One problem today's brick-and-mortar establishments face is shoppers coming in, finding a product they like, and then ordering from a cheaper online source. With the granting of a new patent, Amazon hopes to prevent this from happening.
The patent, filed in 2012 and recently accepted, is titled "Physical Store Online Shopping Control," and will stop shoppers from checking out online rivals while in-store.
As described in the patent's abstract, a mechanism embedded within the store's Wi-Fi network will prevent specific content requests from being accepted.
In a way, it is a kind of firewall which prevents connection to particular URLs and web addresses.
"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," the patent reads.
In other words, as noted by The Verge, in short, should a shopper connect to the Wi-Fi network in an attempt to check out prices on other websites or inputs a particular product-based term into a search engine, the store can prevent this happening by blocking outright.
The retail could also redirect searches to their own website, suggest an item in a "counter-competitive" way, conduct their own price comparisons or automatically send the shopper a coupon to sweeten the deal.
The invention could also identify the consumer to tailor the shopping experience -- and any deals -- to them through a number of means. The mechanism would attempt to identify the device based on the existence of a customer account, previous purchase history, and would try to determine the "value" of the consumer based on their past transactions.
The patent also describes a way to identify a shopper's location based on their device data, which can give sales representatives the chance to present information, offers, and service to discourage the potential buyer from shopping elsewhere.
While this kind of system could be rolled out to store Wi-Fi networks, there would be nothing stopping buyers from simply using their own mobile networks to surf and conduct stealthy price comparisons instead.
It will also be interesting to see whether Amazon plans to use this patent at all, or whether the granted patent will simply sit in storage. After all, the solution touches upon the removal of net neutrality, something that the retail giant has fought against in the past.