In an exclusive interview, Techaeris sat down with Qmee’s Head of Customer Acquisition, Amy Allen and their Account Manager from No Limit Agency, Jackie Foisy, to get the scoop on the London-based app that pays customers to search. Touting over 500% growth in just a year and already expanding its market from the UK to the US, Qmee is a very hot up and coming business to keep an eye on.
What is Qmee?
Qmee is a business that is modeled on a concept that Internet advertising does not have to be a one way relationship. Billions of dollars are spent by companies every year to advertise on the Internet for products and services, but the individual searching for those things doesn’t necessarily reap any benefits from that advertising money. Here’s where Qmee steps in – the two founders came up with an idea to utilize that money in a more focused manner and directly connect individuals, businesses, and charities, making your Internet searches more beneficial to you, the user.
How does Qmee work?
Qmee is an add-on that works with virtually every Internet browser. It runs in the background and when you search, it will pop up their sponsored results on the left hand side of the browser. It does not affect your search results at all, it populates its section of the window only, and it will only give you relevant results.
When you click a sponsored result, you will be taken to the result page, as you normally would, but you also collect some money for clicking and it will go into your piggy bank which you can view at the top right hand side of your Internet browser. From there you can cash out the funds via PayPal or donate it to a charity that has partnered with Qmee. There is no minimum limit for cashing out funds to Paypal, users can send their 10 cents to Paypal as soon as it appears in their piggy bank.
You just click a result and get money? Sounds like a scam.
It’s not a scam. You can really get money for just clicking on a search result. Allen states:
The attitude we take with users is that if you’re searching for things and clicking on results, you’re not getting anything for that. But if you click on a Qmee result you do get something. Now it could be only 5 cents or 14 cents, but it adds up. It adds up to a coffee, it could add up to breakfast, or it could go toward a purchase for Christmas. It is money you get that you wouldn’t get for search results that aren’t from Qmee.
So what’s the catch?
No catch, really. When you search for a product or service, if Qmee has a relevant result it will populate on the side bar. If it doesn’t have a relevant result, it won’t show anything. Other than supplying an e-mail address and a password at registration, Qmee doesn’t collect any further information from its users, send useless e-mail spam, pop up adds, or otherwise interfere with the users normal experience. Qmee is rather purposefully unobtrusive, according to Allen, and she goes on to say that it’s such a simple concept, but that can be part of why people don’t believe it at first.
The beauty of it is that if we don’t have anything relevant, you won’t see Qmee come up at all. Because we’d rather not show than give you something completely useless. So, for example, if people are searching for funny cat videos or a how to video, we wouldn’t show anything because we won’t have anything relevant. So we probably only show 20-30% of the time, and that’s the benefit for our users… It’s a very simple concept, but sometimes it’s so simple it’s hard to explain because you just search and you get cash rewards and they’re like “and? Where’s the catch?” So it’s hard to explain to someone that that’s exactly what it is.
Similar websites offer reward points or have a specific search engine or toolbar to use or hide the rewards until the user has already committed to a purchase, however, Allen goes on to say that Qmee is the only site that offers cash directly to their users for simply searching without commitment and doesn’t change how or where users search.
Can people exploit this?
The results are somewhat limited – first to products or services, then to products or services that Qmee is partnered with, then to relevant results from Qmee partners, it’s unlikely that anyone could naturally exploit the system. However, keeping in mind people that will intentionally try to game the system, Qmee utilizes an algorithm that will progressively limit the sponsored results as successive links are chosen.
How do I donate my money to charity?
When you have funds in your piggy bank, you click the cash out button and it will send you to the Qmee dashboard. From here you will select to either get cash or help a charity. Currently donations are limited to partnered charities within the users’ country. Qmee’s US charity partners are currently the American Red Cross and Intrepid Fallen Heroes. Qmee is always open to additional charity suggestions from users, says Allen, with the American Red Cross and Intrepid Fallen Heroes as their two US-based charities, and the Gwent Beekeepers Association along with a London based youth program that helps young people in the city. Foisy, the No Limit Agency account manager for Qmee, says the partnerships with local charities can be even more beneficial for communities than just hoping random users donate money.
I think [partnering with smaller charities is] another big window of opportunity because when you think about this beekeepers association and equate it to a lot of things where we see fundraising here, such as Girl Scout troops or Boy Scout troops or PTA groups or small groups in communities, it’s all about these small amounts adding up. So if you have 50 of your members signing up for Qmee and they all agree, for example, for a month to donate their earnings to the charity they’ve got funding for supplies for the scouts upcoming camping trip, and that’s what we’d like to see is more of the smaller charities involved so we can really make a difference.
Where it all came from
Qmee is the brainchild of co-founders Jonathan Knight and Nick Sutton. The two conspired while commuting together and over the course of a year collaborated on what you now know as the Qmee app, launching officially in their native country, the United Kingdom, in 2013. Sutton, answering questions via e-mail, said the simplicity of the idea is what initially drew him in to make the idea turn into reality.
