Microsoft Baits Bing’s Hook With New Rewards Program

Once more, with feeling …

Microsoft has launched a program to reward users of its search engine, Bing. The program awards points for searches conducted with the engine. The points can be later traded for products, services or charitable contributions.

Microsoft has been experimenting with this kind of offering for several years. Two years ago it offered users of Bing’s predecessor, LiveSearch, monetary rewards in its Cashback program. That later became Bing Cashback, which expired in July. There was also a LiveSearch SearchPerks program; that one rewarded searchers with deals on products and services.

“Bing Rewards is a new program that gives you opportunities to earn credits — redeemable for great rewards — for searching and exploring online,” Bing General Manager Danielle Tiedt wrote in the Bing Community blog Wednesday.

“Similar to other loyalty programs (grocery stores, frequent traveler programs, credit cards and more) Bing Rewards is a great way to get rewarded for doing what you love to do online — searching, exploring, and discovering,” she added.

Microsoft-Centric

Whereas Cashback was based on a purchase and rebate system, and SearchPerks was a limited promotion that rewarded searchers for using LiveSearch, Bing Rewards operates on a credit system.

The program is very Microsoft-centric. Only computers running Windows, for example, can participate. In addition, anyone who wants to take advantage of the program must join Windows Live, Microsoft’s online community, and install a “Bing Bar” in their browser.

What’s more, the only browser supported is Microsoft Internet Explorer.

‘Brain-Dead’ Requirements

“The requirements for signing up with a Windows ID and having to download a search bar will keep the masses away,” Mark Sprague, a search engine, social media and SEO consultant in Lexington, Mass., told the E-Commerce Times. “This is a brain-dead set of requirements which most people will not do.”

“This feels like a poorly thought-through strategy to increase search share,” he added. “I think they are asking consumers for way too much information in exchange for benefits that are not clearly articulated,” Sprague said.

“What Microsoft is doing here is a gimmick,” Bob Shirilla, owner of two online shops, Keepsakes Etc. and Simply Bags, told the E-Commerce Times.

Shirilla was approached by Microsoft to participate in one of its now defunct rewards programs. He said he declined to enlist in the offering because, as a small-business owner, the program’s benefits didn’t justify the amount of work needed to join it.

“I think they should focus on giving better search results,” he added. “Answer my question. That’s why Google is winning. They answer a person’s questions.”

DVDs, USB Drives and Such

After fulfilling the entry requirements for Bing Rewards, a searcher will be issued a sign-up bonus of 250 points. Thereafter, they can earn one point for every five searches. However, only a maximum of eight points, or credits, can be earned per day.

Credits can be exchanged for items at the Bing Rewards Store. Products range from Bing-labeled items — baseball caps, journals, USB thumb drives — and DVD movies to board games, kitchenware and gift cards.

As is typically the case in these kinds of programs, it can take months or years to accumulate enough points to obtain anything of value. For example, an ordinary DVD movie (not Blu-ray) is listed for 3,528 credits at the Bing Rewards Store. At eight credits a day, it would take more than a year to get the cred to trade for the movie.

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