Rebates sell cars and electronics, so why not web search? That must have been Microsoft’s thought process when they implemented Live Search Cashback back in 2008. Under the program, Microsoft paid rebates to shoppers who purchased goods after using their shopping and price comparison search engine. Essentially, Microsoft was trying to buy their way into the hearts of web users. But Bing Cashback will end on July 30, 2010. Will web surfers still consider Bing?
Love Me Do
Bing Cashback (as the program was known after Live Search was updated) was a great deal for Internet shoppers. Sure, Microsoft’s product search and price comparison site was halfway decent functionally, but the cash was the big draw. Looking for a new gadget? Plug the model name into Bing Shopping and look for the best combination of free shipping, low price, and cash back!
It wasn’t intended to be a bribe. Microsoft apparently expected the sellers to eventually pay the bulk of the cashback award, but they frequently sweetened the deal, matching or exceeding the seller rebates. The cashback awards sometimes reached 20% or more, a considerable enticement for buyers, but normally hovered around 5%.
Microsoft paid me just over $150 over the last two years in this way. I didn’t really use Bing Shopping that much: I just checked for deals on things I was already buying. Amusingly, my most-serious cashback take came on Apple hardware and software and AppleCare, though my Drobo purchase accounted for a good chunk of change, too.
Can’t Buy Me Love
But paying people serious cash to use a web site apparently wasn’t a sound long-term strategy. Sellers didn’t step up to give large-enough rebates, and many refused to participate entirely. Microsoft seems to have run out of patience with the program and will phase it out.
There’s still a bit of time left to get in on the cashback action, though. Killer deals remain (like 35% back from Magazines Unlimited, whatever that is) and Microsoft will pay out any amount accrued through July 30.
One of the best Bing Cashback deals has always been eBay: Search for just about anything in Bing Shopping and click the “Sponsored Sites” banner at the top. Everything you buy at eBay with BuyItNow and PayPal on that visit will earn cash back – 8% currently. May I suggest an AppleCare plan and a MobileMe subscription? Both are deeply discounted and widely available on eBay!
I wonder how many people tried out Bing thanks solely to Cashback. And I wonder how many will stick with it once the money runs out. It’s a lot better than Live Search ever was, but can Bing really shake Google’s search dominance? Shopping sure beats Froogle from a user experience perspective, but it is frustratingly incomplete. Without the rebates, I can almost always find a better deal elsewhere.
It reminds me of the car dealer in town who got creative, mixing rebates and discounts to offer a free pickup truck with every full-price sedan purchased. But deals like this cheapen the image and sour the customer: We’re smart enough to know that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch! Microsoft Bing isn’t half bad. The search is reasonably good, and the user interface is downright pleasant compared to “90’s as they wanna be” Google. They shouldn’t have to bribe users just to give it a try!
Disclaimer: I’m a Microsoft MVP, though they certainly didn’t give it to me for Bing Cashback loyalty!
“Not the best used cars–just ok” – image by rjs1322