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Apple exploring enhanced online store with social networking

post #1 of 29
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Because online stores are less likely to encourage users to "window shop" for new products, Apple seeks to make the Web shopping experience less "sterile and isolating," and encourage consumers to spend more money.

The new patent application from Apple revealed this week, entitled "Enhancing Online Shopping Atmosphere," notes that while online stores do have some advantages over physical stores, such as search functionality and being available 24/7, they also have a series of drawbacks. In addition to being a less friendly environment than a brick-and-mortar location, customers are less likely to "linger" while looking at a product, and therefore might spend less money than someone who shops in a physical store.

Apple seeks to improve the experience by adding a social element to an online marketplace. This could be accomplished by tracking what section of the store and what specific products other customers are currently in. The information could be conveyed to a shopper by displaying a human-shaped icon, representing what is popular on the Web site at that specific moment in time.

The system could offer up real-time statistics, giving shoppers information such as how many people viewed an item that particular day, or how many nearby shoppers are currently looking at that product. Users could also track nationwide and global statistics, seeing what customers in specific states or countries have purchased.

The application describes a shopper, "Alice," who is viewing productivity software in an online store. By hovering her mouse over the product, Alice is presented with the number of people currently looking at the software and the percentage of people site-wide with that product in their shopping cart.

Alice's personal history could also be tracked, showing products that consumers with similar interests viewed, or recommending search keywords based on her viewing and purchasing habits, as compared with other shoppers.



The social aspects could also be used for promotions. The application describes a feature that could ask Alice to "follow the footsteps" of other visitors, by visiting sections of the site they did, in order to receive a discount or participate in a contest.

Users on the site could also connect and speak with one another, to discuss products or share their personal experiences. Customers would also be able to opt out of these features if they were not interested in them, or decline just specific aspects. For example, Alice's profile might state that she is willing to be contacted by other visitors to answer questions about printers, but she does not want to talk about her personal taste in music.



Much like in a physical store, sections of the online location will also have salesmen available to answer questions. By clicking on an icon representing the salesman, the shopper could instantly chat with a representative. Those employees could have varying skill levels, with general help labeled with an "H," while a software training specialist would be marked with an "S."

The application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is credited to David A. Koski. It was filed for on Dec. 14, 2009.
post #2 of 29
Doesn't look to add much.
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post #3 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiles77 View Post

Doesn't look to add much.

At least they recognize the issue and are trying to offer up a solution, I don't see Microsoft or Dell doing anything. Those companies usual approach is to see what apple does then copy it.
post #4 of 29
I get the idea, and it might work. But it seems like a good way for marketers to "game" the system. I think getting an purchase recommendation from an anonymous person or persons is a great way to push inferior products or generate lots of returns.

But I will admit, that the marketing data mined from this sort of activity would be priceless. I guess Apple is not done changing retail yet.

They certainly have the promotional side of the business down.
post #5 of 29
what a bogus patent .. I don't see anything new in this that hasn't been done on Amazon and a host of other web sites, some known and some unknown.
post #6 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrkiran View Post

what a bogus patent .. I don't see anything new in this that hasn't been done on Amazon and a host of other web sites, some known and some unknown.

Saying that two different things are the same is a mark of stupidity. Apple wouldn't waste its time trying to patent something that was already patented.

This is a great idea! Some people need to consult others' opinions before making decisions, and this is a good way to automate the process. It's a good use of computer technology which might as well have Apple's brand on it.

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post #7 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Because online stores are less likely to encourage users to "window shop" for new products, Apple seeks to make the Web shopping experience less "sterile and isolating," and encourage consumers to spend more money.

