Bing's Cashback program is becoming more popular -- more and more advertisers are joining the program, and Bing is making a big push to agencies and retailers to get on board. Acquired as part of the purchase of Jellyfish.com in 2007, MSN integrated Cashback with their search platform in the middle of 2008.
Here are some of the basics about Cashback for those considering getting involved or for those who aren't sure what it's all about. There are two, different, Cashback-related products: Cashback for shopping, which is datafeed driven and integrated with Bing Shopping; and Cashback Search, which is tied to PPC advertising. We'll be talking about the paid search incarnation of Cashback.
From the PPC advertiser's perspective, Bing Cashback is a program wherein a portion of click charges to Bing is used instead to pay rebates to the advertiser's customers. When an advertiser joins the program, Bing directs 75% of an advertiser's ad spend into what they term the "piggy bank". That piggy bank then is used to pay customers a rebate for each purchase they make on the advertiser's website.
After an advertiser signs up for Cashback, they decide which of their ads they'd like included in Cashback. Cashback enabled ads display a little icon of a gold coin, and the words "Bing cashback" (Bing calls this the "gleam"). For an example, do a search on Bing for "wii".
When a user on Bing clicks an advertisement for a retailer who has signed up for Cashback, they are given an opportunity to sign up and create a Cashback account (or use a Cashback account if they already have one). If they make a purchase, part of their purchase price is refunded from Microsoft.
The advertiser gets to determine how much of a rebate they're going to offer, expressed as a percentage of the user's order total. So, if the advertiser offers a 10% Cashback rebate, users who sign up and make a purchase will see 10% of their purchase total refunded, with the check coming from Bing.
In theory, users benefit by having part of their purchase price refunded. Advertisers benefit from having increased conversion rates, driven by (effectively) lower prices. And Bing benefits by getting more people to use their search engine.
How does it work?
There are three ways to implement Cashback, two of which are similar from the perspective of the user (though different in IT implementation)
The first major method of Cashback implementation involves having the user sign up for (or sign into) Cashback at the time of the click. When a user clicks on an ad which has been opted into Cashback, the user is directed to an "interstitial" page -- via a redirect URL that the advertiser adds to its URLs -- before arriving on the actual landing page. This page is a small window where the user is invited to sign up for Cashback. Beneath the window is a grayed out version of the final landing page. Once signed in, the user then makes purchases as usual.
On the backend, the advertiser's system reports that order to Bing. Bing marries the email address entered in the interstitial page with the order information provided by the advertiser, ensures that the order is valid for Cashback, and then acknowledges the order in the user's Cashback account. Bing has a 60 day window between the order being placed and the Cashback dollars being sent to the user, which allows for returns and other cancellations.
The other two methods of implementation do away with the interstitial page, and instead send users directly to the landing page. The user shops as usual, but at some point in the process -- either via a navigation bar at the top of the page, or through the confirmation page -- enters the email address which Bing will attribute to a Cashback account. The benefit of this page is the user experience: there is no interstitial page to distract a user from the landing page. The disadvantage is primarily in IT resources: it is easier to implement Cashback via the interstitial page.
Sounds great - what should I watch out for?
In the next post, we'll outline the four major issues we've come across with Cashback thus far: problems that are manageable, but do take some attention and care to ensure that they don't become big headaches.