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Bing and Cashback – Hijacking Sales or Fair Reward?

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2009 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Feeds, SEM

With the recent airing of the first advertisements for the cashback element of Bing, Microsoft has clearly publicised the inclusion of cashback as part of the Bing proposition. If you haven’t seen the ad, have a look:


So yes, this is not new. Cashback has been around for a while, but the overt link between cashback and searching is interesting; it certainly raises a number of issues. There are those who would deem this almost inappropriate, a ‘bribery’ of users. Claims may be made that this will lead to users who would otherwise proceed immediately to the end product’s website and convert, may now navigate through the cashback service instead, thus hijacking the sale. But this ignores the fact that this is not a new phenomenon. Cashback has indeed been around for a while (a lot of affiliate networks would be a lot poorer if it were not for the sales derived from this medium); and it will remain.

As indeed it should; it is a great way of rewarding customers for their choice of your service. Be it in the form of airline miles, credit card cashback, or in-store points, these are proven tools for retaining and growing a client base. For hard-pressed consumers who need to make their dollars go further, the growth of cashback is a blessing. And when it comes to search, does it not seem fair to reward users for their choice of engine?

In terms of what this means for the search engine battlefield, this appears to be a good move from Bing. Although the actual conversion cost for a user to shift engines is nothing, the effort it takes to familiarise oneself with a new search engine is beyond most. Previous articles have mentioned that users will simply be unwilling to change engines, despite the relevancy of its results.  Hopefully this is exactly the kind of carrot that users need to try something new.

In terms of advertisers concerned about ‘sales hijacking’, this can to some extent be addressed through good tracking. By analysing the cross-search engine landscape, and monitoring user behaviour prior to purchase, advertisers will be able to see if users are indeed making a real switch to Bing.

About Ben Gibson

Ben Gibson has worked in digital marketing for over 13 years, pioneering new strategies from the client, agency and technology provider sides of the business. Ben has helped leading international brands with their digital marketing strategies during positions at The Search Agency, lastminute.com, LookSmart, The Technology Works and The Search Works. In 2009, Ben joined The Search Agency to launch its European arm. During his tenure, the organization has grown to be one of Europe's leading digital agencies and technology providers for both national and local campaigns, working with such brands as Yellow Pages, the BBC and SLH. In February 2013, Ben moved to The Search Agency's headquarters in Los Angeles to lead the global development of AdMax Local, the world's first fully automated SEM solution that enables businesses to run high quality and profitable local search campaigns. Ben has launched businesses and led teams across the globe in Europe, Japan and the Asia Pacific region. Prior to The Search Agency, Ben held an executive position at The Search Works, helping to turn the boutique agency into the market leader, through a successful combination of great people, technologies and processes. Ben has a B.A. in History from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

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8 Responses to “Bing and Cashback – Hijacking Sales or Fair Reward?”

  1. Alec Green says:

    Great post Ben. Although Cashback has been around awhile, its awareness amongst the average consumer is still relatively low. Makes sense for Microsoft to invest more of its marketing dollars touting its shopping rewards program than the features and benefits of its traditional search engine. Joe Six Pack won’t appreciate how Bing will help him make better decisions. But he’ll immediately respond to the concept of “free money.”

  2. Shaan says:

    I’ve been using cashback for almost a year now and I’ve saved a ton of money because of it. I’m a Google user pretty much exclusively and if it wasn’t for the cashback I’d never visit Bing.

    This will definitely help Bing get more eyeballs to the site but some people (myself included) may only use the engine just for the cashback and quickly go back to Google for actual work.

    • Ben Gibson says:

      Shaan, fair point, and I can imagine many users initially working in this way. But I would expect that as users’ experience of Bing continues to be positive (the SERPs are of greater relevance than previously, and with the effort that Microsoft is putting in to relevance should continue to improve) that gradually Bing will become a more habitual choice.

  3. Matt Dunlap says:

    I just did a search for netbooks, and found this to be very similar to pricegrabber. I’d have to really look at the rebates, in this case around 2%, for me to use bing.

    I also looked at their travel estimator and found flights for about $100 less…

    Make me believe a shopping aggregation site like bing and pricegrabber, will never be 100% perfect

  4. Chris says:

    I think it is a good idea for Bing as it enhances customer retention by keeping them coming back. It feels more like a competitive shopping channel rather than a search engine.

  5. Mel Carson says:

    Remember Bing is a “Decision Engine” and is designed to do away with 10 Blue Links and provide users with answers. In this climate consumers are saving their pennies sp naturally they will go for discounted deals where possible. Bing Travel is another way of getting answers to those age-old questions like “should I book now or wait?” http://www.bing.com/travel and we’ve all done research when shopping so enter Bing Shopping http://www.bing.com/shopping

    We’re giving people what they want in a search engine and providing them with a quicker path so they can go off and watch TV or walk the dog instead of trawling though tons of meta data.

    If there’s a shift in the way the advertising works then we’ll work together to smooth any ripples.

    What we’re seeing is happy consumers and that’s got to be a good thing for everyone!

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