Bing Rewards Program
Microsoft’s new Bing Rewards loyalty program is designed to encourage users to engage with Bing and eventually make it their preferred search engine. However, critics claim that the program actually discourages users by enforcing unnecessary restrictions, and the program offers mediocre prizes that are overly difficult to earn. The Bing Rewards Program illustrates the fact that companies must consider customer value and motivations when creating a loyalty program that requires a significant behavior change.
By Michelle Fares, Associate
In September 2010, Microsoft launched a loyalty rewards program for its Bing search engine. With Bing Rewards, users can earn points for using the Bing search engine, testing new products, and performing actions such as setting their homepage to Bing. To participate, users must download the toolbar for Internet Explorer and log in with a Windows Live account. Users can then exchange points for prizes such as gift cards, technology items or charitable donations. Microsoft has stated several goals for the program: to encourage casual users to engage more with Bing, and also to keep track of what its most loyal users search for in order to refine the search engine..
Complaints about Bing Rewards fall into two main categories. The first is that Bing may be shutting out potential users by exercising such tight control over the program. In order to qualify for points, users must download the toolbar, sign in with a Windows Live ID, and use Internet Explorer. The Bing toolbar is not compatible with other e-mail programs such as Google or AOL, or browsers such as Firefox or Safari.
Another issue with Bing is the difficulty of earning a valuable reward—at the time of this writing, two searches equal 1 point, and users are limited to earning 20 points a day for searches and around 30 points for completing special offers. A standard DVD on Bing Rewards costs 3,197 points to purchase. At this rate, it takes 58.94 days, or approximately 2 months, of making 40 searches a day to win a DVD on Bing Rewards. Bing Rewards comes as the successor to Bing Cashback, which ran for two years and offered users special deals for searching for and purchasing items on Bing. The product never gained traction, partially because users complained that it offered a crowded toolbar and unnecessary services. Bing Cashback was discontinued in July 2010.Implications and Action items
Although loyalty programs such as Bing Rewards can initially motivate users to sign up for a service, customers will only return if the product or service can add value to their lives without requiring a huge change in behavior. Companies considering loyalty programs can take the following lessons from the Bing Rewards program:
- Don't make users jump through too many hoops to participate in your lotalty program
- Overcome users' reluctance to participate by offering prizes that are valuable or compelling
- Encourage users to stay loyal to your program by making it relatively easy to win prizes, "surprise and delight" them with big-ticket prizes and sweepstakes.
As a follow-up to this article, I plan to use the Bing Rewards program for one month. At the end of that time I will evaluate the program, the prizes I have earned, and the overall effect on my opinion of Bing. Check out my kick-off blog post here: http://tiny.cc/mhnn1 and stay tuned for more updates