Although I do occasionally make use of Amazon's "What others actually bought" feature to investigate comparable items I may not know about, this undermines the basic joy of online shopping: no people. If I want to deal with traffic, parking, strollers, gaggles of teen-agers, and commissioned sales clerks, I'll go to the real store. Similarly, I've seen my neighbors; telling me what they're buying is an incentive to look elsewhere.
post #8 of 29
I have always found the concept of 'friend' and social networks to be antithetical; if you are my friend/I am yours, why can't I talk to you one-on-one? Why must we share our thoughts with the world...unless they are so vacuous that they are really meant more for acquaintances NOT friends. Friends don't let friends write junk. But I digress.

I am very interested in Apple's patent/approach. I like to get information I am interested in when I need that info. people's reviews--a la Amazon and current Apple store -- are okay, but the power to have real time interaction with other people who are shopping for the same thing as me, sharing our research and options, PLUS having the opportunity to speak with a store 'salesperson'..all of this is dynamite. All shopping online should have a social component. I look forward to seeing the implementation
post #9 of 29
There might be value in an Apple / Amazon type store but for many the web offers the opportunity to appear big without actually being big. For those stores this idea will have the opposite effect. Such a system can reveal an uncomfortable truth. "There are currently 0 other shoppers on this site"... ouch! Like a forum that shows five posts on a particular subject where the last post was over a year ago!
post #10 of 29
The unfortunate side effect the patent process for Apple these days if every Apple competitor simply starts the photocopiers and looks for way to copy everything they are doing. I can imagine Google and M$ already having the meetings this morning to decide how best to have their version of this up as fast as possible.
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
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post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrkiran View Post

what a bogus patent .. I don't see anything new in this that hasn't been done on Amazon and a host of other web sites, some known and some unknown.


I want to check out those "unknown" websites that do this!!!



/mock
post #12 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by luckylindy View Post

I have always found social networks to be anti-thetical; if you are my friend/I am yours, why can't I talk to you one-on-one? Why must we share our thoughts with the world...unless they are so vacuous that they are really meant more for acquaintances NOT friends. Friends don't let friends write junk. But I digress.

I am very interested in Apple's patent/approach. I like to get information I am interested in when I need that info. people's reviews--a la Amazon and current Apple store -- are okay, but the power to have real time interaction with other people who are shopping for the same thing as me, sharing our research and options, PLUS having the opportunity to speak with a store 'salesperson'..all of this is dynamite. All shopping online should have a social component. I look forward to seeing the implementation

Here you go, this is a good idea. Have an agent at each product (or in the case of large categories such as cases and speakers one agent for every x number of products) as sort of a salesclerk to assist you with details on the product in a public chatroom built into the page. People could comment on their own experiences or link to reviews as well. I realize that Apple has their Apple Chat agents who are frequently available, but it usually takes a little while to get the information because they are general agents with no specialized experience. They look up in a database what you could do yourself, but if you had an agent who actually used say Logic Express and could tell you how technically difficult certain tasks were, or say whether it could perform other tasks would be very helpful.

This patent is useful, but not nearly as much as some other changes that could be made.
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post #13 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrkiran View Post

what a bogus patent .. I don't see anything new in this that hasn't been done on Amazon and a host of other web sites, some known and some unknown.

Link to these websites that have these features incorporated already please!!!
post #14 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by zindako View Post

Link to these websites that have these features incorporated already please!!!

Just give me a way to sort by rating and I"ll be happy.
post #15 of 29
Yeah and build it all in Flash so that it could do a lot of cool virtual environments.

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post #16 of 29
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Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Yeah and build it all in Flash so that it could do a lot of cool virtual environments.

You mean HTML5...
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post #17 of 29
What a horrible idea! I don't want a web store tracking me, and I don't want to know what other bozos are looking at or buying.

Having a salesperson available could be helpful once in a while, but everything else gives me the creeps.

And Apple thinks this is patentable? This is just adding a couple of new functions to Amazon's statistics, and a slightly different way of presenting them: "most popular products", "people viewing this item also viewed...", etc.
post #18 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Soskok View Post

You mean HTML5...

Actually QuickTime VR is more like it. QTVR is a technology that Apple kind of abandoned. The interactive portions are rather primitive but with a little JS you might make a suitable interactive virtual environment.

