Although I don’t personally use it I’m a fan of Microsoft’s Cashback. That sounds like a contradiction I know. But I thought it was a very clever consumer-advertiser proposition when it launched in May of last year.
It gives advertisers a way to stand out in search results* (and only pay if there’s a sale) and offers consumers money back or rebates on their product purchases. On paper there was a kind of alignment of interests and it didn’t seem simply like a bribe to users.
Shortly after it launched there was a bump in traffic but it has failed to contribute in any meaningful way to the growth of Microsoft Search. The company later launched SearchPerks, which offered a broader use case, providing prizes to use Microsoft Search. Now comes another response to the usage problem: Cashback toolbar integration. If the user won’t come to Live Search for Cashback, Cashback will come to users — at least their toolbars.
I’m on a Mac now and so I couldn’t install and see how it worked. However, according to the Live Search blog:
The MSN Toolbar (http://toolbar.msn.com) contains a cashback–offer-detecting mechanism. This means that wherever you search online — whether it’s Yahoo, Live, Google or Craigslist — the toolbar will gleam an icon if there is cashback available for the item you searched for.
It never fails, and when you click the gleam it brings you to the page where the cashback offer is available.
One might infer from associating this with the “MSN toolbar” that the demise of the “Live” brand is all but certain. It’s not clear to me whether this becomes part of Microsoft’s several “default search,” pre-loaded toolbar deals with partners Dell, HP and Lenovo.
*As an anecdotal aside, I was told today by a large search marketer that the presence of the Google Checkout icon — Cashback also features a coin icon — had provided an 8% CTR improvement vs. ads without it.