IChoose.com Referral Program Gets Results

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Referrals to iChoose.com have doubled since the Web site began offering a cash bounty of up to $500 to its more than 500,000 users for referring friends.


Referrals are important to a site such as iChoose because of the complexity of its product. Its Online Savings Alert is a pop-up window that appears whenever a consumer proceeds to the check-out section of a site. It presents the consumer with coupons and exclusive deals for the items in the consumer's shopping cart. The consumer must install a small piece of software to receive the pop-up alert.


The "Refer Friends, Earn Cash" program kicked off at the end of last month and was slated to run until today. Due to its success, however, it likely will run through the end of the month. The deal is that consumers earn $2 for every friend referred who installs the company's software. Consumers can earn up to $500.


"That's why I love the Web -- the ability to put something up, test it, see results and refine," said Sheryl Gatto, vice president of marketing at iChoose, Carrollton, TX. "I'm a huge proponent of 'we're making it up as we go along.'"


To promote the cash offer, the site tested four e-mail messages that it sent to its registered user base. The message which announced in the subject line that users could earn up to $500 was the most effective. The least-effective message buried the offer at the end of the e-mail.


Gatto plans to run the referral program again in the near future. The new offer will allow consumers to earn 500 frequent-flier miles on United Airlines or American Airlines for getting two referrals. They can earn up to 22,000 miles.


The next promotion for the site is the "iChoose Lets You Choose" promotion. This program encourages more frequent purchases with the iChoose Savings Alert from the end of the month through June 22. Upon completion of every order during the promotion, members will be given a choice of free iChoose-branded merchandise, including hats, T-shirts, mouse pads and other products.


On June 15, the site will begin testing outdoor ads in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. The ads will bear the tagline "Let the Better Deal Find You" and will run through September.


To date, the site has tested cable, radio and direct mail with mixed results. The marketing effort that yielded the highest cost per new customer was a combination of radio and cable ads in Austin, Texas, and Denver. It cost about $60 per new customer. Advertisements on the cable networks in Seattle and San Diego cost the site approximately $40 per new customer. Radio ads in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Dallas brought new customers in at about $30 per customer.


Direct mail was the most effective prospecting tool, according to Gatto. The cost per installed user was $20. The site did a mailing of 125,000 pieces without an offer to consumers in Boston. Another 125,000 pieces were sent out to consumers in San Francisco with a free T-shirt offer. "We're going to do some optimizing to get the cost per install down," said Gatto.


In March, iChoose offered a free T-shirt to every consumer that installed its software. Visitors to the site increased 58 percent, and installs increased 260 percent as a result of the offer. It was promoted through e-mail, affiliate sites, public relations and a publicity stunt at a Dallas Mavericks game. The stunt involved achieving a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for getting the most people in a single T-shirt.
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