If You Can't Buy Yahoo, Maybe You Can Buy The Customers
Under the cashback service, the software giant promises to pay back a portion of the purchase price of anything shoppers buy online from any of its 700-plus selling partners who are offering more than 10 million products.The story then quotes Om Malik, a tech heavy weight and founder of GigaOm, as saying, "This is not going to affect Google. Google is so much better." I'd have to agree that it's no great shakes, but more because I think it's simply a bad business idea.
Among the big box retailers who have signed up are Barnes & Noble, Sears, Overstock.com, Home Depot, J&R Electronics and a host of others.
Money will be paid either via PayPal, a cheque or into a user's bank. It will only be open to people living in the US.
This is not the first time Microsoft has tried paying users to switch to its search technology. Last July there was a report on how it had fared. My comments then still go: this is bribing consulers, and the result is attracting only mercenaries who will be gone at the hint of the next offer. The only way you keep them is to keep increasing the incentives. In short, paying people is a tacit acknowledgment that you offer nothing else they might value. That means the cost of maintaining the customers will be extremely high and they will feel virtually no loyalty to the vendor, just loyalty to their billfolds.
Now lets add the new wrinkle. This is money back for purchases made from searches. Given that Microsoft wants huge markets, they are probably assuming that this should be a big part of the search business. But how often does a search end in an immediate purchase? I'm guessing fairly seldom. People and companies buy according to their own schedules, not to the seller's. What if they use search to get information and eventaully get around to buying days, weeks, or even months after? Google keeps that business and that means so many more times to help tie the customer close.
Furthermore, if this was such a good strategy, why didn't it work so well when Microsoft started it last year that they didn't need to try and buy Yahoo? What Microsoft needs is not an old strategy based on where they were, but a new, forward-looking stategy based on where they want to go. The more they stick with the old playbook, the more they are stuck in an old game, while Google and other companies are in a different open field using different rules.