Shoppers acquired via Advance Auto Parts’s refer-a-friend program have a higher average order value than other shoppers.

Personalized messages don’t require a complicated technology system or algorithm to be effective, says Heath Bradbury, manager of digital marketing and innovation at Advance Auto Parts Inc.

Take the auto parts and accessories retailer’s refer-a-friend program, which aims to entice Advance Auto Parts’ best customers to serve as brand advocates. The program is built on the idea that a message sent by a friend or family member has far more meaning than one sent by the brand, he says.

The refer-a-friend program, which uses Extole Inc.’s technology platform, lets advocates share a link that offers a discount on the recipient’s first purchase via email, Facebook, Twitter or on a web page; Advance Auto Parts rewards advocates with a gift card for every friend who makes a qualifying purchase online.

The Extole system lets Advance Auto Parts track which channels a consumer uses to refer friends and the click-through rate of each, as well as to determine the brand’s most valuable advocates. In the near-future—later this year or early next year—Bradbury aims to put a program in place to offer the retailer’s most valuable advocates a greater incentive.

“We know there are people out there who are great advocates for our brand,” Bradbury says. “But there isn’t always an easy way to understand the value of those shoppers. The refer-a-friend program puts an ROI on brand advocates and their ability to bring new customers into our brand while, at the same time, giving something back to those great advocates.”


While Bradbury declines to share specific results, he says the program is providing clear value as consumers who arrive at Advance Auto Parts’ website as a result of a referral are better customers than those who come from other channels. In other words, they have a higher average order value than the site’s other customers whose average ticket is around $75. 

“This is a low-tech way to achieve personalization,” Bradbury says. “It’s a way to add a personal touch. And the fact that we don’t have to invest any resources or bandwidth to find new customers makes it all the more appealing.”