Did Amazon just patent tech that could end showrooming in its stores?
Do you remember showrooming? It wasn’t that long ago that brick and mortar retailers were lamenting consumers visiting stores to evaluate a product’s worth, only to lose sales when shoppers used their mobile phones to comparison shop for a lower price on Amazon.com and elsewhere.
With Amazon opening its own stores, it’s reasonable to ask how the retailer plans to deal with the same situation. Based on new reporting, one answer may be to use technology to block shoppers from being able to showroom at all.
Amazon has been granted a patent on technology that tracks when people who are connected to its WiFi network go online while in its stores. The tech, known as Physical Store Online Shopping Control, can take several actions when it finds someone is comparison shopping including:
- Redirecting the browser to its own site;
- Alerting a sales associate to talk to the shopper;
- Blocking the site altogether.
The recently approved patent was originally filed in May 2012. Amazon has not commented on published reports by sites including Engadget and The Verge on whether it plans to deploy the technology.
Seventy-seven percent of shoppers have used a mobile phone to help them while shopping in stores, according to research published earlier this year by DMI. Nearly two-thirds of consumers said they compare online prices against what stores charge to get the best deal, according to the Pew Research Center.
Past research has shown that large percentages of customers will leave a store without making a purchase, particularly on higher ticket items, to save some money online. A study by GroupM Next found 45 percent of those surveyed would opt out of buying from a store to save 2.5 percent online. A five percent discount would be enough to convince 60 percent of shoppers to buy online instead of from a store.
- United States Patent 9,665,881 – United States Patent and Trademark Office
- Amazon has the tech to thwart comparison shoppers in its stores – Engadget
- Amazon granted a patent that prevents in-store shoppers from online price checking – The Verge
- A Tiny Showrooming Tipping Point – RetailWire
- Mobile Maturity Model: 2016 U.S. Retail – DMI
- 79 percent of Americans now shop online, but its price more than convenience that sways them – TechCrunch
- Online shopping and purchasing preferences – Pew Research Center
- Showrooming moves beyond barcodes – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What is your reaction to Amazon’s patented Physical Store Online Shopping Control technology? Do you think Amazon is likely to deploy the tech in its stores? Do you think other retailers are working on or planning to use tech that performs similar functions?