Offerpal’s just announced a new way for online shoppers to earn virtual currency to spend in online games and social networks. Dubbed, unsurprisingly, Offerpal Shopping, it’s how you may well expect to do some of your future online e-commerce.
Offerpal Shopping sounds, at heart, incredibly simple: When you shop at “hundreds of online retailers in categories including clothing and accessories, electronics, entertainment, food, furniture, gifts, services, software, sports, travel and more” with the help of Offerpal, its software will sniff out the transaction and reward you with a virtual refund. The discount/refund/call-it-what-you-will is in the form of digital cash in Offerpal’s i-frame system, and typically will amount to 5% to 10% of the value you spent in real cash…though you can expect tempting offers of up to 30% return.
It all sounds neat, until you wonder where you can spend the virtual dough: I-frame is apparently embedded in “more than 2,000 online games, social networks and virtual worlds,” and it’s in these artificial environments that you’ll be able to spend your artificial money.
Online game publishers will love the system, since it will entice players deeper into their games–where they’ll be exposed to more advertising, equating to more revenue for the publishers. And it’ll likely attract those casual gamers who would be wary of plonking down their real credit card number to buy mere virtual points: These consumers may well be tempted to buy, say, goods from Macys.com with the added benefit of Offerpal refunds. It’ll even be a good thing for Macys and the other participating retailers too, who’ll see a sales uptick from newly-tempted online shoppers.
But is it good for you as a consumer? This system, and others like it is certainly how some of your future e-spending will work. But how good it is all depends on your point of view. Offerpal was embroiled in the recent “spam shopping” controversy that centered on online games like Farmville on Facebook, where the virtual currency system was seen as potentially abusive. Offerpal Shopping is also, unlike real-World spending rewards schemes, heavily tipped towards the online retailers side of things: You shop online, and your reward is an ephemeral token that increases the opportunity for online retailers to advertise their wares at you. Think of it as the opposite of the Air Miles system: Where this offer rewards you for your loyalty shopping in certain stores with tokens you can exchange for real flights in real aircraft to real places, Offerpal’s rewards are all digital, or unreal. Of course, if the system let you spend Offerpal dollars at those same online retailers, then it could be very attractive to e-shoppers…but it certainly doesn’t seem like this is how it’ll work.