. And that’s precisely why referrals have emerged as one of the most indispensable tools in affecting the psyche of people when they are at the threshold of making a purchase decision.

The fact that 82% Americans say they seek recommendations from friends and family before purchasing anything and 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word-of-mouth when making their buying decision proves the unavoidability of a good referral program. But despite this, marketers are struggling with the lack of new ideas and platform to pull off the best of the referral world. And Annex Cloud’s Sharing and Referrals solution has certainly reduced that struggle, as it enables you to quickly grow your email database by creating dynamic incentive-based word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. But, how? That’s why we wrote this beginner’s guide to refer a friend.

The Beginner’s Guide to Refer a Friend: How It Works

1- Referral Request:

Tap into your customers’ social networks and offer them incentives for referring your brand and products to their friends. Send solicitation emails, put banners on your site, post about your referral program on social media, and put signs in your stores!

Promotion on your site is crucial!
Promotion on your site is crucial!


2- Referral Form:

Through our solution, your customers can make referrals via various ways; email, social media, and receipt codes are just a few to name.  There is no restriction on the number of referrals you can ask. We allow your customers to pick the number with which they are happy.

raf landing page slide

3- Referral Email:

Once your customers are done with the sending of referrals, their friends will receive an email or social media notification offering a discount, points etc. for making a purchase.

Here's one out of many best practices for designing your referral communications.
Here’s one out of many best practices for designing your referral communications.

4- Referral Action:

Through the referral email, the referred friends will be directed towards your site. After finishing the referral action–usually completing a purchase–they will be eligible to take the advantage of the offers mentioned in the referral email.

5- Referral Reward:

After the completion of the referral action from the referred friends, the customer who made the referral will receive their reward via email. But our solution will help you in bringing them back on your website to further bolster your customer relationship.

The Beginner’s Guide to Refer a Friend: How Does It Actually Help You?

1- Developing Unique Referral Actions:

It’s a must to appeal to the interest and curiosity aspect of the customers. Creating new and creative referral actions can certainly allow you to move in that direction. During the whole implementation process of our program, we help you in devising unique and more interesting sharing action that you would like to be performed by your customers.

2- Deciding Flexible Incentives:

Rewards have the pull that motivates more and more people in taking a part in your referral program. Thus, giving a right reward is mandatory. We know different businesses have different profit margins, different target customers, and different conversion rate. Hence, our Refer a Friend solution has the ability to support and deliver any kind of incentive. You can have $ Off, Product Samples, 3rd Party Giftcards as a reward for your program. If you want to have a different reward, which suits to your brand’s appeal and personality, you have the liberty to have it too. Our Customer Success Team works closely with you in coming up with a strategy on incentives. Not just that…our solution is capable of acquiring and delivering those incentives/rewards to your customers as soon as they have completed their Refer a Friend.

A typically successful incentive is loyalty points.
A typically successful incentive is loyalty points.

3- Adaptable Promotions:

Once you have decided what sort of rewards you want to have for your referral program, our expert team helps you in strategizing the promotional activities to reach out to the maximum number of people. To free you up so you can focus on your customers, we handle the heavy lifting of acquiring and delivering of those rewards.

4- White Label Email Marketing:

White-label is a term that is used when an email hosting company hosts your email service but allows you to rebrand the look so it appears as if it’s run by your company to your email users. It allows you to work more closely with us to form an email campaign through sending and tracking. Besides, it allows us to look into your customer’s accounts to monitor their usage, campaign schedules, and reports. This provides additional opportunities for services and revenue. In short, you can own and monitor all the information collected with white-labeled APIs and email addresses provided by us.

5- Monitoring And Measuring:

Regardless of the magnitude and nature of the program, it’s not possible to monitor its progress without measuring it and quantifying as many aspects of the program as possible. With the comprehensive dashboard, which comes with our solution, you can identify your top influencers, track the channels with your highest referral rates and monitor revenue generated through Refer a Friend.

6- Customized Reporting and Scheduling:

To make sure that the right data and reports are being delivered to the right people, our Refer a Friend solution offers customizable reporting and scheduling to ensure everyone on your team is getting the information they need.

For more information about Refer a Friend, check out our guide to referral marketing best practices or our brand-new case study with Vivobarefoot, in which our sharing and referrals solutions have a 10:1 ROI and helped increase orders by 38%!

