The Sad End of Bing Cashback

bing cashback

Bing is discontinuing their Bing Cashback program as of tonight at 9 PM PST. The program allowed customers to receive a percentage of their purchase back (anywhere from 2% – 10% usually) if they visited the merchant using Bing’s shopping search. As a consumer, I thought this was an awesome program. I got over $100 back when I bought my new laptop from HP a few months ago.

The reason I’m writing a post about it though is because I also loved the program as a merchant.

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was accepted into the program just over a year ago. The “onboarding” process was a total pain – the spec was 40+ pages and changed during my development (without notifying me of course), it impacted just about every key page on our site (home page, item page, checkout page, order complete page), and it took almost a month for them to test our site before approval – but once we got it going, it was pretty awesome.

We set it up so that for every sale we paid out our affiliate rate, which is calculated using a previously-determined formula that factors in our cost of goods sold to allow us to pay out as much as we can while still making a profit after other discounts are factored in (sale prices, coupon codes, etc). Generally this number is in the 4-6% range, but it can obviously vary depending on the type of product.

I really wanted to write a post about all of this at the time, but we decided this was one of those things we’d rather not draw attention to since none of our competitors were part of the program. This unfortunately has been happening more lately, which kind of sucks…but I digress.

As time went on it provided a steady flow of sales, nothing business-changing, but nothing to ignore either. Every new customer and every sale matters, and Bing was definitely bringing us some large sales and some new customers. Even when our current customers used it, I’d like to believe that they bought more because they knew they were getting a percentage back, although that’s impossible to validate.

I spent this morning removing the Bing code from our site. I was saddened and a bit disappointed that Bing gave up on the program. It worked for me as a consumer, and it worked for us as a business. Which begs the question – why couldn’t they make it work? I wasn’t able to find any “reason” in all of the articles I read, but there were a lot of internal problems I observed. My guess is that they just couldn’t make a profit on the commissions we paid out to them. It’s an expensive operation that they were probably running at a loss in hope of gaining market share, but due to it’s popularity probably spiraled out of control. The people I worked with on their team were clearly overworked. There’s no doubt that this required a massive staff to maintain. They also never quite got the developer/site-owner side of things down correctly – the feed processing was buggy, the admin interface didn’t function very well, there was no confirmation of deposits made until the money showed up in our account days later, and so on.

Still, it was a pretty innovative idea, that seemingly could work. I give them credit for trying on such a massive scale. I hope someone tries again. Until then, we’ll have to live with their new shopping program, which unfortunately appears to just be a clone of Google Product Search. Right on that page they say that “the Bing audience is 11 percent more likely to make online purchases than Google searchers”. I think it’s safe to say that they can expect to lose that advantage starting tomorrow.

9 comments on The Sad End of Bing Cashback

  1. jennsquared says:

    As a consumer, I didn’t know about the bing program, but I use ShopAtHome and Ebates all the time to get cashback. The programs were super easy to use, cash from Ebates goes directly to my Paypal account regardless the amount, ShopAtHome required the accumulation of $20 but sometimes has higher cashback rate. Not sure if it’s something you want to look into, but I as a consumer loved the two programs.

  2. Rob says:

    I also hadn’t heard of this particular program, but every time I make an online purchase I use some kind of cashback scheme, do a google for coupon codes etc. Knowing that that’s automatically built into the search engine is huge, and the only reason I can see it not working is if the admin is too much to handle.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Exactly. We all Google for discount codes. Knowing that the discount is built right in, and that you’ll get the cash back as a check or PayPal deposit is such a simple idea but I think it really does encourage buyers to buy more.

  3. Brad says:

    I knew about bing cash back but never bothered to sign up for it. I didn’t know it was as extensive as it is until earlier this month…and then I found out it was ending…

    • Adam McFarland says:

      I really think it was the type of thing that could have gone mainstream had they given it more time and then advertised for it like Bing advertises for their search engine. And if people are spending a lot of time on Bing shopping, they’ll probably start searching more.

  4. Rob says:

    Straw poll: Hands up for your everyday search engine.

    Me, I use Google. The only time I use bing is if I’m using a friend’s computer and that’s what they’ve got their default set as, but as soon as possible I’ll just navigate to the big G.

    • Brad says:

      I primarily use Google Rob.

      Although when Bing was released a Microsoft engineer setup a blind search engine comparison between Yahoo, Google, and Bing. The user entered a search term and selected the results they preferred best. Interestingly, ~50% of users picked Yahoo and the other 50% split evenly between Bing and Google.

      Of course, it standardized the styles which is a big reason I use Google. I find it more intuitive and less intrusive to finding results. Although Yahoo might have ‘better’ results, they’re not better enough to convince me to switch.

      • Adam McFarland says:

        Good question Rob. I use Google 100% of the time. I do remember that study that Brad is referring to. I too didn’t necessarily always prefer Google’s results, although there are some queries where Google definitely understands what you’re asking better. Like Brad though, I’m just really used to G’s interface and it’s my default search engine and I’m always using my Google Apps account so it doesn’t make sense to use anything else. At least Bing Cashback got me on their site using it. If it wasn’t for that, I’d never use it other than to play around Googling myself or our business 🙂

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