Microsoft offers incentives to searchers
This is a bold - or desperate - move by Microsoft, depending on how it works. The clear intention is to provide a monetary incentive to get users to change their search habits, since the quality of the search results offered by Live Search don't seem to be making any headway against the dominance of Google. It may certainly lead to more traffic from online shoppers looking for a bargain, but it may not significantly change their online search habits.
Microsoft says that its new cashback program covers more than 10 million products from over 700 merchants. These participating merchants will pay Microsoft a fee each time a customer completes a sale through Live Search Cashback and this fee will be a percentage of the retail price. When the purchase is completed, Microsoft will then return the fee to the consumer in the form of a cash rebate, so in reality Microsoft is simply acting as a middleman through their search tool, in the form of an affiliate programme.
The Washington Post article reports that this new scheme is part of Microsoft's plan to "innovate and disrupt" in the search industry, and certainly it is thought that if elements of the cashback plan are adopted more widely by other search services, then it is likely to change the Internet advertising business in fundamental ways, including adapting the ways that search engines provide an 'independent' service, to one where conversions and profits could drive search results.