Email Marketing

eCommerce Referral Email: 10 Examples That Really Work

Learn how referral emails can bring sales. From compelling copy to complimentary products, here are 10 examples that really work.

eCommerce Referral Email: 10 Examples That Really Work

Referral Marketing brings 3-5x more revenue compared to other channels. It gets more interesting—referred customers have a 37% higher retention rate (yeah, you read that right!)

It’s not such a mystery really—when happy customers spread the word, people close to them see reason in choosing your brand. 

And yet, referral emails are failing to hit the mark. As we dug deeper, we realized eCommerce brands need inspiration and that’s how this post was born. 

Here’s a heads up of what we’ll be exploring in this post:

10 Brilliant Referral Email Examples 

1. Knot Standard—Sell exclusivity 

Subject line: Refer Your Friends, Earn Complimentary Custom Clothing

Referral Email example: Sell exclusivity

Knot Standard’s referral email template catches attention with the promise of exclusivity and complimentary products. 

They even specify the steps that’ll help an existing customer refer them to friends and family. 

To add exclusivity to your referral emails: 

  • Offer exclusive rewards—customization, access to limited-edition products, and early access deals 
  • Attract them with virtual or in-store appointments for customization/ styling suggestions
  • Offer insider points to the customers who made the referral

2. The North Face—Lead by compelling visuals

Subject line: Jonathan, refer your friends and earn up to $10 in rewards

Referral Email Template: Community driven approach

The North Face creates a huge hook by defining the more people the recipient refers to, the closer they’ll be to the final reward. 

To max out on the visual aspect of your referral email campaign: 

  • Include an image that complements the copy—for instance, a person climbing a cliff for the copy It’s easier when you’re a part of the pack
  • Use visual cues—have a person subtly looking at the copy, twinning when it comes to clothes or shoes (you get the point…) 

3. California Baby—Say a word of appreciation 

Subject line: Refer A Friend, Get $10 Off!

Referral email campaign: Word from CEO

91% of customers will buy from brands that appreciate their customers. 

California Baby doesn't need a statistic to remind them. Their founder puts in a word of appreciation in their referral email design thanking their customers. 

You might want to see how they explicitly mention that the referral is valid only for first-time customers. 

Want to thank your customers? Do these:

  • Mention how the referrals have helped them—mention the revenue earned, number of people that converted, etc 
  • On a successful referral, thank both the referrer and the person referred—Thanks for referring/buying through the referral link. As promised, here's your reward. Keep shopping!

4. Cometeer—Raise the stakes with tier rewards

Subject line: This Merch is Legit.

Referral Program Email: Tier based rewards

Cometeer’s referral email is an example of how to raise the stakes higher. We like how they offer rewards based on the number of referrals. 

A tier-based referral program motivates by enhancing the perceived value of the offered incentive. 

You might benefit from making these changes:

  • Include a leaderboard in follow-up referral emails to show customers what they’re eligible for
  • Add a tier entry reward when they first enter the program
  • Offer points to the referrer whenever their friend completes an action—promise higher points for more high-stake actions

5. MUD\WTR—Craft a personalized note 

Subject line: Reminder: hello@SmilesDavis.yeah is sending you something awesome!

Referral Email Copy: Personalized note

MUD\WTR grabs our attention with the subject line—this gets us to click in a crowded inbox. The product image makes one pause and the copy is conversational.

Even the personalized message highlights a key benefit—natural energy without the jitters and the crash. 

Writing a personalized note isn’t hard when you:

  • Start with a question—for instance, Want to help your friend? gets the human mind thinking about nothing but the question
  • Base the copy on “lived experience”
  • Include both names of the referrer and referred to drive a personal connection

6. La Roche Posay—Cash in on relevant events 

Subject line: Refer A Friend For 20% Off + A Free Sample!

Referral Email Marketing:Cash in key events

What’s got us sold here is the double incentives for both the involved parties. 

You’d want to note how the bold text quickly grabs attention. You also can’t help but notice the dominant CTA and the 2:1 ratio for text-to-image ratio. 