The Indispensable Beginner’s Guide to Visual Commerce

beginner's guide to visual commerce

63% of US customers and 66% of UK shoppers trust customer photos more than brand or retailer photos. These two stats tell the whole story about the level of absolute necessity that visual content has reached. Of course, the miraculous rise of social media and many other photo sharing platforms has been the epicenter of this trend. For marketers, what is necessary is to know the unbridled power of this visual content and the ways to use it for their marketing benefits.

Despite the overwhelming arch of visual content, only 27% of marketers have a process in place to aggregate, organize, and manage the visual assets being used across their marketing teams. With that in mind, there’s a need to educate marketers on how to better leverage visuals for commerce. That’s why we have this beginner’s guide to visual commerce.

How Does it Actually Work?

Visual commerce operates via five main steps, which are as follows:

Motivate Your Customers to Share

As mobile has become an indispensable part of modern life, your customers are taking photos all the time. It doesn’t have to be a big occasion now for a photo session. There is no point in missing out on such a great opportunity to collect and curate those loads and loads of images for your branding or campaigning purpose. You should consider placing calls to action in post-purchase emails, as well as promotional emails, on-site banners, social media posts, and more.

visual commerce pps solicitation

vc promotional emails

vc solicitation onsite

To eliminate even the slightest possibility that customers might not share photos due to platform incompatibility, with our platform your customers can share their photos by uploading them to Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, and YouTube and using a brand-specific hashtag. They can share images through email too.

Moderating, Curating And Obtaining Permissions

Once the images have been uploaded, through our Annex Cloud curation dashboard you can see all those images in one place. You can moderate and curate the ones to use them in the campaign.

vc rights management

For a run-down of everything you need to know about visual commerce permissions, check out this guide!

vc moderation

Easy Image Association

The platform associates all user photos with multiple product categories and special or seasonal categories, whatever you want!

Adorn Your Website With The Curated Photos

As all the images are curated and associated, you can now use those into collections for your site’s home page, individual product pages, dedicated gallery pages, image sliders, and anywhere else you’d like. The following images are just a few examples from our clients:

vc display

vc mixed editorial

vc category pages display

Use Your Photos Elsewhere

This is the final step of the solution. Now you have all the rights and permissions to use those curated and associated images. You can use them in marketing campaigns such as email, print, in-store display, online, and offline advertising. We will always be there to help you in your marketing strategies. Click here to discover new ways to repurpose user generated content like these valuable customer photos.

Making Sure Your Images Are Performing Well

How would you know that which images are performing better? We have answered this important question by including Smart Image Ranking Algorithm (SIRA) in our solution.

vc sira

It allows you to intelligently organize and prioritize a large image library to ensure that the images you are displaying on your website are driving the results you want. It uses metrics like comments, likes, revenue, and other social and financial metrics to judge the performance of the image.

Powerful Monitoring

Managing a program is a mere impossibility if there is nothing concrete to analyze in terms of the numbers. Our comprehensive reporting and unified dashboards give you a complete view of the performance of your Visual Commerce solution. We put you in a perfect position to quantify two of the most important metrics, namely Return On Investment (ROI) and engagement.

ROI Metrics

You can measure the value of Visual Commerce with conversions, order numbers, and lift in revenue. It allows you to have a close view of the customer conversion from visual galleries through product pages.

Engagement Metrics

No campaign can breathe longer if it lacks the customer engagement. That’s precisely why our VC solution is laced with the metrics such as upload source, number of photos submitted over time, influencer reports, and reach data to gauge the level of engagement. You can use these numbers to come up with the better initiatives to skyrocket the customer engagement platform. monetizes your Instagram in a single click! You just place a link in your Instagram bio, associate your Instagram pictures with your products in your dashboard, and that’s it! They’re instantly up on a shoppable mobile gallery.

vc shoppic 1

vc shoppic 2

Other Benefits Of Our Products

  • Manage flexible product association fields that allow images to be linked to multiple products
  • Use syndication to collect or distribute images from brands, manufacturers, suppliers, and partners
  • Collect images using specialized #hashtags or enable your customers to upload images from any device
  • Take advantage of unlimited photo storage
  • Extend your Visual Commerce technology to your international pages with internalization and localization
  • Employ advanced customization through access to our Visual Commerce API
  • Expand the use of Visual Commerce assets to other channels (in-store, social, mobile, app and email) with seamless omni-channel integration
  • Integrate Visual Commerce effortlessly into your marketing eco-system

To learn more about Visual Commerce, check out our content best practices white paper, A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words! Or, have a look at The New Wave of User Generated Content: 7 Concepts for 2017 and BeyondThe Fundamental Guide to Visual Commerce Permissions, or Sell Experiences, Not Clothes: Visual Commerce & the Fashion Industry.

The Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to Product Reviews

starting line

Even though change is one of the only constant things in business, some things remain the same. Our habit of discussing with our neighbors, friends or relatives before buying anything is one such unchanged thing. It’s a human tendency to have absolute surety when you are spending your hard earned money. But due to the unprecedented growth of the internet and connected devices, the location of those kinds of discussions has traveled from being real to virtual. Now, we know more about the product on social media or on the product page of the brand. And the thing which has framed this social structure of discussions is online ratings and reviews systems, which have become the core part of many current marketing strategies. The fact that 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews has made it even valuable and important. With that in mind, let’s take a look at our beginner’s guide to product reviews.

The Beginner’s Guide to Product Reviews: How It Works

A) Solicitation Email

After making a purchase your customers will receive an email requesting them to post a review. For more tips on solicitation, click here!
reviews solicitation email

B) Review Form:

After the customer’s click on the email, he will be directed to the review form to write and submit a review. Alternatively, you can use in-mail reviews, which include the review form in the actual solicitation email.

reviews form

You can also add multimedia options to your reviews.

reviews multimedia

C) Admin Moderation:

After the submission of the review, you can see, moderate and monitor the whole content.

D) Publishing The Reviews:

If you are okay with the content and approve it, it will be posted to product pages, category pages, and even search results to inform future customers. We have kept the option of using this content in marketing efforts such as email campaigns open for you. Check out this post for more information about repurposing your user generated content!

reviews pdp

E) Syndication:

After submission and approval of the reviews, our solution allows you to distribute those reviews across a variety of web properties in your supply chain. For example, you can post the reviews on the retailer’s website who sells your products as well as on the manufacturer’s website who produces the products you sell.

reviews syndication


The Beginner’s Guide to Product Reviews: Enhancing The Worth Of Ratings And Reviews

It’s just not enough to have reviews on your product page. They must be easily scannable and must add value to the user’s act of buying. That’s why our solution allows you to create multiple templates tailored to specific product categories.

reviews templates

The separate template for a specific product is necessary to make the information included in each review highly relevant and helpful to future customers. More filters like size, color, and pattern allow customers to categories the reviews based on their needs. Thus, our solution is not just enhancing customer experience, but it also creating an ecosystem where your customers can make informed and rational purchase decisions.

Not just that. You can change the design and functionality of the reviews based on the look and feel of your brand.

The Beginner’s Guide to Product Reviews: Get More Reviews

The thing with reviews is no numbers of reviews are too many. More is better here. Apart from boosting your online presence and generating more buzz about your product, reviews also play a huge role in brightening your SEO prospects. Thus, getting more reviews is very important and while devising our solution, we have given it a clear and deep thought. The inclusion of Smart Engagement Algorithm (SEA) and the ability of our rating and review software to integrate into any loyalty program framework are the results of that thought process.

1- SEA

The fact of the matter is, timing is a crucial element when it comes to ensuring action from your customers. If you send an email too early, you run the risk that they haven’t had the opportunity to use the product and aren’t ready to provide feedback. If you are too late, they might not be interested in writing a review anymore as the excitement of novelty is gone. And that’s where SEA–our Smart Engagement Algorithm–comes into the picture. It analyzes historical data, product type, and product category to judiciously determine the appropriate time at which a post-purchase email should be sent. As it is designed with the self-learning ability, based on your customers’ response rates it continually improves your post-purchase email timeframe. It definitely shore up the chances of more customer participation.

2- Integration with Loyalty

Unless and until your customers are not in total love with your product or brand, they will not write reviews without any shiny incentives. And as we all know, loyalty programs are a great way to offer such incentives. Recognizing the possibility of this possible merger, our Ratings and Reviews software can be seamlessly integrated into any loyalty program to offer points and rewards for participation. This simple looking integration empowers you in many ways. By sending just one email, you can communicate both the review solicitation and the opportunity to receive loyalty points. Besides, it provides strong customer experience as loyalty points get automatically added to your customer’s account.

reviews with loyalty

For more ways to increase review volume, check out this post!

