For those who have recently seen “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”--either version will suffice, really—the idea of sending a bar of chocolate via television signal is quite familiar. It's an exciting kind of marketing principle, taking such advantage of rapid response that a user could literally taste a Wonka bar seconds after seeing it advertised. That kind of rapid response may have been thought unheard of outside of fanciful tales or the Internet, but it may be just a little closer to reality thanks to a new patent from Google.
With the Google patent, a system now at least theoretically exists that would allow advertisers to offer low- or no-cost taxi rides to users going to a certain location, the kind of thing that would be very useful for most any retailer or service that offers fun for users. A restaurant advertiser, for example, could take advantage of the service to offer a free cab ride to the restaurant in question. The patent also goes into what's called “transportation-aware physical advertising conditions”, which would allow advertisers access to things like mobile network content, GPS and Wi-Fi feeds to garner user habits, likes, location data and similar matters to allow advertisers to modify ads accordingly.
It's the kind of system that was tailor-made for advertisers, particularly those looking to get into location-based offers, the offers that trigger responses based on location data, like when a potential customer gets within several feet of a certain business. But this step takes things a bit further by helping to bring potential customers to the location which would trigger the special offers. Better yet, there's even some provision here for businesses operating in different locations. For instance, businesses outside specific high-traffic areas could take advantage of a subsystem noted in the patent that allows businesses to measure the costs of activating such a system against the likely potential profit. After all, a business that might make $20 off a potential customer wouldn't want to spend $30 to get that customer to the location, unless perhaps the business believed there was potential for repeat business or for good word-of-mouth to follow.
Brick and mortar businesses in general have been hard-pressed to keep up with online counterparts. Not only are there often better prices to be had online, but the issue of convenience is also a major factor. Users don't need to drive several miles to a business in order to get the things said users want; a few clicks on a website are all that are really needed. Brick and mortar has a great advantage in immediacy—get it, pay for it, take it home in a matter of minutes as opposed to days online—but it must beat the convenience gap in order to win. If businesses can bring users right to the door, and get said users spending, that goes a long way toward beating online. Of course, it's not a magic bullet solution, but it certainly goes a long, long way toward putting brick-and-mortar on a more even keel.
Only time will tell if Google's patent ever sees the light of day in functional, working systems. There are certainly enough patents out there that are never put into play, but this one just may well see action as more businesses look for advantages in a less than brilliant economy.
Edited by Cassandra Tucker