The simplicity of the idea and the fact that it applied to anybody who used a PC and searched online…so a global audience of at least 2 billion people… it was in my opinion the best idea I had seen.
Beta tested by family and friends, once the app was fully released it saw significant growth over the course of a year – enough growth to expand from their London offices to across the pond (and a few miles in) to the great windy city, Chicago. Working with No Limit Agency, Allen says Qmee loves Chicago and it is “perfect in terms of location and being able to reach the rest of the US”. The app launched in the US in April 2014 and has already expanded across all 50 states, especially in the student community.
One of the places we’re most popular is on r/beermoney. And it’s all about equating the value of the Qmee rewards into something you can buy, such as beer, or coffee or lunch. In the UK, some users have already posted videos and there is a guy in a zippered all in one suit, and he equates it to the fact that he can eat for free because they have “pot noodles” or ramen noodles, and he’s like “with my Qmee rewards I can eat free for the next year” so that was one of his first realizations that you could eat for free if you don’t want to exist on anything but noodles.
Where Qmee stands now
Qmee is officially serving over 100,000 users in two countries with over 8 million searches under their belt. While Qmee was able to successfully carry over their success in the UK to the US, it wasn’t without a bit of work. According to Sutton, the strategy for the US launch took on a slightly different approach than their UK launch.
Whilst both countries share a common language there are subtle differences…in the US people like straight talking with no innuendo, whilst in the UK the cheeky, chappie works better…. so we’ve had to change our tone and messaging a bit, but both audiences have been driven primarily by social media and bloggers.
Allen attributes much of Qmee’s growth to word of mouth from users positive personal experiences. Referrals from current users not only gives Qmee exposure to a broader audience, but it also helps build the company’s credibility and reputation which is crucial in the digital age. With more than 2 billion people using the Internet, every tweet, blog, picture, vine, and status update can have an impact. This infographic put together by Qmee and No Limit shows just how busy the Internet can be in only a minute’s worth of time.
Where Qmee is headed
With an audience that only continues to grow, collecting over 2k followers on Twitter and over 4k likes on Facebook, Qmee is finding more ways to unobtrusively connect with their users and giving their customers MOAR rewards. Rewards like coupons, discounts directly on products, and things along the lines of daily deals are all ideas in the works for Qmee users, says Allen.
We’re just about to launch our new website, and into that we’ve built more of a dashboard. At the moment we really don’t talk to our users – they sign up they start using Qmee and we leave them well alone, and that’s been a rather conscious thing not to spam them with useless e-mails, we just want them to go about their daily activities and we reward them for their searches. Part of the new site is to use the dashboard so we can interact with them more on a regular basis, and have daily specials and coupons and discounts to make sure they’re using it every day and have more of an interaction encouraging them.
In addition to launching a new website, Qmee already has eyes on its next two hurdles – breaking into the mobile market and expanding to more countries. While 85% of online purchases are still made via desktop computers, Allen says the mobile market is definitely on the radar. The major concern with a mobile app would be preserving an unhindered search and not interfering with the users experience since part of Qmee’s philosophy is to be unobtrusive to their users’ experience – evidenced by the pop out to the left of the native search engine, the lack of special search bar, no spam e-mails, and the ability to hide Qmee if you aren’t interested in what it’s displaying. Even though the mobile market has a significantly smaller portion of online sales, it’s something Qmee wants to do but they want to do it right, insists Allen.
Since Qmee’s success in two countries has been palpable, the expansion into more countries is seemingly the next logical step. Sutton and Allen both named their next three targets, and Sutton went on to say that keeping things fresh is another aspect they’re focusing on.
Now that the model is proven with over 100,000 users and a growth rate of 500% in the last year, we need to make sure we’re keeping things fresh to continue the momentum. Our next area of focus will be rolling Qmee out in another country (Likely Canada, Germany or France) and also finalizing and launching a mobile version.
Qmee has definitely had an exciting start in its short history. An innovative idea from experienced businessmen with keen insight in technology and the true nature of search, Qmee isn’t likely to make anyone a millionaire overnight, but it has the potential to revolutionize the way companies advertise online by allowing companies and charities to connect in a much more direct manner to potential customers. Between the company’s core values that are very clearly shown through all of their practices and their keen understanding of customer loyalty and how customer service affects that, Qmee has a bright future ahead of it. Co-founder Nick Sutton tells Techaeris what he’s most excited for in Qmee’s future:
Our US growth is now two times that of our UK growth, and I am excited by growing our presence in the US out of our Chicago base…I am also excited that users are beginning to get back some of their online value from the major Internet companies; our users are excited about Qmee and what they get out of using the app and they tell their friends, so I am excited to see Qmee continue to grow.
If you are interested in the unobtrusive app that can give you cash for simply searching for things you normally search for every day, you can sign up for Qmee on their website where you will find their introduction and instruction videos as well as their FAQ’s. A special thank you to Amy Allen and Jackie Foisy for taking time out of their busy schedule to sit down with Techaeris, as well as Nick Sutton for his contributions via e-mail and Devon Deem of No Limit Agency for setting everything up.