Today Microsoft launched Live Search Cashback! This service is really a merging of their Jellyfish service (Microsoft bought Jellyfish some time ago) with Live Search. Microsoft says it’s going to help change the game against Google.
I first used Jellyfish back in October, 2007. I thought the service was pretty nice. They have a whole “community shopping” service, which I am not interested in, but from visiting their site, you can clearly see via the live “shopping smackdowns” that there are lots of people that do. I guess their competition is probably the Home Shopping Channel and such. Clearly shopping as entertainment is a very valid business.
The reason I signed up at Jellyfish was because we were buying some chairs online, and I found that the seller had an affiliate program through Jellyfish to give us 15% off. 15% off the $450 was over $50, so it was worth it.
Overall, affiliate rebates are just like mail-in rebates. You never know when or if you’ll get paid. So be careful.
Here is roughly what happens:
1. You make a purchase. You can’t go directly to the merchant’s site; you need to make sure you follow the links from the affiliate you are expecting the rebate from.
2. At that point, you’ll pay full price, and you’ll get the product delivered to you.
3. The seller has an agreement with the affiliate (Microsoft) that it will pay the affiliate every 90-120 days. They do this to avoid paying rebates on items which could be returned, and also because nobody likes to pay bills promptly.
4. Finally, Microsoft can credit your account; since they’ve automated the process, I expect this is probably pretty quick – within 1-3 business days from Microsoft receiving the money.
5. Of course, Jellyfish/Microsoft know that it’s been 3-4 months since your purchase and there is a decent chance you’ll forget altogether. So they won’t tell you the money is there. You need to check your account, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a balance to cash out.
If you haven’t used affiliate cash back programs before, you probably should now that Microsoft is fully in the game. Most affiliate programs to date have not passed all the money back to you, the consumer. However, Microsoft’s program does – they are passing 100% of the affiliate check back to you. How does Microsoft get paid? Well, technically they don’t – if you claim your money. However, if you forget to pick up your check, well, they got paid anyway, didn’t they?
Overall, I think Jellyfish/Cashback is pretty cool and I will use it. Over the long haul, however, I don’t expect affiliate programs will ever offer the best prices. Management of affiliate programs is expensive, and as more companies make their own online efforts efficient, the cheapest prices will be direct from the manufacturer (absent subsidies from Microsoft, that is :-).