Comparing Cashback Systems: Economics, Gamification, and Post-Marketing Promotions

The cashback story began in 1891, when the American company Green Shield came up with an unexpected advertising gimmick to attract new customers. The mechanics of the action were elementary - Green Shield issued stamps that customers of companies could exchange for goods, cash or discounts.

The store itself can assign a discount on any product. And before Green Shield, sellers used various stocks, for example, they issued copper tokens. Such a money surrogate could be accumulated and exchanged for goods from a special catalog. However, at some point, this scheme ceased to attract new customers.

The revolution began when partners were added to the marketing chain - they are now called cashback services. The task of attracting customers is shifted to the partner, customer loyalty with each discount grows and everything, at first glance, benefits. Over time, the number of such services has grown incredibly, which allowed us to build long chains of money transfer for the goods. Let's see if it is possible today to make a profit from multi-level cashbacks, or only the “casino” will be the winner.

How cashback gained popularity

Cashback as a source of additional sales has been developing for almost 100 years, although it is only gaining momentum in Russia. After the Green Shield brands, bonus VIP cards and metal cards became the progenitors of modern credit plastic cards, and in 1981 American Airline launched the award-winning bonus program, which is still popular.

Shops began to massively issue their own cards, designed to receive discounts, but with increasing popularity, the accompanying problems became noticeable. It is inconvenient for customers to keep dozens of different cards. To get a map of a store where you only make one purchase is lazy or not profitable. The store can change the conditions of bonus programs without warning the client about it, and then all the accumulated bonuses will suddenly turn into a pumpkin.

From the store's point of view, bonuses are intended only to increase the loyalty of current customers and do little to attract new ones. After all, a person has to find out about a store somewhere in order to come to it and receive its card. But if this person already knows about the store, then there is no one marketing sense to additionally stimulate him with discounts.
Digital economy gave cashback a new impulse. Banks introduced a refund in their debit and credit solutions, the stores received in addition to the context of advertising and banner exchange of new cashback partners, and customers found a convenient virtual tool that gives a greater economic effect than any contribution with large interest.

Chain of discount promotions

There are a lot of cashback services, because there are many shops on the Internet, each of which is fighting for its client with its competitors. For example, a store is ready to give all its new customers a 10% discount, but partners can agree on special conditions and get a 15% discount. Or set a 5% discount, but introduce additional bonuses - for example, fast withdrawal of funds against competitors who set a 50-day limit. Thus, all the key competitors present in every major cash back service get new customers largely due to the cash backers who come up with original promotions.

Cashback mechanics are not standing still. Thus, the first blockchain-cashback service BITTLE appeared recently, in which for each purchase the user receives tokens. Bitlle cryptocurrency is based on Ethereum blockchain technology and is currently not traded on any exchange. Perhaps BTL currency owners will be lucky in the future if the blockchain cashback becomes popular.

There are hundreds of other less exotic cashback services, but you should start to get acquainted with them carefully. Suppose we found an interesting product, the refund of which in the service will be 15%, but all other interesting products to us are limited to a return of 10%, while competitors cashbackers give more. In this case, you should not run across all services, leaving single orders everywhere. Over time, the choice of a single partner turns out to be the most profitable strategy - taking into account the accumulation of various bonuses. Therefore, it is important to carefully study all the conditions for receiving money, and not just to know the percentage of one-time cashback.

Cashback can be summed up with any shares, as well as used to pay a bank cashback card, but the percentage is charged on the amount you pay the store.

Comparison of top cashback systems

There are several points in the cashback service that you should pay attention to:

In our comparison, we will not touch the referral program, since this method of attraction is relevant for a small number of people.

The average bonus size is calculated on the basis of proposals from 13 stores from different market segments (see table below).



ePN Cashback



Comparison table and debriefing

So, there are 8 key services currently on the market (and a few dozen smaller sites specializing in individual stores or “parasitic” on Aliexpress), most of these projects have been running for several years in Runet, but there is one newcomer, the Sugar service. It was he who showed the best numbers on discounts among random (but popular) stores - everything that is highlighted in yellow in the table below is worse by conditions.

The table is clickable:

* Virtually every cashback service does not give maximum bonuses at a time, and gamification of the shopping process - maximum bonuses appear when performing certain actions, most often after several purchases.
** Lamoda gives some bonuses in excess of 5% only by special conditions.
*** (and further everywhere where the “-” symbol stands) is absent.
**** L'Etoile adds cashback not in percents, but in rubles right away.

The review should have got the Kubyshka service, which was interested in a one-time bonus charge of 592 rubles to the account and the ability to withdraw cashback directly to a bitcoin wallet, but it was disqualified. During all the tests, the personal account interface was hopelessly hung, and the first test purchase in the Vook24 store meant that the switch to the store in the account was reflected, but the purchase did not. This is the only service that did not reflect the purchase and did not even indicate the possibility of charging cashback from this purchase someday.

Why could this happen? Usually problems arise in these cases:

In the overwhelming majority of cases, the Sugar cashback service provides more than% of the payments, both at the minimum positions and for the account pumped on purchases. It should be noted that “Sugar” itself does not speak about itself in the terminology of a typical cashback service - the site provides information about the “single virtual bonus card”. The wording can be understood if you figure out why you need a cashback. In fact, "Sugar", like any other similar service, is your personal discount, presented in the form of a personal account on the site. If earlier you had to carry with you discount cards for each store - totally tens and even hundreds of cards - now it’s enough to go to one website.

Thanks to the centenary evolution of marketing, now everyone can get his personal profitable service: cashback + marketplace + bank card. As for the “ Sahara ”, a relative minus of the card was noticed - the restriction on withdrawal is 15,000 rubles per transaction (dictated by the legislation of the Russian Federation). Additional advantages - the fastest cash withdrawal among all services, the card's account is insured for 1 million rubles, and a% is additionally charged on the balance.

That's all. I would be glad if you share your experience with cashback services in the comments. Unfortunately, schools and universities do not teach all the essential truths of life. The programmer is not obliged to understand all the economic rules, whether it is a game on the exchange with cryptocurrencies or the calculation of pensions, but knowledge of some principles frees from the need to know about many facts. The principles of the structure of the surrounding world will help to recognize fraudsters, see dangerous frauds in the actions of the state and simply earn money without distracting from their main profession.

So be aware and choose wisely.


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