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Viral Referral Program – Planning & Development (Part 2)

Updated: May 25, 2023

This is the second post in the series of three blog posts on AppBrowzer’s Viral Referral Program.

In September 2018, I read this article about Tez (now Google Pay) getting 7.5 million installs in a month. That’s an average of 2,50,000 installs a day. As a marketer, I was intrigued and wanted to know how they did it.

Google does spend a lot of money on advertisements every year— online as well as offline.

However, that was their total advertising spend across all products— Google Maps, Google Duo, Google Pixel Phone, Tez(Google Pay), Google Home, GCloud, etc.

I wanted to find out how much they spent on Tez alone and was trying to dig information when I came across these comments (screenshot below) in one of the articles.

Mention of Google Pay Referral Program

Micro-Influencers – A key ingredient for a Viral Referral Program

I searched for Tez Referral Program on youtube. A lot of micro-influencers in India promote referral programs on their channels to make money.

I knew this because when we launched our first referral program, 3–4 influencers on youtube picked it up and promoted on their channel.

There were at least 5 videos on Tez Referral Program with 1 million+ views on the first page alone.

I kept scrolling down to see how many videos have been made.

The idea that they spent a lot of money on ads to acquire users completely faded as I could see that thousands of micro-influencers were promoting their referral program.

I will talk more about the micro-influencers on Instagram/Youtube/Telegram/TikTok and how to tap them to promote your App in the last part of this blog series.

Downloading Google Pay

After watching some of those videos, I downloaded Google Pay (they had changed the name by now) and referred my mom. I got ₹51 and my mom got ₹51 when she transferred ₹1 to me using Google Pay.

The reward amount was immediately deposited in our respective bank accounts.

Google was giving away ₹102 to acquire each new user for Tez App through its referral program (the referral program is still active).

For simplicity of my calculation, I assumed that 50% — 3.75 million out of 7.5 million users that they acquired in the first month were from referrals.

Basic math (37,50,000 X ₹102) tells that they would have spent close to ₹38 crores on referral rewards in the first month. Now, that’s a lot of money.

However, as Elon Musk said and I agree— It’s a peanut to Google — on being asked about spending $60–70 million dollars as rewards for PayPal Referral Program.

Hidden Treasure Chest

The focus of my research was to create a strategy to replicate Tez’s kind of growth for AppBrowzer within our limited budget.

I explored the app and the thing that stood out in Google Pay’s offers section was the use of Scratch Cards for rewarding users.

Google Pay (Tez) Scratch Card Offers

On searching for information on “Tez scratch cards”, I found this article on how scratch cards are the secret sauce of Google Tez’s 50 million installs.

While I do not agree with the overall content of the article, I would like to thank the author for introducing me to an amazing book — Hooked: How to Build Habit-forming Products.

The book gave me a fresh and interesting perspective on how to look at product development, technology & marketing.

It beautifully explains the concept of Variable Rewards — Scratch Cards in the case of Google Pay — which is a part of the Hooked Model, a blueprint to create habit-forming products.

For me, it was like discovering a hidden treasure chest.

The new Referral & Rewards System

During this time, I learned a lot about user psychology, gamification, and product development.

Overall, it took us 4 weeks to plan the complete system — the referral program, offer-rewards engine & payout wallet.

Referral Program with Scratch Cards

AppBrowzer Referral Program with Scratch Card

AppBrowzer Referral Program — Invite your friends and get a scratch card when they signup. The scratch card can get you anything from ₹9 to ₹49. This was unlike Tez which gave a fixed reward of ₹51 to both parties.

I used a variable reward to keep the user excited about what she may get next — one of the most important learning from the book Hooked.

Our budget was limited so we decided to put a cap of 50 on the total number of scratch cards a user could earn for referrals.

I will discuss how this turned out to be one of the best decisions in the last part of this blog series.

Applying learnings from the Previously failed Referral Program

In part one of this blog series, I had mentioned all the mistakes in our first referral program.

We were able to address the visibility (Mistake #1) and fraud detection (Mistake #5) issues in this one.

We introduced a banner section on the home screen to give it maximum visibility and also placed an icon at the top right to directly get to the rewards screen.

Viral Referral Program banner on the home screen

Referral Program banner on the home screen

For fraud detection — We generated a signed device id by taking multiple parameters into consideration and also put a multi-level check to detect if the device is unique before a reward is generated.

Rewarding users to experience the core value of App

The core value that AppBrowzer provides a user is the ability to use multiple apps without installing them.

It was important for us that the new user who registers is able to experience this as soon as possible. So, we created the below offer to use our “Add Apps to home screen” feature and add the first 3 apps to the home screen to get a scratch card of ₹9 to ₹49.

Offer to add apps to home screen

Offer to add apps to the home screen

We also created offers around various other daily usages like — recharge/pay bills, book cab, order food.

More Scratch Card offers

More Scratch Card offers

All this was done to inculcate a habit of using AppBrowzer for most of their daily needs.

Payout Wallet to Redeem Rewards

The payout wallet section contained transaction history for the user to be able to track their rewards.

Viral Referral Program Rewards and Transaction History

Viral Referral Program Rewards and Transaction History

A user needed a minimum of ₹200 to be able to transfer the money from the Payout wallet to UPI or Bank account. Again, this was done to control the payouts.

Redeeming Money from Wallet to UPI or Bank Account

The other option we gave to the users was to use the rewarded cash to recharge using our app. This was capped at 5% of the recharge value for each transaction.

Using Rewards for Recharge

Using Rewards for Recharge

This pretty much sums up our new Referral & Rewards system. 

It took us over 2 months to plan, build, test, and release this to production on December 25th, 2018.

Throughout 2019, we added several other features to introduce Gamification elements like — Points, Badges, Leaderboards, Gift Cards into this system before deciding to release it as a separate SDK-based product for other Apps called FLYY in March this year.

Imagine if you could introduce this complete referral & rewards system in your App within a day.

In the last and final part of this post, I will write about how our referral program went viral, the challenges we faced, a deal with a mobile phone company, the monetization model, and more.

If you haven’t read the first part yet, you can read it here.

Last part is live here.

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