Microsoft Canceling Bing Cashback Effort to Buy Users from Google

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-06-05

Microsoft said it is shutting down its 2-year-old Bing Cashback program, an effort to lure users away from Google with the promise of cash for purchases made by searching goods on Bing.  

July 30 is the last day Bing searchers will be able to use Cashback, said Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president for the Online Audience Business Group at Microsoft.

Cashback customers will have a year to redeem any cashback they earned, and Microsoft will provide 12 months of customer support to ensure a smooth transition.

Despite racking up thousands of merchant partners to offer deals to consumers, Mehdi said in a blog post June 4 that Microsoft "did not see the broad adoption that we had hoped for."

Launched as Windows Live Cashback in May 2008 nearly a year before Bing was born, Bing Cashback lets users search for products, click one tagged with Cashback and see results for savings off the store and bottom-line prices.

Users then click the best deal to go to the store and make a Cashback purchase. Consumers typically get their cash back within 60 days after they make their purchases.

Industry watchers saw this as a clever plan to help Microsoft "buy" customers from Google, the reigning search giant with a 65 percent market share.

Even Mehdi, who said in March Microsoft missed out on the long tail of search, noted the strategic intent of Cashback in his post.

He said that when Microsoft launched Cashback it was designed to "provide a new type of shopping experience that would change user behavior and attract a bunch of new users to Bing."

Bing has grown Microsoft's search share from 8 percent to almost 13 percent in one year, but that share has come at the expense of partner Yahoo, whose search Bing is now serving.

Google retains its commanding lead, and even Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the D8 show June 3 noted the challenges Bing faces in trying to topple Google.

All is not lost, Mehdi said. Microsoft is taking what it has learned from the Cashback failure and injecting it into some new programs "designed to provide amazing shopping experiences for consumers and great opportunities for advertisers."

Bing is super serious about shopping, as one can see from the Bing Shopping comparison site. The Bing team May 6 added buttons that let shoppers solicit product feedback from their friends on Facebook and Twitter with a single click.

More Bing Shopping products and deals are on the way, according to Mehdi, who said:

"Shopping remains one of the most important tasks people engage in while using search, and we remain committed to delivering great shopping experiences for you that help you make better shopping decisions, get great deals, and save time and money along the way.

"For merchants and advertisers, we have some ideas for making it easy to get a broader array of products and offers into Bing, and we'll share some details on this later this summer."

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