I was having a look around cashback site GreasyPalm this morning and it seems that the fast-growing affiliate marketing technique is going multichannel.

The site lists five companies that are offering rewards to members that make purchases offline – high street retailers Superdrug, JJB Sports and Halfords; cinema chain Cineworld; plus roadside restaurant outfit Little Chef.

All five are offering 3% cashback on transactions, GreasyPalm says.

The system, it appears, tracks members from site to store through their credit or debit cards. They register their details online and earn cashback when they use the same cards to make purchases offline. The money is automatically added to their GreasyPalm account.

It’s an interesting move that could significantly extend the reach of online cashback communities, which operate on thin margins and are experiencing difficulties reconciling some of the purchases their members make on the web. 

To me, cashback sites seem like a slightly loopy idea, considering the number of different parties getting a cut of transactions (including the shoppers themselves). But there is plenty of method in this madness.

The UK’s big cashback sites are estimated to have many hundreds of thousands of active users and are clearly helping to generate a significant volume of sales (while also reaping the rewards of the last-click-wins model). They typically generate one-time or recurring fees to cover their costs, and it’s all about achieving scale before these sites swing into serious profit.

We reckon GreasyPalm alone has generated around £100m in sales for retailers. It claims to have handed back more than £7.2m to its members since it launched.

At any rate, we like this multichannel initiative and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more offline retailers looking to tap into the growing popularity of cashback sites.

Meanwhile, an indication of the speed at which this nascent sector is maturing has been provided by Microsoft, which recently launched a new cashback scheme to drive more people towards its Live search engine.

Related research:
Affiliate Marketing Buyer’s Guide 2008