What If Rewards Came From Just Browsing?

Discussion
Apr 23, 2013

A new loyalty rewards program has arrived that pays off for just browsing, that is, in cyberspace.

From Austin technology incubator Jutera Labs, Perk is billed as the world’s first loyalty web browser. Based on the same technology underlying Google’s Chrome browser, Perk gives consumers a chance to earn points by simply going to a retailer’s website. Online shoppers earn more points if they make a purchase. Points are also awarded for applying for a credit card, making a monthly gift to a charity and other actions. Some safeguards are included to protect against point rigging through repetitive queries or returning merchandise.

Perk Points can be redeemed as gift cards, airline miles, social gaming currency as well as physical items such as iPads or Skullcandy headphones. Points can also be donated to charities such as the American Cancer Society or ASPCA.

Perk was launched last week at over 2,000 top merchant partners including Apple’s iTunes, Starbucks, 1.800 Flowers, BestBuy.com, Urban Outfitters and drugstore.com.

While online advertising is often seen as an annoyance, rewarding attention and brand loyalty reshapes the online conversation for brands, Perk attests.

"Perk aims to fundamentally change users’ digital experience by building a version of the web based entirely on ‘what’s in it for me,’" said Adam Salamon, founder and COO, in a statement. "This is far more than a standard web browser matched with a loyalty program. We are creating a technology and platform that will help influence online decision-making during every layer of the advertising and shopping funnel."

The launch comes after as a disappointing introduction of Microsoft’s pay-for-search Bing Rewards program. But Mr. Salamon told PC World that Bing Rewards is a portal that required online consumers to register and return on a regular basis. As a browser, Perk can emulate the best offline rewards programs, such as enabling consumers to sign up a credit card and then reward them as they use the card.

A main challenge appears to be convincing people to change browsers. A Perk Lite option works with Google’s Chrome browser for those reluctant to switch.

A mobile version is set to arrive in June, seemingly extending Perk’s reach to brick & mortar.

What do you think of the potential of an online loyalty rewards system for browsing and purchasing? Are the promised benefits enough for consumers and e-tailers? What hurdles do you expect a browser-based loyalty service to face?

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14 Comments on "What If Rewards Came From Just Browsing?"

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Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Although not in browser form, there’s a lot familiar about this approach from the customer acquisition attempts of the ’90s. The devil is clearly in the details, such as whether points are shared universally amongst web sites, what the buy-in cost is for web sites and brands, who eats the cost of the reward redemptions, etc.

It seems to me that retailers have little to gain from this. For example, savvy consumers predisposed to buy a given product from a given e-tailer can first do a Perk search and game the system. Other shoppers might just run up points while killing time at work or waiting for a bus, with no loyalty or return shopping considerations. So what would a retailer get other than lower margins and possibly an even more transient customer base?

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

I looked at Perk when it debuted and found it wanting. There are too many requirements and not enough benefits to warrant switching browsers.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
4 years 3 months ago

If this is a game changer I fear I am an elk, a condition which may already be accredited to me.

Browsing is a thing of many splendors, so it’s only natural that we search for any gold resting within in its mystique. And being that we are the most creative people in the world, we may be creating new techniques to capture the loyalties of the folks even faster than the folks themselves are changing. I applaud those cyberspace efforts, but am a little cloudy on their practicality.

Matt Schmitt
BrainTrust

Requiring users to use a different browser is too much of a hurdle to get to any meaningful rewards. If retailers want to institute a “rewards for browsing” program, why not just use existing technology like user account and cookie technology to track browsing habits?

This makes me think of similar approaches being pushed on the mobile front. There are many third-party apps that mediate the loyalty and rewards offers between shoppers and retailers. I suspect retailers are questioning this approach and finding that they want these features to be a part of their own mobile app to maintain a closer connection and a differentiated experience.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
4 years 3 months ago

The major hurdle like everything else is consumer mind share. What will consumers stop doing today to make room for this new solution?

One thing that can help build usage and mind share with consumers is quick rewards. Show consumers that it is easy and quick to earn rewards and they will come back. If the hurdles to earn enough points for meaningful things like rocket backpacks (in the promotional video) is too high, consumers will walk away. Making rewards attainable is key.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

A browser is far too big of a decision and the competition is already fierce. There is no easy access to entry.

But there are other ways to accomplish the perk objective without being a browser. I worked with a start-up a few years back that wrestled with a similar objective. They should keep looking!

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

The launch without a mobile browser in place is a mistake. People are going to have to remember when to use what and possibly grow disenchanted with the browser altogether. Time will tell if Perk is actually able to support this initiative. The promised benefits are extremely exciting, but only if they are real.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
4 years 3 months ago

The browsing/tracking/personalized ad craziness is already way off the deep end for most consumers. No more, please!

Prior to a recent foreign trip, I surfed widely for a couple of specialty items. I will not go into detail as to the who or what of the sites. But examples of those two items still show up as ads each and every time I log onto my computer. All the more annoying because I purchased and used both items and have been home from our trip since the end of March. My total reluctance to surf certain sites in the future because of this near harassment is probably not the result they are looking for.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Okay, let me get this straight…you’re going to pay me to go to your site? Then, could you please pay me for going to your store? And after that, pay me to buy something from you? Maybe just pay me to carry your bag in the mall?

I guess this puts new meaning to the term “professional shopper.” I finally found my next career!

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
4 years 3 months ago

It seems very sensible that retailers and brands want to reward engagement behaviors in the bricks and mortar and digital world. There are other solutions available beyond “Perk” that allow this and I’m encouraged to see retailers and brands seeking to learn whether and how this fits.

Beyond the specifics of “Perk” requiring a new browser and other comments already made, care needs to be taken that such initiatives don’t:
(1) create just a new island of data that makes it hard to combine with your other consumer data. This not only limits insight potential it could actually creating 2 diverging views of the same consumer which could be very damaging when multiplied across the enterprise;
(2) create a new siloed way of engaging consumers that might be disconnected from other loyalty levers;
(3) cede liberal ownership and use of this data to a syndicated loyalty provider who may not use it in your best interests or even those of your consumers.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Interesting concept. Looks like the retailer is buying “eye balls.” People are paid with perks to look at ads, read copy, etc.

Amazon.com is getting into (or is already in) a similar line of business with their offer of an eBook that they will pay you to read. That’s right. It’s better than free. They actually pay you to read. However, don’t think you’re going to read a book without some type of advertisement and product placement. And they can track to see how you are progressing through the book. The reader gets paid because Amazon.com is getting paid by the advertiser. (This is a very simplistic description.)

If there is a strong enough call to action that a customer responds to, there is probably some incentive to get as many customers as possible to browse the website. Giving the customer an incentive to do so is the cost of getting them to notice—and hopefully take action.

Bill Hanifin
BrainTrust

Most people would probably not switch browsers for Perk unless the rewards are substantial and interesting.

Somehow, I imagine that the rewards will be “micro” in nature and only matter as result of high velocity accumulation. Will the velocity be there? Let’s see.

The macro strategy element that I see among many of the digital startups is to become an aggregator of behaviors. It’s solid on paper, but difficult to execute.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I think this is a great differentiator to help drive long-term loyalty to merchant sites. I’d like to see where it goes and I may just sign up myself.

I think the result are in the hands of the merchants, as they think of innovative ways to generate compelling reasons to return to their sites.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
4 years 3 months ago

I suppose the obvious point would be that if this really is a game changer, unless the protocols are trademarked, Google will create “GooglePerks” and will squash this upstart.

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