Paid to search?

It may be nearly two months since I was last in London, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get emails from LSE and UK merchants still to remind me of my time abroad. When it comes to innovation, I’ll give the Brits one thing: they’re not afraid to try crazy stuff. Here’s one email I got earlier this week that really intrigued me:

For those of you unfamiliar with UK commerce, Nectar is a point based reward card system used mostly by Sainsbury’s, one of the UK’s biggest grocery chains, but also various other e-retailers like Amazon and eBay UK. You collect points for every pound you spend and redeem those points for rewards like coupons and discounts.

If I understand this ad correctly, you’re getting free points to download and use this Yahoo search bar, which you can then redeem at your favorite retailers. So basically Yahoo is (albeit indirectly) paying UK consumers to use their search engine.

That’s pretty sad. It’s not the first time a search engine has done this before though. Early on, there were gimmicky search engines like iWon which quickly flopped. More recently, Bing had its cashback program when it first launched, but that was limited to shopping. Speaking of Bing, I wonder if this idea was cooked up by Yahoo search’s new Microsoft overlords or if this is a last gasp attempt by the people at Yahoo. Either way I’m skeptical of the impact it will have for the search engine market share battle.

I do wish they came out with this sooner though. I had over 200 points which were just idling (and probably will forever) because you had to have a minimum of 500 to redeem them for anything. Could’ve saved £2.50 ($3.75) on my last grocery bill.


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