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Why Microsoft Cashback Will Fail: In Internet Marketing it's 3 Strikes, Yer Out

Microsoft’s trying to stop the bleeding with their new ‘Cashback’ program. It’s not going to work.
The program gives you a rebate on products you buy from their cashback page.
It has three huge problems:

  1. You have to wait 60 days for the rebate.
  2. They don’t appear to have the lowest prices.
  3. It doesn’t work.

Important update: Cashback works if you start from search.live.com/cashback. It’s only broken if you start from search.microsoft.com/cashback. Still counts as busted in my book…

Yes, that’s right folks, Microsoft is trying to lure you to Live search by giving you a $2 rebate on a $109 camera that you can buy elsewhere for $107 without a rebate. And it doesn’t work.
The price on Microsoft, after their whopping $2 rebate (that you get 60 days later, which means after you pay interest on the credit card payment, it’s worth, what, $1.80?):
And are two prices on Google Product Search, without a rebate or anything else that’ll make me wait two months:
Amazon’s price was actually incorrect – total cost with free shipping was $110. But Buy.com does indeed have the camera for $107. No rebate required.
Best part, though, is when you click on the ‘Go To Store’ button:
microsoft cashback broken

It’s Doomed

Cashback is meant as a traffic driver. Appearance is everything with this kind of lollipop PR.
The prices had better be the lowest, and it better not require any math on the part of customers to figure it out. They have to be obviously the lowest. That’s not the case here. Strike 1.
Instant gratification is a must. The average American won’t wait 60 days to save $2000 on a car. You think they’ll wait 60 days for $2 back on a camera? Strike 2.
And oh yeah, it probably needs to work consistently the first few days it’s live. Right now, it’s not working. Strike 3.
Sorry Steve, you’re going to have to try something else…

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. @Yannis Plus, even if it’s successful, what does it do to their reputation? Will they start skewing search results towards participating vendors?

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