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By Eric Lieberman
Amazon was recently granted a patent that appears to show it doesn’t want in-house shoppers comparing prices for other retailers and service providers.
Titled “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” the license details a mechanism in which an employee at a location can monitor nearby internet activity and intercept any browsing requests for certain websites or search terms.
Essentially, Amazon wants the ability to access potential customers’ browsing behavior in real-time, and either block them from searching competitors’ pricing and inventory, or offer price comparisons itself directly on the device. It even wants to entice people to remain a patron and not leave the store by offering them “a coupon” or “a special offer.”
Even though many patents are considered “defensive,” meaning they may never actually come to fruition and are usually filed to ensure other entities do not seek the technology, such a mechanism could very well be a legitimate goal for Amazon.
The tech conglomerate, which is more known for its e-commerce services and capabilities, reportedly plans on opening 2,000 tangible grocery stores over the next decade. (RELATED: Amazon Looking To Remove Human Workers From Grocery Stores, Says Report)
It has also set a more modest goal of establishing 20 brick-and-mortar grocery stores over the next two years. Amazon launched its first drive-up grocery store in Seattle in May, although its only available for users who have a “Prime” membership.
Many retailers could use such a technology, due in no small part to customers locating a product, price checking, and then leaving the store to go to another retailer or purchase online.
Showrooming, entering a store to analyze a product and seeing if there is a cheaper option elsewhere, has become a big problem for much of the retail industry. Virtual platforms (like Amazon ironically) often offer items and services for lower prices than brick and mortar retailers. Many physical stores are losing out on the sales and are forced to deal with the overhead costs of maintaining their business, while manufacturers retain profits because their product is still being sold.
Amazon filed another very interesting patent in December with blueprints depicting it wants to develop flying warehouses for more expedited supply chain services.