Referly Debuts New API to Let Any Company Create a Social Referral Program

Y Combinator-backed startup Referly, which launched in April 2012 to let people earn rewards for recommending products to their online networks, today announced the release of its new API, which will help anyone with a website quickly and easily create an incentivized referral program to drive new business. Businesses using the API can set prices on how much they’re willing to spend to bring new customers on board, providing monetary rewards when users help out with sales or new sign-ups on their sites.

The API launch means that Referly is going beyond just targeting ecommerce sales sites, making it possible for anyone working on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, or really anything on the web, to drive growth via referral services. It’s a tactic that’s already been used by some major SaaS providers, including Dropbox, to help kickstart viral growth, so it makes sense that Referly would want to see if there’s an appetite for these kinds of services among businesses outside of more straightforward ecommerce outfits. The API also helps Referly with one more piece of its puzzle, as it looks to increase its appeal to every aspect of online commerce.

“It makes it really simple. The idea is that if a marketing person were to show it to a developer, the developer would be like ‘Oh yeah, I totally get this stuff. I can help you set this up it’ll only take a couple minutes,’” Referly CEO and co-founder Danielle Morrill said in an interview. “So it’s a win-win interaction between those two people who don’t always see eye-to-eye, and who struggle to find tools they can use together.”

Alongside the API, Referly is also introducing its new shopping directory, which is a listing of products on its site culled from its client community. Products are highlighted based on recommendations, and the new directory is intended to be a discovery tool to help highlight Referly’s most promising businesses and services and get them out in front of people interested in becoming their affiliate partners. It will act a little like a leaderboard for what’s being bought through Referly, and Morrill thinks that’ll be a key ingredient to providing appeal for the site not just to businesses and power users looking to make money, but to everyday consumers, too.

Businesses using the Referly API pre-pay into an account, from which their incentives are withdrawn as customers earn rewards. During the beta period, use of the new Referly API will be free, after which it will be priced either on a flat fee or transaction fee basis. Morrill said they’ll be looking at what makes the most sense based on their experience with the API’s beta users.

There are of course other alternatives for businesses looking to set up an affiliate program. Businesses can create their own internal tracking system and rewards with individualized affiliate links, which Morrill admits wouldn’t be too difficult. But it still requires engineering investment, in terms of building your own way of managing, tracking and sorting the incoming data. Referly provides a number of tracking, analytics and reporting tools around the programs businesses can create on its platform, and makes it easy to tweak and change rewards levels and specifics as needed. Not to mention that it’s also easy to implement in just a few minutes of a developer’s time, meaning companies can try it out without really any risk. It’s a time-saving tool that should appeal to a lot of SaaS providers with smaller engineering teams who’d rather focus on product than marketing, so long as the price is right.

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