The real reason Bing Cashback is ending: we all scammed the f**k out of it.

Microsoft says it’s shuttering Bing Cashback program next month because:

…after a couple of years of trying, we did not see the broad adoption that we had hoped for

But while the main tech blogs are assuming that means that the site didn’t get traction, they’re missing the real story here.

What was hailed as a great innovation in lead-gen actually fell flat on its face. The idea was that users would move to searching for products on Bing Shopping knowing that many advertising retailers would then offer a 5-20% cashback on the purchases, generating leads that might not of otherwise occurred. Don’t forget, these advertisers were paying Microsoft for the placement and then having to foot the bill for the cashback too.

Instead many people, including myself, would simply get to know which online retailers offered Bing Cashback. When they went to buy something from such a retailer we’d hop over to Bing and click through via the Bing Cashback link to get the extra discount. No lead generated at all, but still with a financial cost to both the retailer and Microsoft.

I’ve probably ‘earned’ (well, saved) over $2,000 in the last few years by doing this, sometimes by saving up to 40% off during special promotions. Thanks Microsoft!

For example, every time I’ve found something to buy on eBay I’ve noted the auction details, cleared my cookie, searched for eBay on Bing and clicked through. Performing that slightly but not terribly inconvenient task has netted me up to 30% refund on my eBay purchases. Ditto for B&H, Dell and others.

The various deal sites such as SlickDeals are rife with this activity – every time a deal is mentioned that is sold by a Bing Cashback retailer you can expect a reminder to perform the above trick to get the extra discount. Here’s a super-thread on all the Bing Cashback retailers and how to get the deals. (And here’s the thread where the free-loaders are up in arms about the closure!)

Aside from SlickDeals & co, there are many other people I know who have also been doing this. And let’s be clear with these examples:

  • These purchases were going to be made anyway – thus no lead generated
  • None of these people have switched over to Bing search engine (known as the halo effect)
  • None of these people have switched to Bing Shopping for non-Cashback purchases
  • Microsoft and the retailers have been paying handsomely for our hacks

It’s my bet that the above situation accounted for a large amount of Bing Cashback purchases, especially repeat/return vistors. Microsoft has finally got wise to the game (or the cost/benefit has leveled out) and cut the gravy train.

6 thoughts on “The real reason Bing Cashback is ending: we all scammed the f**k out of it.

  1. “Don’t forget, these advertisers were paying Microsoft for the placement and then having to foot the bill for the cashback too.”

    Hey, I just wanted to make out a slight misstatement you made here. The retailers do not pay for the cashback. If you look at the information given to retailers, you will see that the the money for the cashback comes from the money that the retailers pay to Microsoft. Micorosoft uses that advertising revenue and gives it back to the consumers of the retailers.

    So if a store pays for $1000 of advertising on Bing and participates in the cashback program. Depending on the cashback percentage, Microsoft will use that $1000 to pay for the cashback offered.

  2. Unbelievable stupid analysis. what hack, what trick. It is so unbelievably non-hidden. You mean I can find a deal, then look at how bing helps it?

    I personally feel the value of bing was in the accounting.

    bing partnership at 30% brings in huge huge sales volume = cash that day. The company then does not need as much short term paper (which during the credit pinch, was not as easy and/or affordable).

    Then they pay out not a rebate… so margin hit doesn’t show up on books, but an advertising fee.

    brilliant

  3. Is anyone using Bing Shopping to promote products? We’re generating our first product feed for Bing this week, and are hopeful that organic conversion rates will be reflected in Shopping results too.

    It seems that Bing is really rolling out the red carpet for shopping feed users – a nice change of pace from the usual Google Merchant Center week-long wait between contacts.

    We’ve tracked an average 3% conversion rate for several large-catalog sites, but Bing has always tracked around 5% conversion. I remember an Orlando hotel room reseller telling me in 2004 that MSN was frustrating to him in that the conversion was far better than Yahoo or Google, but could never amount to much because of MSN’s 10% search share.

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