We used to do QTVR and still have all the gear. After thinking about how I might mash up some QTVR and JS I went searching the world wide web and found some pages that Apple might have forgotten existed on their server.

http://www.apple.com/quicktime/resou...authoring.html

On the right hand side are some other links to obsolete softwares. including Motion 2 among others.

I think a little webmastering might be in order.

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post #19 of 29
Apple has a benefit here over other online stores, like Amazon. While Amazon (#21 according to Alexa) has a lot more traffic than Apple (#55 according to Alexa), Apple has a lot less product so they will likely have a lot more viewers per page than Amazon on average.


Quote:
Originally Posted by cincytee View Post

If I want to deal with traffic, parking, strollers, gaggles of teen-agers, and commissioned sales clerks, I'll go to the real store. Similarly, I've seen my neighbors; telling me what they're buying is an incentive to look elsewhere.

¿Que? What lines? It's still an online store there will be no queues, not strollers, no giggling girls, not sales clerks and everything else you are imagining. Apple isn't trying to recreate a physical store by putting up roadblocks to make shopping more inconvenient, they are looking to add elements that help sell more product. From a marketing standpoint, seeing that the 13" 2.4GHz MBP has had 250,000 visitors in in the last 24 hours and currently has 50k people looking at the page is good for business.


Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

I can imagine Google and M$ already having the meetings this morning to decide how best to have their version of this up as fast as possible.




Quote:
Originally Posted by masternav View Post

I want to check out those "unknown" websites that do this!!!



/mock

Right?!


Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Yeah and build it all in Flash so that it could do a lot of cool virtual environments.




Quote:
Originally Posted by elroth View Post

What a horrible idea! I don't want a web store tracking me.

Um, they already do and have for years. vBulletin forums, Gmail, etc. all track you, all this is doing in making some of the grouped stats known to customer.
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post #20 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielSW View Post

This is a great idea! Some people need to consult others' opinions before making decisions, and this is a good way to automate the process. It's a good use of computer technology which might as well have Apple's brand on it.

Of course you think it's a great idea. It's Apple. If this had been an article for a Microsoft article, you'd be arguing how stupid this idea was and how idiotic it was to try to mesh social networking concepts with a web store.

As others have stated, manufacturers (including Apple) could game the system by having people sitting on the pages for their products 24/7 who then give anyone asking for shopping advice positive feedback on said product. I don't see the benefit of asking some anonymous stranger for product advice. It seems just as productive to read the reviews so you end up with a balanced perspective.
post #21 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by elroth View Post

What a horrible idea! I don't want a web store tracking me

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Um, they already do and have for years. vBulletin forums, Gmail, etc. all track you, all this is doing in making some of the grouped stats known to customer.

With forums or shopping sites like Amazon, that's true only if you're foolish enough to allow them to track you by signing in and carrying persistent cookies around willy-nilly and/or use the same IP all the time, etc. I browse Amazon, anonymously, but I don't purchase from them for exactly the reason elroth states above: I don't want stores tracking me and my purchases. It's just creepy. You're right about gmail and other web email, because there's usually enough personal information in an email account to personally identify you. Think that's not a problem? Read this:

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000706.html

I thought our previous administration was bad enough with the level of privacy infringement. This is crazy stuff that's going on *right* *now*, with the current administration. If there's anyone at all who has a reasonable need for that data, it's the feds. But work within the legal system and get a warrant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by caliminius View Post

Of course you think it's a great idea. It's Apple. If this had been an article for a Microsoft article, you'd be arguing how stupid this idea was and how idiotic it was to try to mesh social networking concepts with a web store.

Yes, you can imagine the outrage among the Apple-faithful (myself included in that bin), if microsoft started tracking their users' shopping habits. Hmm. After Google, and maybe Amazon, Apple probably has more information about more people than any other U.S. company. That's a dangerous amount of power if it's not managed very, very carefully.
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post #22 of 29
What makes this patentable (seriously?) I understand that no one has all of these features on their sites, per se, but what is exactly patentable here? The layout? The underlying functionality?

