Last night’s chat was a huge success and I want to thank everyone, program owners and members alike, who spent their Saturday night with me and Ginger of AdlibCorner!
For a recap of the evening’s highlights, please Continue Reading!
Last night, in honor of our site’s birthdays (CompareRewards has been online for six years, and AdlibCorner for two), we put together a big chat for members to talk with the owners and staff members of a half dozen rewards programs.
Our very special guests included Chaz Berman and Miriam McDermott (CEO and Senior VP, respectively, of BondRewards.com), Rebecca Faulkner (Marketing Content Editor for Ebates.com), Jeff Nobbs (co-founder of Extrabux.com), Eric Shoemaker (Director of Marketing for Jellyfish.com), Dmitry B. (founder and CEO of QuickRewards.net), and Tricia S. (founder and CEO of SunshineRewards). Many of these programs donated prizes, as did LuckySearch.com and LouisianaBeads.com.
The chat room was lively, with program management and chatters passing through in a steady stream as the evening wore on. Over $700 in prizes were given away during the chat!
Some of the topics included:
Jellyfish’s recent purchase by Microsoft. Eric said that it was “quite a change” going from a company of 25 people to one with 85,000 employees! He says things are starting to settle down at Jellyfish’s offices now, though.
Do rewards program management belong to other rewards programs? Yes! Miriam from BondRewards said she enjoyed Jellyfish’s daily emails and interactivity options, but she hadn’t shopped with them. Tricia from SunshineRewards said she definitely visited other sites — that she appreciated their creativity. Eric from Jellyfish said that he always checks out the other sites but only shops through Jellyfish…unless they didn’t have the item he wanted. He told Rebecca that he liked Ebates’ emails and that she had a nice site. Rebecca said that she only shopped through Ebates, though she did use Pricegrabber sometimes to find the merchant with the lowest price first.
Who offers PayPal as a payment option? Dmitry said that Quickrewards did, Jeff from Extrabux said that they did, Rebecca said Ebates did, and Tricia said that SunshineRewards did.
What other redemptions did people like? Tricia said that 75% of Sunshine’s members cash out for Disney GCs, but that Walmart and Amazon rewards were also popular. Dmitry said that QuickRewards’ members liked Walmart GCs the most, but that Amazon and Disney were also popular rewards. Various attendees expressed their preference, from cash back to Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, Walmart, Circuit City, Panera, Amazon, and Disney. A few voiced interest in the savings bonds offered by BondRewards to save for children or retirement, though others said they needed the money now.
Pending periods (how long each programs hold your rebates before making them available to cash out). Miriam said that BondRewards’ pending period was 35 days. Tricia said Sunshine’s is 21 days for shopping and 30 for paid offers. Rebecca said that Ebates’ is approximately 45 days.
Upcoming promotions. None of the program owners wanted to show their hand on this topic, though they did offer some hints. Rebecca from Ebates: “All I can say at this point is we have several promotions in the works featuring some very hard to find gift items.” She said that we’d have to wait and find out what Ebates had planned, but assured us it would be “fabulous.” Miriam from BondRewards: “We have a special promotion for the wii coming out in our November newsletter – stay tuned!” Eric from Jellyfish: “Not sure yet. We are starting the holiday festivities planning next week. It should be a very interesting holiday season ”
Exclusive coupons. Sometimes a merchant gives a website (a rewards program or even a deal board) an exclusive coupon meant only for that site’s visitors. Using it elsewhere can cause problems, as Tricia explained. “Some of the merchants have started giving the commissions to the site that ‘owns’ the code no matter which site you click through.” Rebecca reiterated, “Use 3rd party coupons at your own risk.” She said to contact Ebates before using a coupon obtained from a different site, because sometimes they’re fine to use. Tricia said to check multiple rewards programs for available coupons, as they sometimes have different exclusive coupons.
Preferred shopping promotions. Eric asked chatters about what type of shopping offers they liked and said he’d work with Jellyfish’s merchants to try to get them. Everyone said that free shipping was a huge motivator. While most chatters reported planning to do a huge portion of their shopping online this holiday season, almost everyone said they would do more if they could receive free shipping. Even without free shipping, some shoppers said they’d still shop online because of the convenience of shopping anytime and without dragging the kids along, savings on sales tax, avoiding the crowds, no travel time required, health issues that hinder in-store shopping, to have heavy purchases delivered, and to avoid high gas prices. Both Eric and Rebecca said they’d do their best to find free shipping offers for their members. Rebecca cautioned chatters that using a “ship to store” option sometimes voided cash back.
The sites’ price comparison search tools. Tricia said that Sunshine had integrated product search with available coupons to save their members time. Rebecca said that Ebates was overhauling their product search so that more merchants’ products would be included. Eric said that Jellyfish was also working on improving their product search, with more accurate shipping information. He said that it was a struggle to include sales tax in the price comparison because it depended on whether the seller was physically present in the buyer’s state.
What’s important in a rewards program? Chatters said they looked for clear site navigation, marking of offers previously completed, alphabetical merchant lists, community and friends, fast receipt of rewards, good customer service, and stability (not too many changes in the site’s look and operation).
Social networking/community interaction. Sunshine’s members reported really liking the site’s forum — for making friends, helping new members, and sharing experiences with shopping and other offers. QuickRewards members liked the blog but wanted more interaction, and their programmer Eugene reported that he was putting the finishing touches on a new member forum. MyPoints was described by chatters as sterile, unfriendly, and corporate, with no personal interaction at all. Some chatters expressed having an emotional connection with their favorite program, some to the extent that their loyalty would stop them from even trying another program. Tricia and Dmitry both said they valued the feedback left by members on their communities.
Honesty vs. privacy. Members weighed in on the desire to provide honest responses when completing a paid-to-sign-up offer, but with concerns about protecting themselves against spammers and identity thieves. Chatters seemed to agree that using an email address specifically set up for spam-likely offers was okay, but there was some concern that using falsified birthdays or phone numbers would result in offer payments being reversed, creating a hassle for the program owners.
Summary: While some shoppers expressed an interest in using multiple rewards programs in order to receive the best rebate available, others remain loyal to one or two sites and will use them despite potentially higher rates elsewhere. Community features that allow members to meet and form connections with other members are increasingly important. Fast and personal customer service was stressed as being essential to member loyalty. It’s clear that a rewards program’s goal is to make a good impression early on, to hook members from the start, treating them like a valued member of a larger community. Cash is king, but redeeming for gift certificates at well-known retailers is also desirable. And a program’s ability to provide easy access to information bargain-hunters can use, like price comparisons, online coupon codes, and free shipping promotions, also helps to build loyalty and to motivate members to purchase.
My sincere thanks to all who visited chat last night, program management and members alike! It was a fun and informative chat and I hope that you’ll join us again next year!
I do still strongly encourage you to sign up for the CompareRewards Insider newsletter (sent every 1-2 weeks) and the AdLib Corner Tidbits Newsletter (sent daily) — CompareRewards reviews the rewards programs, and AdLibCorner provides trivia answers for the programs that reward you for correct answers (plus a newsletter with freebies, coupons, and much more)! Both of us have been in the rewards venue since it began. We are happy to help you learn and earn!
For a full list of prizes and prize winners, please click here.