Bckstgr loses United partnership, dies a quiet death


Bckstgr was supposed to be another company which revolutionized a market, adding loyalty earning in to social media interactions. They worked with United Airlines’ MileagePlus program as their first (and only) airline program from their launch in November 2012 and offered up a number of ways to earn miles. And now they’re gone.

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In the weeks leading up to their demise there were more emails offering different types of earning offers than I recall seeing through most of their 18 months in business. May 2014 saw weekly emails offering points for actions like downloading an app or buying certain merchandise online. One restaurant & bar booking app was offering up big bonuses for using the app, on top of the points just for downloading it.

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The death was a quick and quiet one. An email was sent to members on 30 July informing them that earning opportunities would halt on 1 August. All customer service inquiries (like tracking down missing points) will be shut down on 30 August according to the notice. And they acknowledge that United was the only partner they ever signed on with.

We want to thank you for becoming a BCKSTGR member and hope you have enjoyed the opportunity to earn and use miles with us over the last year and a half. In the event that we are able to offer you other partner opportunities or be a part of another exciting rewards program in the future, we will be sure to contact you.

The company has a financial investment from United, so that makes it reasonably easy to see why they were the only partner involved. It is less clear if the company tried to find other programs to work with as partners or was focused solely on working that one. Either way they were dependent on companies wanting to pay out a per-user fee to drive engagement (Backstgr would issue points based on the fee, after taking a cut to fund their operations). And that sort of behavior is hard to build. The world is obsessed with points in many ways but it seems that when dealing with such small payouts – lots of actions had a net of 25-50 points earnt – it is much harder to shift consumer behavior. With only one partner (who changed their award charts not too long ago, mostly to the negative for consumers) it would likely be hard to build a critical mass to prove the product could be successful. Or it is entirely possible the product was doomed to fail anyways. We definitely know that it didn’t work this time around.

There are still other companies in the digital and social media space, though all with slightly different angles on the interaction. JetBlue has their Badges program, offering up small servings of points every now and then for tweeting or posting on Facebook about their program. KLM still has their social media-based seat assignment thing where you can pick seatmates based on their profiles. And Finnair teamed up recently with Social Party to offer digital redemption options for small balances and United still has their digital media store, among others. But on the earning side things are generally tough. Then again, I’m one of the many consumers apparently not moved by the 25-50 point earning options, so it isn’t all that surprising to me to see that market struggle.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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