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Word-of-Mouth Commerce

3 Unique Ways Brands Activate Word-of-Mouth Commerce

An inside look into how top brands propel business growth by scaling their word-of-mouth marketing strategies
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From TikTok sensations sparking viral food trends to Instagram influencers curating must-have product lists, the era of word-of-mouth commerce is in full swing. This shift represents a fundamental change in consumer behavior, in which personal recommendations from trusted sources hold more sway than ever before.

In this article, we'll explore how brands across various industries are embracing this dynamic approach to commerce, leveraging the authenticity and reach of word-of-mouth to foster genuine connections with their audience and propel business growth. Let’s get started.

Chipotle supercharges word-of-mouth by harnessing viral TikTok moments.

Back in December 2022, TikTok creator Alexis Frost (2.5 million followers) posted a video reviewing Chipotle’s steak quesadilla with fajita veggies, giving it a perfect “10” after the initial taste test. 

Soon after, TikTok creator Keith Lee (16 million followers) — best known for his honest restaurant reviews — stitched Alexis’ TikTok sampling her quesadilla order, but added his own spin with a DIY vinaigrette hack made by combining Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette dressing and sour cream. With the addition of his DIY vinaigrette, Keith also gave this order a coveted “10 out of 10” rating, kicking off a viral frenzy for millions of TikTok users wanting to try this order for themselves. 

@keith_lee125 #stitch with @alexis.frost “Philly cheesesteak” from Chipotle taste test 💕 Chipotle Sauce hack 👉🏾 @hasaneats 💕 would you try it ? #foodcritic ♬ original sound - Keith Lee

Just 3 months later, Chipotle launched the Fajita Quesadilla as an official digital-only item available through its app and website. Dubbed the “Fajita Quesadilla Hack” and the “Keithadilla,” the menu pays homage to the TikTok creators’ original orders. 

As a cherry on top, Keith and Alexis each got their own branded restaurant, with custom ChipotLEE and ChipotLEX marquees in Las Vegas to celebrate the momentous menu item being unveiled.

Upon launching, the new menu items doubled Chipotle’s entire quesadilla business, creating 2 of Chipotle's top digital sales days of all time. Chipotle Rewards Enrollment also increased by 37% week-over-week at launch, and the campaign garnered a whopping 34 million social impressions, 3.7 million social engagements, and 4.5 billion PR impressions.

How can you replicate Chipotle’s word-of-mouth marketing success?

  • Tap into social listening. A huge part of word-of-mouth commerce is listening to customer feedback and meeting consumers’ needs. If there’s a buzz around your brand online, it’s your job to swiftly meet consumers’ demands to capitalize on the viral interest and cater to their preferences. The good news is that you can leverage social listening tools like Aspire to quickly identify those who are already raving about your brand online, then utilize our relationship management tools to scale your word-of-mouth commerce. 
  • Take influencer co-creation to the next level. Chipotle co-creates with influencers in deeper ways than a simple #sponsored post. Instead, the brand builds entire menu items with creators’ input and promotes the brand together. By doing so, Chipotle is able to involve its biggest fans in the brand building process, leading to more authentic partnerships and more sales down the line.
  • Invest in TikTok creators. The TikTok community is extremely engaged in trends, which is why any piece of content can go viral on the app. Typically, we see “lo-fi” content — such as food reviews, try-on hauls, and before-and-after transformations — garner lots of engagement because creators share their authentic experiences and honest opinions directly on camera. By leveraging the power of TikTok creators, brands can easily supercharge word-of-mouth and spread viral advocacy on the platform. 

Amazon activates a high-trust commerce experience through influencer-affiliate marketing. 

Amazon was one of the earliest adopters of affiliate marketing, launching the Amazon Associates Program decades ago. The program, still active today, allows anyone to earn a commission on Amazon products sold through their custom affiliate links. 

In 2017, Amazon launched the Amazon Influencer Program as an extension of its existing Associates program, allowing creators with large social media followings to share their favorite Amazon products with their audience and monetize on their influence. 