Leverage important events in referral email campaigns by doing the following:

  • Always mention the event in the subject line—for example, Give 20, Get 20 on Friends Day 
  • Create a contest—ask your subscribers what friendship means and the winning entry will get an exclusive reward 
  • Use the theme of customization to suggest upgrades and upsells

7. Surreal—Let the copy work the magic 

Subject line: Do you like bribes?

Referral Email Template: Compelling copy

eCommerce emails have a 96% deliverability rate and great copywriting can improve that impact by increasing open rates. 

In the above example, an irregular subject line posed as a question forces subscribers to think. The rest of the copy uses rhetoric, persuading us with the cheeky use of bribing.

Writing great copy can be tricky, here are proven tips:

  • Leverage the Curiosity Gap—for instance, Want to be the ideal friend? Here’s $20 for you and your buddy 
  • Personalize beyond the first name—include the things they last bought or the date of joining 
  • Keep it simple: never use words having more than four syllables—amazingly and satisfyingly sound odd 
  • Here’s a copywriting framework we recommend—draw attention with a hook, create interest with compelling info, spike desire with an incentive, and push them to take action 

Here’s an example that checks all the boxes!

Referral Email Example: Attractive copy

8. RAD Power Bikes—Offer maximum clarity

Subject line: Give $50, get $50 when you refer a friend

Refer-a-friend email: Offer clarity

RAD Power Bikes shows you that even small things matter. They specify that you don’t have to be a paying customer to participate in the referral program.

And they make smart use of their real estate by throwing out some cool product recommendations. 

To ensure your referral emails are actionable, they need to be transparent: 

  • Be clear about the reward—is it a discount, credit, or cash
  • Mention the number of referrals needed to win the reward
  • State the validity of the referral contest 
  • Specify that the referral links are non-transferable 
  • Write in bold the minimum units per order to be eligible for rewards

9. Soylent—Create an opportunity to make a difference

Subject line: Check out our NEW Refer-A-Friend program!

Referral Marketing Email: Donate to a cause

Think a referral email design should include nothing but the referral? Soylent shows you otherwise! 

The brand shows a referral can help you donate 10 meals to a #SoylentforGood Hunger Relief Organization.

Such initiatives catch the fancy of customers, thanks to the Noble Edge Effect—when customers truly like a brand for the social responsibility initiatives, the profits soar. 

And the copy Give 10, Get 10, Donate 10! adds vigor and is memorable thanks to epistrophe—repetition of the end word.

Want to spread the word about your initiatives? Do this:

  • Mention the number of lives impacted 
  • Include the amount of funds raised 
  • Write stories of people or animals benefiting from your initiatives
  • Give users a glimpse of how the entire giving back program works

10. Omsom—Switch up the rewards 

Subject line: Get rewarded for sharing the Omsom love🧡

Referral Email Example: Offer unique rewards

Omsom makes an exception by offering a starter packet to either of the parties. We love how they don’t offer a usual discount but a product. 

And it would be a crime if we don’t talk about the subject line—emojis in subject lines can mark a 56% increase in open rates than those without.

Offer incentives other than discounts, start by:

  • Giving out curated product bundles—created by an authority such as a fashion stylist or nutritionist 
  • Offer a 30-day subscription for a complimentary product when selling coffee or supplements 
  • If a referrer completes X referrals, give them access to something more specialized like an expert consultation or gated content
Read eCommerce email marketing: The complete guide

How To Write High-Converting Referral Emails 

1. Write crystal clear subject lines 

Writing subject lines for referral emails may not come naturally to you. And that’s okay. Here’re a few best practices you’ll find handy:

a) Start with an anchor word

Starting your referral subject lines with an anchor word such as Exclusive, Attention and Final call engages your users interest. And not just that, they also prompt users to take a step.  

Here’s a referral email subject line that gets you hooked.

Exclusive: Get $10 off for every friend you refer

b) Write for a fifth grader 

Keep things simple. Write the objective and mention the reward. Write within 41 characters, so it doesn’t get chopped. Give $50, Get $100 for yourself is simple for even a fifth grader to read. Stay clear of jargon or buzzwords.