All I see is prior art, it's just all mashed together into an online storefront.
post #23 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by technohermit View Post

What makes this patentable (seriously?) I understand that no one has all of these features on their sites, per se, but what is exactly patentable here? The layout? The underlying functionality?

All I see is prior art, it's just all mashed together into an online storefront.

If that is the case then they won't be granted the patent or if it is granted it won't be easily defendable in court. But you have to wonder if a company as big as Apple is wasting their time filing the patent after vetting it with their patent lawyers that their is probably something unique to it that we aren't seeing.

Case in point, many don't see how 1-Click can patentable, yet Amazon has held for 11 years and Apple has licensed for 10 years. Yeah, Apple paying a license fee to Amazon for features that already existed in some form.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1-Click#Apple_Inc.
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post #24 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Case in point, many don't see how 1-Click can patentable, yet Amazon has held for 11 years and Apple has licensed for 10 years. Yeah, Apple paying a license fee to Amazon for features that already existed in some form.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1-Click#Apple_Inc.

Good point.

I somehow missed this when I read it the first time:

By hovering her mouse over the product, Alice is presented with the number of people currently looking at the software and the percentage of people site-wide with that product in their shopping cart.

Don't think I've seen that before. Not sure, though, that someone should be able to patent it either.

Of course, I don't hold any patents and have no idea what is patentable and what isn't. In my mind the original iPod was just a Walkman with a hard drive, so...
post #25 of 29
although, i understand the appeal i do foresee this social networking to be more a burden to Apple's main function. They'll have to built a new profit mechanism should this package be offered free. not to mention how it'll be a magnet for just about every Apple hater trolls on Earth to gather. Just about any sites or forum that has any post about Apple always ends becoming vitriolic. Even the once untouchable arstechnica has fallen victim. Now Apple plans to give them a permanent home.
post #26 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by technohermit View Post

Don't think I've seen that before. Not sure, though, that someone should be able to patent it either.

Whether the category is patentable or not is an entirely different discussion. My feelings is that no software or ideas that will be rendered entirely in software should fall under typical patent laws, nor should they fall under typical copyright laws, yet they have aspect of each and should form a new category of protection.

Quote:
In my mind the original iPod was just a Walkman with a hard drive, so...

I never saw the interest in the iPod. It wasn't until the iPod mini that I finally said "I have to have one". I see a lot of the iPad in the original iPod. No one needed it and few saw the potential for its wide success, the major difference is that Apple under Jobs2.0 had no wins under their belt to reassure their fans and stockholders.

If you haven't seen the iPod announcement from 2001 it's an interesting watch. Note the audience seems a bit confused by Apple Computers showing off a silly music gadget.
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post #27 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by tania View Post

although, i understand the appeal i do foresee this social networking to be more a burden to Apple's main function. They'll have to built a new profit mechanism should this package be offered free. not to mention how it'll be a magnet for just about every Apple hater trolls on Earth to gather. Just about any sites or forum that has any post about Apple always ends becoming vitriolic. Even the once untouchable arstechnica has fallen victim. Now Apple plans to give them a permanent home.


Post of the day!

I wholeheartedly agree with you. But hopefully that should rid AI of some hooligans, once they realize there's a whole new world to be had out there...



Dan
post #28 of 29
With the talk of virtual salespeople they still need to do something to make it closer to the real world stores actually have. In real stores, the stores with premium stuff usually have people that are pleasant, look good, are friendly and fun to chat to whilst you sort through the options. It's blatantly obvious that they're hired for those reasons. How can they recreate all of that though in their store?
post #29 of 29
I actually sent Apple an email suggesting they add social networking to iTunes accounts centered around the content, much like YouTube is centered around video.

In the meantime we got sites like www.MacZoom.com, www.Cupidtino.com, www.MyAppleSpace.com and others.
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