Once accepted into the program, Amazon Influencers get a dedicated Amazon storefront, which serves as a curated showcase of Amazon products recommended by the influencer. Each product on their storefront has a direct referral link for their followers to make purchases — and when they do, the influencer earns a commission on qualifying sales. 

Content creator Adelaine Morin’s Amazon Influencer storefront features curated lists of her favorite Amazon items, ranging from hair care products to dog toys.

The best part is that influencers can promote their Amazon storefronts in any way they like, whether it’s by posting a dedicated “Amazon Must Haves” video on YouTube, including their Amazon affiliate links in a blog post, or showing a quick Amazon haul on TikTok. 

The Amazon Influencer Program has proven to be successful, with nearly 40% of all Amazon traffic coming from Amazon Influencers. 

What can we learn from the Amazon Influencer Program? 

  • Add influencers into your affiliate marketing program. With trusted relationships with your target customers, influencers have a large audience that is actively looking to them for purchase inspiration. By pairing modern affiliate marketing with influencer marketing — which is inherently baked in relationships — you’re activating a high-trust commerce experience, thereby gaining a closer relationship with your customers and activating a new revenue stream for your business. 
  • Give creators creative freedom. In the age of authenticity, it’s extremely important to give your influencers enough creative freedom to create authentic, on-brand content that they know will resonate with their audience. Consumers don’t want influencers to read off of a script provided by the brand — they want to hear the influencer’s honest opinions and their authentic experiences. So, provide a few talking points but leave the rest up to the creator. This is key to effective word-of-mouth marketing, leading to higher engagement and more conversions down the line.

Rad Power Bikes turns loyal customers into brand ambassadors to spread advocacy.

Rad Power Bikes, the award-winning ebike brand, launched an innovative campaign to activate its community of loyal customers who could speak to the quality of the products and spread advocacy about the brand. 

To spark organic conversation and capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing, Rad Power Bikes invited its most loyal customers to become official brand ambassadors — despite them lacking traditional influencer backgrounds.

To build even more positive goodwill around the brand, the team planned a surprise-and-delight campaign, gifting accessories and other small add-ons to Rad Power Bikes’ new cohort of first-time ambassadors. In addition, the brand even offered some customers a discount on their service fees, which elevated the Rad Power Bikes customer experience and boosted brand loyalty.

As a result, Rad Power Bikes was able to not only take its customer relationships to the next level and establish trust within their tight-knit networks, but also drive millions of impressions and generate an impressive number of conversions in just 5 months, leading to an astounding 561% increase in ROI.

To replicate Rad Power Bikes’ word-of-mouth marketing success, try out some of these strategies:

  • Expand your definition of “influence.” Truth be told, anyone can create content that resonates, have great ideas for products, and hold the power to influence the perceptions and decisions of the people around them. Include your most loyal customers in your partnership programs. Chances are, they’re already raving about your brand to their friends and family. Reward them for their consistent word-of-mouth and build deeper relationships with them. 
  • Build a brand ambassador program: Consumers need to see a brand at least 7 times before making a purchase decision. Through long-term partnerships, ambassadors can establish a reliable narrative around your brand time and time again. This repetition builds trust, enhances brand recall, and overall strengthens the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. 

Drive word-of-mouth commerce at scale.

Authenticity is key to building trust in today’s saturated marketing landscape. By leveraging the power of genuine recommendations and organic advocacy, brands are forging deeper connections with their audience and driving tangible results. From the viral sensations of social media to the grassroots efforts of loyal customers-turned-ambassadors, word-of-mouth commerce has emerged as a cornerstone of modern marketing strategies. 

Follow in the steps of Chipotle, Amazon, and Rad Power Bikes to unlock unprecedented opportunities for growth and cultivate lasting relationships with your customers. 

Ready to get started? Book a demo to see how Aspire can help. 

Learn more about how top brands are driving sustainable growth in our guide, The Secret to Efficient Growth. 

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