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Amazon patents way of stopping store customers price-comparing online

Amazon has developed a way to prevent customers from comparing prices online while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

In a patent that was awarded by the USPTO on May 30, Amazon describes a way of prevent “window shopping”, a phenomenon whereby customers go into retail stores to find goods they’d like to be, but then go online for price comparison and to make purchases – thereby starving the retailer of revenue.

The system hinges on a customer using the store’s own Wi-Fi network. When the system identifies that the customer is trying to access a competitor’s website, it may block access to that site. Alternatively, it may redirect the user to Amazon’s own website.

Importantly, it seems this system won’t work if the customer isn’t using the store’s own Wi-Fi network. If a customer is browsing the internet using their phone’s mobile network, it should be possible to circumvent any blocks imposed by Amazon, as Amazon doesn’t – and can’t – regulate your phone networks traffic.

It’s a curious move by Amazon, given the fact that Amazon is usually the cause for such mobile window shopping. It’s often the case that customers will head into retail stores, only to log onto Amazon and actually make a purchase there – typically at a cheaper price than the brick-and-mortar retailer is offering.

However, there is a clear explanation; Amazon is making a big push into the retail sector itself, and may want to employ aggressive tactics like the one described into the patent. The company already operates a trial retail store called Amazon Go for Amazon employees, which is ran autonomously without the need for staff. And Amazon plans to open a store designed for use by the general public later this year.

And earlier this week, Amazon announced that it would be buying out supermarket giant Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Whole Foods currently operates 431 locations through the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and could be a clear ploy for Amazon to dominate the grocery retail sector.

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Source: Washington Post | USPTO

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