Just in Time, Amazon Patents Method to Prevent Comparison Shopping
Following the announcement of Amazon's massive bid to
buy the Whole Foods grocery chain
reports that the company has patented an
The algorithm isn't going to prevent a dedicated customer from checking out other retailers on their phones... for now. All it does is make it more difficult for any shoppers who are on the store's wifi. The " Physical Store Online Shopping Control " patent analyzes the mobile browsing of the customer and if it determines that they are visiting a competitor's website it will redirect them in one of a few ways. From the report :
It may block access to the competitor's site, preventing customers from viewing comparable products from rivals. It might redirect the customer to Amazon's own site or to other, Amazon-approved sites. It might notify an Amazon salesperson to approach the customer. Or it might send the customer's smartphone a text message, coupon or other information designed to lure the person back into Amazon's orbit.
This isn't a five-alarm fire warning of impending dystopia but it should give everyone pause at a crucial moment in Amazon's history. Most analysts who covered the
Amazon's attempt to enter the smartphone market hasn't really had much of an impact yet, but imagine if it had. Imagine if it does. Imagine the retailer building some sort of system that has control over your phone while you shop in any of its stores. Obviously, that's a scenario that the average consumer would revolt against, for now. But it's an example of how tricky a truly dominant corporation could be if it runs rampant.
The Whole Foods deal still isn't set in stone, it still has to be approved by shareholders and regulators. Amazon might want to take it easy on showing off anti-competitive practices while the government is deciding whether or not a deal is bad for the marketplace.
[ Washington Post ]