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Grow your customer base sustainably (in more ways than one)

Olivia Cox
By Olivia Cox — April 22, 2022 -

Read time: 6 mins

Earth Day has been observed every year since 1970. But spiralling concerns about climate change (and increased awareness from groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain) will mean that more of us get involved this year than ever.

From being extra conscious about our energy use to making an extra effort to recycle pesky plastics, there are plenty of ways for all of us to go green this Earth Day.

And if you’re a brand, you know how important it is to discuss your environmental and ethical practices to assure customers you’re doing your bit.

Because what was once a nice-to-have is now crucial to brand survival. Nearly 1 in 3 consumers have stopped buying certain brands or products because of ethical or sustainability concerns. 

The risk for brands who fail to join in this critical conversation is huge. But brands who do shout about their eco-friendly policies and initiatives, alongside providing excellent products and service, will be able to keep their customers (and the planet) very happy indeed.

If you’re already putting in the work to greenify your brand, it’s not only the environment that will benefit. You can use this action to create brand affinity and organically grow your customer base with shoppers as invested in the cause as you are. How? Through referral.

Think of your referral channel like a wind turbine for brand growth, converting energy from your environmental efforts into a sustainable source of customer acquisition.

Your customers already love recommending you to others; just imagine how good they’ll feel introducing friends to your brand so they can also do their bit for the planet. In fact, according to our customer advocacy marketing research, 32% of consumers consider green credentials highly important when recommending brands to others. And with sustainability being such a hot topic, eco-friendly brands are bound to come up in conversation, particularly when shoppers pledge to go greener for their new year’s resolutions in January.

There’s also a sense of purpose in committing to being a more conscious consumer. Shoppers passionate about combating climate change will be extra keen to share brands who they feel are doing the same, and their like-minded friends are more likely to act on these recommendations. 

So, how can you channel your inner Greta Thunberg and promote sustainability through your referral programme? Read on for inspiration and examples of other companies proudly flying their green flags.

Take action — and get your customers involved

It’s one thing to claim that your brand is committed to being eco-friendly, but customers expect genuine action.

A simple option for highlighting your stance on sustainability is to run a promotion where you plant a tree for every referral your customers make. This sends a clear signal to shoppers that you’re not just sitting back and watching the climate emergency: you’re actively contributing to change.

Sustainable fashion brand Pangaia plants a tree for every successful referral

Letting your customers join in with your tree-planting initiative through referral is a powerful way to make them feel included in your environmental efforts. Not to mention that sharing this eco-friendly referral offer with their friends will boost your customers’ social capital, making their referral experience even more rewarding.

Promote referral offers on your post-purchase page to tap into the moment your shoppers are engaged: they’ve enjoyed browsing your site, picked out what they want to buy, and are now eagerly anticipating their goodies arriving in the post. Add the fuzzy feeling that comes from doing a good deed into the mix, and your customers will be positively beaming after their order. You could go on to make their delivery even more of a delight by including an in-pack insert that reiterates your sustainability pledge.  

Speak up about what you’re already doing

If you’re already proud to be eco-friendly, or you’re working hard to make your brand sustainable, don’t let your efforts go unnoticed. It’s no use being shy about how your brand is making a difference: your customers want to see it (and join you).

OddboxOddbox reinforce their eco-friendly messaging through their referral offer

In a time when many brands are being accused of greenwashing, those with genuine sustainability credentials deserve to shine a light on how they’re building a brighter future – and how they can help their customers do the same. Whether you’re fighting food waste like Oddbox and Abel & Cole, working with sustainable fabrics like Tropicfeel, or creating plastic-free products like Cheeky Wipes, let your customers know exactly how they’re helping the environment when they shop with your brand. Abel & Cole
Fruit and veg service Abel & Cole encourage customers to ‘share the organic love’.

By making it clear how you’re positively contributing to the planet, you’ll stick in the minds of eco-conscious customers. This will encourage them to come back time and time again, as well as getting them to spread the word to their equally green-minded friends and family. 

Shoppers love to share brands that reflect their personal values and beliefs, so make sure yours are on display loud and proud.

Put your money where your mouth is

What better way to prove your environmental and ethical efforts aren’t all talk than by using a charity donation as a referral incentive?

Whether you’re choosing to champion the environment, animal welfare or human rights, supporting a charity through your incentives speaks volumes about who you are as a brand. Pick a cause that naturally weaves into your brand storytelling to reinforce your positioning, or go in a different direction than your customers would expect to show another side of your brand. 

As well as boosting the feel-good factor of your referrers, offering a charity incentive can give you surprising insights into what kind of people your customers are, helping to inform your strategy going forward. Through A/B testing their referral rewards, pet insurance brand Animal Friends discovered that their most popular option for an incentive was a charity donation.Everpress
Everpress put their values into action by rewarding referrals with a charity donation

Promoting environmental and ethical practices will be powerful at any time of year. But you can make a particularly big impact at the start of 2022, when many consumers will pledge to live more sustainably for their new year’s resolutions. 

As more of us strive to become conscious consumers, shoppers will be eager to share their environmentally-friendly finds with others. With a Referral Engineering™ channel, you can take advantage of this by testing the  incentives and messaging that drives customers to share your brand with others. Empowering you to take care of the planet and expand your customer base.

To find out how else you can use referral to achieve your ambitious goals and critical KPIs, get the Big Book of Referral Engineering™ Applications.

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