Shopping Bag, a web browser plug-in, lets shoppers go directly to e-retail sites, notifying sites the shoppers are members of the iBakeSale.com rewards program. This means members need not go to the iBakeSale.com affinity portal to begin shopping.
Don Davis , Editor in Chief
Affinity portal iBakeSale.com brings charity work into the online realm, enabling portal members to donate to charities cash-back funds earned from shopping at 400 participating merchants, including Lands’ End, Linens ‘n Things, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Wal-Mart and Zappos. With the introduction of a new web browser plug-in, however, iBakeSale.com is making shopping via its portal unnecessary.
Shopping Bag, a plug-in that iBakeSale.com members download from the portal and install on their computer, enables shoppers to reap cash-back rewards from merchants without having to use the affinity portal’s links to merchants.
“It’s a smart idea,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, senior retail analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “The plug-in becomes like a cookie that follows the shopper and makes the whole process more efficient.”
Typically, members of an affinity portal use the portal as the starting point for shopping, getting to e-retail sites by clicking on portal-based links that notify the sites behind the scenes that a shopper is a member of that portal. All purchases are recorded by e-retailers, which notify the portal of rewards so the portal can record that data and keep members informed of the rewards they have accumulated.
With Shopping Bag, iBakeSale members can bypass iBakeSale.com and instead go directly to merchant sites. Merchant sites automatically recognize the Shopping Bag web browser plug-in when a shopper arrives, and thus recognize the shopper as an iBakeSale member. All purchases then are recorded by the e-retailer in the regular fashion. In both methods of shopping, pop-up windows on e-retailer sites tell shoppers what their cash-back rewards for a purchase would be. After purchases are made, iBakeSale.com sends e-mails to shoppers confirming cash-back rewards totals.
Shoppers then can send, via their portal-based accounts, cash-back bonuses to charities or a personal credit card account. The company provides shoppers a list of every not-for-profit charity in the United States, from which shoppers can choose which will receive what amount of their cash-back rewards. Shoppers also can create listings for local charities not on the master list or for their own charity events. Or, shoppers can enter card information and elect to have funds transferred to their credit card accounts.
“Anyone who has ever used a shopping rewards site knows that its biggest downside is that you have to do all your shopping through the site,” says Seth Sarelson, co-founder of iBakeSale. “Shopping Bag has changed the shopping rewards experience by eliminating the need to click through an affinity site. Users can now get cash back on purchases while shopping online normally.”
E-retailers determine the percent of purchases they give back to customers. For e-retailers, the program is designed to increase traffic and conversion rates. IBakeSale, a for-profit company, receives a small percentage of sales produced by iBakeSale members.
“Affinity portals really boil down to simply providing merchant links to shoppers. So if they can incorporate a plug-in instead, then there’s really no reason to make someone go to a portal,” analyst Mulpuru says. “This technology facilitates the process and makes everyone’s lives easier. And the impact on the affinity portal web sites will be that they just become marketing tools for new customer acquisition.”