The Beginner’s Guide to Product Reviews: Maintaining The Fabric Of Trust

The soul, the core and the ethos of ratings and reviews lie in their trust factor. They do affect the buying decision of people and if they find any gimmick or unethical intentions in those reviews, your credibility may face a severe dent. Therefore, it’s of stratospheric importance to make sure yours are genuine, relevant, and appropriate for your brand.

We help you in this task too. Our team of expert moderators works to ensure your product reviews are authentic and always meet your brand guidelines. Our review moderation system in this solution comes with a combination of automated and manual moderation screens for foul language along with the strict check on irrelevant or promotional content from your competitors.

But its utility doesn’t just end there. It helps you in following ways too.

1- Fraud Avoidance:

Our expert team of moderators removes the fraudulent content such as spam, promotions, duplicate reviews and inappropriate content from your site. It allows you to claim the authenticity of your reviews and ensures that only genuine voices would be heard on your platform.

2- Customization:

This moderation process is perfectly ductile to take a shape to meet your brand’s needs and guidelines. You can add one more layer of moderation to put your own team there, customizing the trigger words or you can customize moderation reports to track the type of content you are seeing.

The Beginner’s Guide to Product Reviews: Monitoring And Measuring

Monitoring each and every aspect of the program is necessary to make sure that you are going in a right direction. It also lets you know where exactly you are lacking and what are the areas where you need to do better are. With our unified dashboards and comprehensive reporting, you can keep a close watch on the number of reviews posted over time, keep track of new email addresses collected through reviews. Similarly, you can quickly and easily reply to customer’s concerns and questions about the products they have purchased.

Also, you can get numerical data about the usage of your product by the customers, their likings, and apprehensions. This information can act as a valuable feedback and you can positively use it while thinking about new product creation and changing the old ways of communication and marketing.

The Beginner’s Guide to Product Reviews: Other Features Of Our Solution

1- Customized Reporting and Scheduling:

In the case of a dire emergency, or when you have to implement new changes immediately on your platform, the most important thing is the availability of the right data and insights to the right people.  Our Ratings and Reviews solution offers customizable reporting and scheduling to make sure that everyone in your team is getting the information they need.

2- Alerts:

Our solution notifies you immediately as soon as the reviewer has raised some questions or issues. It enables you to respond to your reviewer in timely and efficient manner. And believe me, a rapid and right response does a wonder to the customer experience level and your rapport with your customers/reviewers.

3- 3rd Party Integration:

The Annex Cloud platform comes pre-integrated with all popular email service providers and other necessary 3rd party solutions to ensure a robust solution and a seamless customer experience.

4- Integration While Sending A Post Purchase Email:

Through our solution, you can send a post-purchase email triggering a call to action for all of yours
Customer Loyalty and Social Commerce solutions. It can boost referrals, review requests, and photo sharing.

And with that, you’re well on your way to becoming a ratings and reviews expert!

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Customer Loyalty

urban gardening breeding

Any person who has worked in retail or e-commerce will agree with the fact that it’s hard to acquire customers and it’s even harder to retain them and convert them into your loyal customers. It’s no less than walking on a wobbling tightrope. But it’s of paramount importance to retain your customers, as every single retained customer is more valuable than a newly acquired one. Annex Cloud has understood all the above-mentioned issues from the beginning. After analyzing each and every brick in the wall of customer loyalty concept, we have devised a robust loyalty program, which ensures that the customers of our clients will keep coming back to them to purchase and repurchase. This beginner’s guide to customer loyalty will get you completely acquainted with it.

The Beginner’s Guide to Customer Loyalty: How Do Our Loyalty Programs Work?

Our cloud-based customer loyalty solution works in four main steps, which are as follows

A) Loyalty Registration:

Just like every other program, the first step of our loyalty program is getting your customers registered. This is how customers come to your funnel of loyalty.

loyalty reg page

B) Loyalty Action:

loyalty social actions
To qualify for the rewards, the participant has to perform some actions, say purchasing,  signing up for newsletters, referring their friends, submitting reviews, etc. Since no two businesses and customers are same, we have kept our loyalty solution flexible. You can choose rewards based on your product segment, profit margin, and target customers.

loyalty custom actions

C) Loyalty Dashboard:

To keep transparency in the functioning of our solution, we have provided Loyalty Dashboard. It allows customers to access their point standing, the types of rewards they can receive and how they can redeem their points.