Here’s a tip—Limit your subject lines between 4-6 words and let preview text describe the rest. 

c) Use emojis sparingly 

Though emojis in subject lines can increase your open rates by 29%, they’re most effective only if they’re at the beginning or the end. 

Don’t replace your words with emojis. For instance, Spread the Love (And Get 💰). Instead, write full sentences and then use emojis—Spread the Love (And Get PAID💰). 

Using too many emojis or in a forced way will trigger the spam filters. Run a check on how emojis render on different devices and email clients. 

2. Craft appealing copy 

You'd be surprised to know that 14% of customers who land on a referral page take action. 

But, to get there you need a riveting referral email copy. 

a) Be direct  

Mention what’s in it for the referrer. Next, quantify the incentive clearly. Your secondary copy must convince customers that this is an exclusive opportunity. 

Bring out the perceived value—what about the incentive will make the subscriber feel good, or save time or want to share more?

b) Tell them what to do 

Before your users say Show me the money! you need to detail the steps. Here’s an illustration.

Refer-a-friend email: Outline the steps

3. Use captivating images

Images have a mesmerizing effect on our subconscious minds. An MIT study revealed that it takes 13 milliseconds for the brain to process information. 

For your eCommerce referral email templates, you’d want to use images that create a sensory appeal. 

Referral Email Template: Sensory images

Another practice is to maintain a 60:40 text-to-image ratio to achieve email deliverability. A large image may not download due to an email client. 

That said, a fair bit of copy will get you past the spam filter. So, ensure your email copy is at least 60-100 words. 

4. Create a stand-out CTA 

Referral email CTA buttons can be deal breakers. Here are a few aspects to pay attention to:

a) Action verbs 

Use words that make your users commit to an action. Here’s a list of CTAs that makes people want to act:

  • Spread the word 
  • Tell my friends 
  • Share the love & Refer a friend now 
  • Give $10 Get $10
  • Show me the đź’°, <Your brand>
  • Earn $35 credit 
  • Tell a friend
  • Let’s surprise my friend 

There’s another smart tip—Use a generic CTA and add a microcopy below to push users to click. Check this referral email example from Lucky Vitamin:

Referral Email Best Practice: CTA microcopy

b) Include numbers 

Your CTA becomes more persuasive when you sell tangible value. Include the discount or credit in your CTAs. Here’s a CTA template you can use:

Referral Email CTA: Include numbers

You might want to A/B test what works better: a dollar-off discount or a percentage discount. 

c) Rounded buttons work best 

Rounded buttons are welcoming and easier on the eyes. Not just that, they point towards the inside of the button towards the copy prompting users to commit. 

Wrapping up, make sure you use a color that creates a contrast so your CTA stands out.

5. Include a unique referral link 

Instead of a CTA, you can just include a referral link that makes it easier to share without having to go to your website. 

A referral link helps track the source of the referral with the help of a unique identification code.  It takes a step further by also tracking the referred user’s activity on site. 

Here are a few tips:

  • ‍Create a unique link: Along with adding the referrer’s name plus a unique identifier such as a username‍
  • Make it easy to track: Add UTM parameters to your referral link so you can track your analytics ‍
  • Include social sharing buttons: Make it easier to share with a single click—add an option to copy plus relevant social share buttons 

6. Trigger real urgency 

Referred customers are 4x more likely to refer more customers to your brand. But, it all depends on how persuasive you are. 

You can start by being time sensitive. Even better, use a countdown timer. Here’s an amazing fact—using a countdown timer in your emails can shoot your conversion rate by 400%. 

Blume’s referral program email is a brilliant example of how to drive real urgency.

Referral Email Best Practice: Countdown timers

Besides, you can limit the number of rewards to turbocharge your referral emails—a hard-to-refuse freebie, a limited edition product: you know the drill. 

7. Sprinkle social proof 

Feature reviews where customers talk about what they love about your products. As an add-on, show reviews that talk about a problem and its solution. 

