Prior Microsoft search loyalty programs, SearchPerks and Cashback, were retired. But maybe the third time’s the charm: today Microsoft is rolling out Bing Rewards Preview (beta). It’s a credit card or airline-style loyalty program that offers users credits that can be redeemed for products, gift cards or charitable donations.
People must first install the Bing Bar toolbar, have a Windows Live ID, be on a Windows machine and use Internet Explorer. No Chrome or Firefox, no Macs.
You get 250 credits for signing up and accrue additional credits by taking desired actions or conducting searches. According to the program’s FAQs:
You can take advantage of offers to earn credits. Offers may include earning credits for conducting searches on Bing, setting your browser search defaults to Bing, or trying out new Bing features.
I asked how much a “search was worth” or how many searches it took to get a single credit. Here’s what I was told:
Until October 2, you can earn one credit for every five Bing searches, and up to eight credits per day.
According to that schedule It would take just under a year to qualify for a Scrabble game (8 credits per day X 358 days = 2866 credits).
I spoke to Stefan Weitz about the new program and raised the existence of the two prior programs and their closure. I also asked about the target audience for Bing Rewards and what the larger program objectives were.
Weitz told me that the program is mainly seeking to get casual Bing users more engaged and “have a conversation” with them about Bing features and capabilities. The Bing Bar will push suggestions, messages and Bing features to them in an “unobtrusive way,” according to Weitz.
Of course Microsoft would love to gain new users through Bing Rewards. However Weitz is mindful of the challenges and realistic about the ability of a loyalty program to break the Google habit. He distinguished the prior search loyalty programs and said that the Microsoft team that developed Bing Rewards looked carefully at successful programs in different industries and used them as models for Bing Rewards.
Expect many snarky blog headlines such as “Bing Bribes Users to Switch.” But “regular folks” will probably be inclined to give it a try.
I think for existing Bing users this is a “no brainer.” And it could well get more causal users to search with Bing more frequently. I for example was all set to install the Bing bar; but right now I’m writing this on a Mac with a Firefox browser. Alas.
Here’s Microsoft’s post and discussion of the new program.