With the outbreak of customer-luring gimmicks and marketing innovations online, some deals look better than others. Barnesandnoble.com's free "MybnLink" program looks intriguing because it promises to make you a commission-earning partner in bookselling. The company's execs say they are transforming e-commerce into "we-commerce."
Launched in July on the giant bookstore chain's Internet site, MybnLink enables registered members to incorporate a couple of linked lines of text into any of their e-mail messages. No gaudy banners or flashing virtual neon like on commercial home pages, just a simple line saying something like "Click here to buy a book today!" Hey, maybe it's even at the bottom of an e-mail recommending a book to a friend. Get the picture? In effect, you become an agent or live electronic ad for barnesandnoble.com--which presumably appeals to some folks and not to others.
The upshot? Whenever recipients of your e-mails click that link and buy something from barnesandnoble.com, you earn 5 percent of the sales. You can choose to donate all of your earnings to one of five national charities: the American Red Cross, National Wildlife Federation, CARE, First Book, and Special Olympics. Or you can take the money and run. Every three months, barnesandnoble.com pays its MybnLink members who have earned more than $10 (less than $10 and it is credited to the next quarter). Meanwhile, the company donates another 1 percent of all MybnLink sales to First Book, the nonprofit foundation that promotes literacy and is dedicated to giving disadvantaged children their first new books.
"The purpose of the program is to engage consumers, millions of consumers who have e-mail but don't have Web pages, to reach out and bring them into e-commerce," says Carl Rosendorf, senior vice president at Barnesandnoble.com, who adds that MybnLink is growing rapidly.
"It is a communications tool in which people can share with their friends and family their passions for art, books," says Rosendorf. "And this is a way to make money for charitable organizations or for themselves."
Program members also are benefiting from barnesandnoble.com's online ambitions, which include adding other product lines, such as music, and prints and posters.
But Rosendorf wants prospective MybnLink'sters to know up front this is not a get-rich-quick scheme. In fact, if you earn more than $250 in any one pay period, barnesandnoble.com warns it will scrutinize your e-mail practices to make sure you are operating within the rules. MybnLink members who spam, send hate mail, or break other rules of online behavior that are stated in the program agreement are "immediately ejected from the program and their money is going to go to the charity," says Rosendorf.
Don't have an e-mail account? The program provides a free e-mail address to any member without one or who wants a second one. For more information, go to http://www.bn.com/mybnlink/.
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