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7 flaws with beauty brand referral programs


Before we get to the seven problems with your beauty brand’s referral program, I want to offer you a few quotes,

-From the one and only, “Ask and you shall receive.”

& then,

-“There’s a better way to ask,” used by Typeform

But don’t worry too much about good manners, as in

-“You forgot to say, please,” IYKYK. Guess the movie, and please don’t google.

Let’s get deeper now,

7 Flaws With Your Beauty Brand's Referral Program & Solutions

Here are seven flaws preventing your beauty brand from acquiring more consumers organically.

1. The Usual Standard: Found On One DTC Page

Usually, brands mention one singular referral incentive on their DTC site home page. It’s too little, too abrupt.


The referral program should find space on multiple pages, and the ask can be customized by page type. 

E.g. If you are on a product page of your hero product, you could ask them to share the unique benefits of the particular product with their friends and family, along with the incentives.

Beauty Brand Example

Charlotte Tilbury has “Refer a Friend” in the website’s footer. 

The above serves as a constant reminder to the loyal fans to refer.

2. Asking One Referral Per Referrer

The mathematics of going viral with any initiative is “the number of people referred by a referrer must be the inverse of your opt-in rate.” 

So, you can achieve the viral coefficient of 1, meaning if everyone who knows about you speaks to at least one new person, your beauty brand will go viral.

But only some people who know about you will speak to at least one person. Because there’s an opt-in rate, only some people speak, and that’s why the chain dies out.


If 1 in 10 people who know about you will spread the word, create a program in which each person passes the message to at least ten people.

For example, you can make it easier for the referrers to share a link with multiple friends, family members, and contacts via email or on social platforms like IG messaging.

You can ask for one first and then suggest that they invite more people who would benefit from the brand’s offerings + the incentive.

Beauty Brand Example

When you buy something from Anastasia Beverly Hills online, they give you this particular link or code. You can share that with your friends however you want—text, email, social media, you name it.

What’s neat about ABH’s program is that they mix it up with tier-based rewards. If you get one friend to buy something using your link, you might get a little discount on your next purchase. But, if you get three friends to buy stuff within a specific time, they might hook you up with an even better deal, a freebie or early access to their latest releases.

Sometimes, they run special promos where you can earn extra rewards for hitting specific goals. For example, if you refer five friends monthly, they might double your rewards.

It’s an intelligent way for ABH to promote its products while offering its customers sweet perks.

3. Transactional

Refer a friend and get a $10 coupon, and she gets a $10 coupon on her first purchase. This is a transactional example of a referral without any functional or emotional meaning beyond making a quick $10 bucks.

No wonder the enrollment into such programs is low.


A Strong Enough Why! Give a more compelling reason to refer a friend beyond $10 for yourself and a friend.

For example, speak about how your beauty brand’s core benefits can benefit the referred person or frame it as a question: Help out your friends and family members who could benefit from a toxic-free glow for their sensitive skin by sharing this link. You’ll also help them save $10, and you’ll get $10, too.


Instead of $10 off, you could offer one of your hero products free with the first purchase of another product citing the product benefits.

Beauty Brand Example

Color Pop gamifies the referral program by giving you Color Pop points that you can redeem later for limited-edition products.

Charlotte Tilbury offers $30 OFF to the referred friend on their first order of $150 and $30 off to the referrer on their next order of over $150.

4. Lack of Salience, Measurement & Improvement

Almost every beauty brand has a standard program that never gets tweaked, measured and improved.


You can play with the messages, making them salient to seasonal events, etc., and then measure which referral programs and messages outperform the others.

Beauty Brand Example

One example of a beauty brand that adjusts its referral program based on the season is Sephora. During the summer, Sephora has been known to offer referral rewards such as deluxe samples of sunscreen, beach-ready makeup kits, or summer-themed beauty accessories. These incentives align with customers’ summer beauty needs and desires for sun protection and beach-ready looks.

In contrast, during the winter, Sephora may switch its referral rewards to include deluxe samples of hydrating skincare products, winter makeup essentials like bold lipsticks or rich moisturizing creams, or holiday-themed beauty sets. These incentives cater to customers’ winter skincare concerns and desires for festive makeup looks.

This approach demonstrates how Sephora tailors its referral program incentives to match its customers’ seasonal preferences and needs, providing relevant rewards that enhance the overall customer experience.

5. Limited to One Touch Point

It’s such a wasted opportunity. Why limit your referral program to your home page, rewards program, or one email flow?


Announce the referral program and seek referrals by customizing it a bit at every touch point, be it emails, post-purchase, any promotion, packaging, customer service, chatbots!!

Beauty Brand Example

I advised Pendrell, a skincare brand, on selling hydration-focused skincare bundles and recommended a custom referral program that the brand ships to every DTC consumer as an insert. The result was a lift in organic acquisition.

You could also use inserts in the secondary packaging for the retail channel.

6. Difficult to Refer

Beauty brands have improved by simplifying their referral programs, making it a one-click process. 

But people are busy and won’t always know who they should share it with esp., with such busy lives; they don’t want to crack the code on “who to share with” & how many times they can send a referral to the same three high-school friends!


Create an exhaustive list of all types of group members, including friends and family members, professional colleagues, hobby groups, etc., and mention 2-3 groups every quarter, depending on their salience and your brand’s focus at that time of year.

Beauty Brand Example

For example, if it’s back-to-school time, you can ask them to refer a busy soccer mom who needs hard-working skincare products for her sensitive skin during such hectic times.

7. Same as Affiliate Program

Affiliates are mainly in it for the money and are more regulars with referrals. You also are likely to have a different program for affiliates.

In contrast, people who refer are likely your fans. They will do it more to help out friends and family and make a bit of money, but the primary motive is not money.

You can transform your affiliate program emotionally, too.


Balance the functional and emotional rewards for the affiliates and keep them fresh and salient to motivate them and make it easier for the referrer.

Beauty Brand Example

Charlotte Tilbury has a separate “refer a friend” program, a separate affiliates and ambassador program.


I discussed seven common issues plaguing a beauty brand’s referral program and offered solutions.

1. Go beyond $10 off for the referrer and the referred, offering more compelling reasons to share with their friends and having it across your DTC site.

2. Ask for multiple referrals from one referrer to increase your organic acquisition of new consumers

3. Offer compelling functional and emotional reasons and not transactional to motivate referrers 

4. Experiment with messages, offers, and reasons to refer and then measure to find out the best-performing, iterate and further experiment to improve the effectiveness of the referral program

5. Apply your referral program across all touch points from product packaging, shipping boxes, social, customer service, etc.

6. Identify groups of people they can refer to and make it a click

7. Don’t confuse the affiliate program with your referral program

Please do check out my other blog on your beauty brand can go viral? 

Jump offers profitable growth to women-led, early-stage beauty brands with a “fit, fundamental & fully executable” solution using first principles of diffusion


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