Microsoft Live Search Offers Cash Back

Looking to increase its share of the online search market—currently dominated by Google, with Microsoft target Yahoo in a distance second place—Microsoft has unveiled Live Search cashback, a program that rewards users for purchasing selected products through Windows Live Search. Microsoft is hoping that offering buying deals will lure online shoppers away from Google and Yahoo…and encourage retailers to partner with Microsoft for other services, like online ads.

Live search cashback works a bit like a supermarket discount club: users sign up for the service by providing their email address, then search for deals using Live Search cashback. The system displays search results with cashback savings clearly displayed, along with the final item price including shopping costs and taxes. If users find a deal they like, clicking through the deal will take them to the Microsoft retail partner offering the deal, and the cashback deal will already be in place: anything else the user buys from that store will also be eligible for cashback savings. Microsoft has already lined up hundreds of online retailers to participate in Live Search cashback, including Office Depot, Barnes & Noble, Sears, Overstock.com, Zappos, Footlocker, NewEgg, and Circuit City.

Live Search cashback saving accumulate in a user’s cashback account; when the amount totals $5 or more, users can claim their money: Microsoft will pay within 14 days to a bank account, via check, or by transfer to a PayPal account. However, Microsoft waits until 60 days after the purchase to credit cashback users with their rewards, in case the item is returned. The cashback system relies on Microsoft’s Live ID universal sign-on service, and Microsoft doesn’t guarantee that payments made to retailers using alternative payment methods like PayPal or Google Checkout will necessarily work with Live Search cashback.

The cashback program is designed to appeal to consumers, but also to advertisers looking to get the most value for their online advertising dollars. Microsoft is rolling out a new offensive in the online ad world, building on its recent acquisition of aQuantive to roll out a new Microsoft Advertising brand, billing itself as a one-stop shop for mobile, online video, and online advertising needs. The Live Search cashback concept builds on ideas from Jellyfish.com, which Microsoft acquired last year for an undisclosed amount.

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