D) Loyalty Redemption:

Once your customers have earned enough reward points, they can either redeem them through their dashboard or at checkout. A suitable redemption process will be deployed by us that works for you. As our loyalty program revolves around customizability and flexibility, you can also customize the rewards. Whether it’s coupons, products or 3rd party gift cards, you will be in a position to offer your customers incentives they will respond to.

The Beginner’s Guide to Customer Loyalty: How Can You Reward Your Customers Efficiently With Our Solution?

Rewards are the only elements in the loyalty program that carry magnetic power. Thus, it requires an efficient system to ensure the seamless system to distribute them. That’s why we have left no stone unturned in helping you to take informed steps in that regard. We offer a static landing page for rewards that you can edit. We also offer an interactive reward page with hover stats and hyperlinks. The code needed for its functionality will be provided by us. We can gamify the rewards as well. We can build a subprogram to reward your customers with badges and different tiered mechanism. Also, our reward management system allows you to…

  • Eliminate the complexities and data silos associated with multiple platforms and vendors
  • Reduce time-to-market for your loyalty programs
  • Integrate Annex Cloud solutions seamlessly into your existing eCommerce and marketing, and technology infrastructure

The Beginner’s Guide to Customer Loyalty: Our Assistance In Your Marketing Efforts Of The Loyalty Program

To be heard, it’s necessary to make a noise. The same principle works in the league of marketing too. It’s a must thing that your customers, both existing and potential ones, know about your loyalty program. And we help you in achieving that. We brainstorm with you in strategizing and implementing marketing campaigns and website “calls to action” specifically designed to inform customers about your loyalty program. We will help you in devising a plan to:

  • Get the word out about a new program
  • Encourage your customers to register
  • Keep loyalty members engaged on a long-term basis

The Beginner’s Guide to Customer Loyalty: Measuring, Monitoring, and Analyzing

We believe that management is not possible without measurements. You must have numbers with you, which allows you to keep your program quantifiable and comparable with the earlier results. As discussed earlier, our solution comes with a comprehensive rewards dashboard to enable you to monitor your loyalty program and make adjustments on the fly. You can have a close eye on data such as:

  • Rewards given in a certain time period
  • Rewards and actions filtered by type, claimer email, claimer name, reward code, etc.
  • Rewards in the aggregate and on an individual level
  • Individual loyalty member profiles

Not just that. You can monitor key elements, like point standing, demographic information, actions customers have taken, and the frequency of their engagement. Based on that, you can send your customers targeted emails to further boost their action. For example, if you find that one of your customers just needs 100 more points for a reward, you can trigger a personalized email like this: “You are just 100 points away from the reward. What are you waiting for? Do come back”. This targeted marketing not only increases participation in your loyalty program, it also strengthens your customer relationships. We follow the same philosophy when it comes to return on investment (ROI). We measure everything! The same dashboard allows you to focus on insights such as:

  • Total points awarded and redeemed
  • Registration and participation over time
  • Individual loyalty member profiles
  • Loyalty actions taken
  • Customer demographics like age and geographic region
  • Revenue generated by your loyalty program

The Beginner’s Guide to Customer Loyalty: Customized Reporting and Scheduling

The importance of the right data at the right time in the right hand is enormous. It acts as a savior in the hour of emergency and acts as an instant tool when something innovative and creative needs to be implemented in no time.  That’s the exact reason why our Online Loyalty solution comes with customizable reporting and scheduling. It ensures that everyone on your team is getting the information they need.

The Beginner’s Guide to Customer Loyalty: Safeguards

We take steps to eliminate customer loyalty fraud, such as instant point deductions, cookie-based actions, and account verification. Conclusion: It must be aptly clear that loyalty cannot be taken for granted or should not be considered only as the attitude or the wish of the customers. It should be measurable and it should reflect in the company’s financial results. As a marketer, you should be able to plan a clear and direct economic benefit of some kind, as the result of the strategies and tactics you employs to increase the customers’ loyalty. Indeed, Annex Cloud’s loyalty solution is the closest one to the ideal solution!

For more loyalty tips and best practices, check out Customer Retention in 2017: Driving Emotion with Technology , our post on your top loyalty marketing FAQs, and our four-point strategy for advocate loyalty!

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