A new patent granted to Amazon by the United States Patent and Trademark Office identifies when consumers use their mobile device to price-check a competitor's items while in a physical store.
The patent, initially filed in 2012, describes a "physical store online shopping control," which provides a method to stop people from gaining competitive information about products and services at another retail store.
The technology analyzes the URL that the phone attempts to access and then evaluates search terms to determine whether the consumer is attempting to search for a competitive product or service.
"Based upon an evaluation of the identified content, a determination may be made that the consumer device is attempting to access information associated with a competitor of the retailer or an item offered for sale by the retailer," according to the patent.
The technology can identify price comparisons, coupons, special offers, interest within a second location and availability of the products. It can then counter offer the in-store visitor with a lower price or incentive in the form of a coupon or offer through text message, email or push notification. In another example, a sales representative may be directed to assist the consumer.
In certain situations the technology could block the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) forcing the device to serve up plain text.
"Entered search terms may be compared to a wide variety of information, such as information associated with items offered by the retailer (e.g., electronic catalog information, inventory information, etc.) in order to determine whether the consumer 110 is searching for an item offered by the retailer or for an item similar to an item offered by the retailer," per the patent.
In one example within the patent, the technology will identify brand information, model type information, and/or item type information from search terms before being evaluated.
The Verge, which initially cited the patent, calls it a possible "defensive" move. Yesterday I would have agreed, but today's Amazon news changed everything.
On Friday, Amazon announced it would acquire Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion.