Should brands take part in ecommerce?

Ecommerce is continuing to grow and many companies have had great success selling direct. But for well-established brands who have never sold direct, breaking into the market can be tricky.

Not only do they risk existing relationships with their partner retailers, but they may come across unexpected costs, such as logistics, packaging and returns. However, brands can still offer their consumers a route to purchase if they take part in referral marketing.

How can brands use referral marketing?

Almost 80% of consumers visit the manufacturer site for information during the purchase journey. Brands need to offer engaged consumers a route to purchase, helping to secure the sale and stop them visiting a competitor.

Technology now exists that enables brands to display all available offers from their partner retailers on their website. Consumers can filter a brand’s products by attribute to find the most suitable offer and once they have made their choice, they are directed to the specific partner retailer that they can buy from.


So, Nokia sends traffic from its brand site to its partners, at an offer level. A user can search plans from Tesco, O2, Vodafone etc, on the Nokia site, before purchasing with the partner.


This means the visibility of offers can be raised on Nokia’s site, and positively impact sales, as below.

The Nokia product search becomes rich, with users searching by plan, provider etc. Offers can be repackaged and used elsewhere on the site, driving up engagement and interest in Nokia products.

Referral marketing in this way allows easy scaling for Nokia’s partner sales, and gives real-time data as to how customers are looking for and purchasing their phones.

This real-time data allows for iterative improvement on the Nokia site through conversion optimisation.

Integration with telesales, Facebook, email and ad space 

Offline leads are generated for Nokia’s partners through telesales integration on the Nokia site. Nokia’s Facebook page can be used, too, in much the same way as the website.

Further integration with the Nokia CRM system allows offers to be included in emails.

At the moment, Nokia is one of the only brands using thisl tactic. One ecommerce Manager at Vodafone Italy described the programme as delivering:

Qualified traffic, at offer level, landing deep into the funnel. Looks too good to be true.

Referral marketing delivers great insight

Rob Durkin:

This, for me, is the highlight of referral marketing. By incorporating tracking on the brand and partner sites, the brand gains full visibility of sales from click to point of sale.

It can use this data to inform sales and marketing of popular offers, set realistic sales targets and reproduce the offers in other advertising channels. 

Referral marketing is evolving socially

Good news has always travelled fast, but now it moves in real-time. People love to talk about experiences they’ve had – good or bad – and bargains they’ve found. These days a tweet can lead to a sale for a company.

Brands are beginning to listen to social conversations to keep abreast of positive and negative comments that can affect sales.

So, what are the advantages of referral marketing?

  • Simple route to purchase for consumers.
  • Logistically, very little is needed from brand, e.g. no involvement with dispatch or returns.
  • Retail partner sites benefit from highly-engaged traffic, leading to more conversions.
  • Impartial product comparison system – consumer can browse all available product offers.
  • Brands earn affiliate style commission by referring shoppers to retail partners.
  • Offers can be remarketed into other channels, e.g. Facebook and email.

If brands understand the needs of their end consumers, they can refocus their marketing activities and regain some control of how their products are promoted, priced and advertised – all with very little effort.

Referral marketing also means that brands don’t have to worry about risking existing relationships with partner retailers, because the retailer receives high-quality traffic and sales take place on their eccommerce site.