Show reviews where a referred customer benefited after being referred by their friend. 

Here’s a class act by Le Tote that shows the right kind of review for a referral request email. 

Referral Email Design: Include testimonials

Here’s a final tip—Adding a customer’s image and name brings more credibility to your referral emails. 

8. Prioritize a mobile-first experience 

What you can do:

  • ‍Single-column layout: A single-column email is built using a single table in HTML code, making it adaptive to all screen sizes. Keep your email width between 600-640 pixels
  • Make sure the thumb fits: Design your CTA buttons for the thumbs to fit in. The bare minimum size is 44x44 px. Also, leave enough negative space so users don’t have to click repeatedly 

Don’t ignore the font size for the CTA either—16 to 18 px is a good standard. 

Know Whom To Sell To (Customer Segmentation)

Not all referral emails are the same, tailor your customer referral email campaigns based on the types of customer segments:

1. New customers 

New customers may still be unsure, but a referral opportunity that gives them that extra discount will always be attractive: 

  • A discount for the referred customer and a free product for the referrer 
  • Set an upper limit—for instance, each customer will get a $30 coupon when their friends purchase $50 or more 
  • Offer a shot at a giveaway gift whenever a person buys using a referral link
  • Encourage small steps—provide points to the referrer when the referred creates an account

2. High-value customers 

High-value customers have a higher AOV and their purchase frequency is frequent:

  • Exclusive VIP access to limited-edition products, early access products, and discounts based on a tier on a successful referral
  • Offer a chance to earn large points—1000-3000 points when they spend a certain amount 

3. Ambassadors 

Ambassadors have previously referred to their friends in the past. They are an asset. Offer them:

  • Compounding incentives—for example, referring 3 friends equals $10, 5 friends equal $20, and 10+ friends equals $50 
  • Seasonal referral offers such as a chance to win 1 year subscription for both the referrer and the referred customer 
  • A free product every time on a certain number of referrals—for instance, Rothy’s offers a free pair of shoes on 8 successful referrals

Referral Email Workflow 

The global average referral rate is 2.35%. Unless you time your workflow, your referral email program isn't going to make a dent. Here’s an referral email workflow we recommend:

First email

Send them after the purchase and don’t forget to:

  • Review and survey emails—based on the type of response
  • Track the email engagement—their open rates, click-through rates, etc
  • Explain the benefits of the referral to the referrer and the person being referred 

Follow up email 

  • Ensure there’s a gap between the first and follow-up referral email. Give a break of at least 10 days 
  • Take a look at the soft bounce and hard bounce date and clean your email list 

Final email 

Send the final referral email 30 days after the follow up email. Make sure you:

  • Remind them of their purchase 
  • Offer a compelling discount—offer the next purchase free 
  • Perks of being a frequent referrer 
  • Convey how a part of the rewards will go to charity—emphasize how they are making a difference 


You did go through the examples, tips, segmentation, and workflow. It’s now up to you to put them in practice. As always, there’s always going to be a learning curve. Before you go, remember to test, iterate, and repeat. 

Transform Email Marketing Into A Revenue Machine

Most eCommerce store owners don’t see email as a serious revenue stream.

Ask them about the importance of email marketing, and you'll hear: “we don’t really have a major strategy,” “we mostly use generic templates,” or “we just send emails to people on our list.”


There are stores out there that drive 30%+ of their revenue from email marketing.

Engage can help you do the same - Book a free demo.

We’ll show you:

  • workflows we can create for your store,
  • proven ways to drive 30% or more $$ from email alone, and
  • successful templates and strategies from your industry (and others)

Read more:

17 Proven Ideas to Improve Email Marketing Conversion Rate (+ Examples)

28 No-BS Ways To Get More Email Subscribers in eCommerce

How To Improve Email Marketing "Click-to-Open" Rate in eCommerce

How often should eCommerce stores send marketing emails?

25 Ways to Grow Your Email Click Through Rate Quickly (eCommerce)‍

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