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Money Can't Buy Love: MSFT Live Search Cashback

I'll give you all I got to give if you say you love me too
I may not have a lot to give but what I got I'll give to you
I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love.
-- Paul McCartney

So Microsoft Live (via JellyFish) will soon be providing cash-back bonuses for consumers who use Microsoft search and then make a purchase. This is being reported as big news.

We've seen the spend-money-to-try-and-buy-love approach before. Many times. Usually at holiday season, when a portal or a search engine offered cash incentives to consumers to shop through them. The goal is to encourage new user adoption, and also (this is the cynical view) to bump traffic to impress Wall Street short-term. AOL did this regularly in the old days. Ditto Yahoo. Paypal. Google Checkout.

IMHO you can't buy user loyalty. The savvy deal-focused shoppers will swoop in to use Microsoft during this deal, and then will swoop back to whatever search site they had been using when the deal ends. (Odds are, that would be Google.) Deal shoppers won't stick. I don't think you can buy share ongoing, even if you have as much cash as MSFT.

Who will be the real winner here?

Participating retailers.

Free money promotions are always a win for the stores when the free money comes from somewhere else.

Given this tough economy, it is good to see some online retailers getting something positive tossed their way.

Update: Ooops! Mistake in this post. Please see the following day's post for clarification.
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