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A pair of Apple patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today reveal that the company is continuing to look into ways of harnessing the knowledge of groups of consumers to assist in the shopping process both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. With these methods, the company hopes to assist consumers with social networking tools in the shopping environment, as well as use community-based sales ranking predictions to help consumers find the best products for themselves.


143356-shopping_social_networking.jpg


The first patent, noted by AppleInsider, is entitled "Social Networking in Shopping Environments" and was filed in June 2009. It addresses methods by which customers can use social networking tools to select items while shopping and solicit opinions on the appropriateness of the articles from friends. In some variations, store employees could also tap into the system to offer their feedback on proposed purchases and alternatives available in the store.
In a shopping environment, a user may identify one or more articles of interest. Before purchasing the articles, the user may wish to consult with friends or other people. To do so, the user can use a mobile device to transmit identifying information for the articles to mobile or other devices of the user's friends (e.g., some or all friends in an address book, or just friends located within a maximum distance of the user, for example in the same mall). The identifying information can include links to databases of the articles, images or photographs of the articles, location information for the friends to see the articles (e.g., identify a rack in a store where an article of clothing was found) or any other suitable information. The user's friends can review the identified articles, and provide comments for the user. For example, the user's friends can give a thumbs up/down, a star rating, a comment (e.g., text, audio or video), or any other type of comment.

In some embodiments, the user can receive recommendations of other articles to purchase instead of or in addition to the initially identified articles. For example, other users can provide identifying information for other articles available for purchase. As another example, other users can identify other articles already owned by the user that would go well with articles available for purchase (e.g., articles previously identified by the user, or articles identified by other users). The received recommendations can include comments to assist the user in determining whether to make a purchase. The recommendations provided by friends can include articles available in the store in which the user is shopping, in other stores (e.g., in the same complex or mall), online or from remote sources (e.g., links to an online store or to a catalog from which articles can be ordered) or from any other suitable source.
A second patent application, known as "Systems, Methods, and Computer-Readable Media for Community Review of Items in an Electronic Store", was also filed in June 2009 and addresses online marketplace as opposed to the brick-and-mortar stores addressed in the first application.

This second patent application describes ways to harness the input of users of online stores to predict the relative sales rankings of various products, thereby bringing them to the attention of other shoppers. The application begins by citing the difficulties in generating accurate reviews of products in online stores, from the cost and effort required for stores to perform their own reviews to the lack of trustworthiness from reviews provided by manufacturers themselves or other customers.


145005-audio_track_performance_prediction.jpg


Sample review and prediction interface for an audio track
Apple's method describes how users could be surveyed to predict the performance of certain products, with the reviews of those who most accurately predict future performance over time carrying more weight when it comes to sharing their thoughts with other potential customers. For users predicting rankings, an increased "credibility score" may be sufficient incentive to drive participation in the program, although online stores could also offer financial incentives for customers making predictions.


145005-prediction_award_chart_500.jpg


Sample calculation of financial awards for sales performance predictions

Article Link: Apple Targeting Social Networking and Product Sales Predictions in Shopping Environments
 

Popeye206

macrumors 68040
Sep 6, 2007
3,148
836
NE PA USA
Heck, pretty soon we won't even have to go shopping or care. The computer will figure everything out for us and stuff we don't even know we want yet will just show up! :D
 

sinsin07

macrumors 68040
Mar 28, 2009
3,585
2,547
The second patent seems like a game center for shopping. Do the higher ranked people get better guns? or trophies? :D
 

jayducharme

macrumors 601
Jun 22, 2006
4,107
4,352
The thick of it
Without certain checks and balances, I can see this system being ripe for abuse. In the first patent, for instance, if store personnel are part of the social group, they could help to steer customers from lower-priced to higher-priced items. But on the other hand, if it became obvious that was taking place, the whole system would be seen as just another ad and people would stop using it. It would be in the interest of all parties to keep the system honest.
 

ShiftyPig

macrumors 6502a
Aug 24, 2008
567
0
AU
I'll give this a positive because Apple is doing it. If it was any other company, I'd give it a negative.
 

thetaylor13

macrumors regular
May 14, 2010
148
0
Work
Without certain checks and balances, I can see this system being ripe for abuse. In the first patent, for instance, if store personnel are part of the social group, they could help to steer customers from lower-priced to higher-priced items. But on the other hand, if it became obvious that was taking place, the whole system would be seen as just another ad and people would stop using it. It would be in the interest of all parties to keep the system honest.

I think the world already works like this. There's been many a times when I simply need an insignificant tool and am steered toward made in the USA triple the cost products when a shelf away sits one basically for free that will get the job done.

I think any stores policy revolves around the idea that they want you to buy something more expensive vs. less expensive.
 

thetaylor13

macrumors regular
May 14, 2010
148
0
Work
Heck, pretty soon we won't even have to go shopping or care. The computer will figure everything out for us and stuff we don't even know we want yet will just show up! :D

I'm waiting for a pipeline that goes from my fridge to the store with a touch panel menu on the fridge door so I can order the groceries I need.... that will be the day. :D
 

tod

macrumors regular
Oct 3, 2009
162
100
Ohio
All of this social buying stuff is stupid. Who cares what other people think about what you might buy or did buy?
 

toxer

macrumors newbie
Oct 27, 2004
20
0
Big Brother

Big Brother is geeting Bigger. In a few years time none of us would even realize that every action we make is triggered by somebody else who immediately cashes on that. That's why you never find me on Facebook and my Ping is disabled. Get a real life guys. The truth will set you free.
 

Small White Car

macrumors G4
Aug 29, 2006
10,943
1,303
Washington DC
Without certain checks and balances, I can see this system being ripe for abuse. In the first patent, for instance, if store personnel are part of the social group, they could help to steer customers from lower-priced to higher-priced items. But on the other hand, if it became obvious that was taking place, the whole system would be seen as just another ad and people would stop using it. It would be in the interest of all parties to keep the system honest.

And this is different than the current system where people come in and ask the employees what to buy...how?
 

jayducharme

macrumors 601
Jun 22, 2006
4,107
4,352
The thick of it
And this is different than the current system where people come in and ask the employees what to buy...how?

Well, it's not. And that was my point. If this system Apple envisions is truly about connecting people to those whose opinions they care about, then I think it could be somewhat useful. But if the system is co-opted by corporations, then it will be perceived as just another sales pitch and few people will bother using it. Given Apple's current struggles with Ping, I'm not sure how well they'll manage the whole social networking thing.
 

Doctor Q

Administrator
Staff member
All of this social buying stuff is stupid. Who cares what other people think about what you might buy or did buy?
Me. Sometimes.

If I know what I'm doing when shopping, I usually don't need help. But if I'm in unknown territory, I like to know what others are buying or their opinions of what I'm considering, despite the risk of running into shills.
 

jmull

macrumors regular
Sep 16, 2009
190
0
Big Brother is geeting Bigger. In a few years time none of us would even realize that every action we make is triggered by somebody else who immediately cashes on that. That's why you never find me on Facebook and my Ping is disabled. Get a real life guys. The truth will set you free.

So Steve is Big Brother? Can't I just get rid of "Big Brother" anytime I want by turning off my computing devices? Also, can you tell me what a "real life" is like or what one does in it? I keep getting conflicting reports. Thanks in advance.
 

Popeye206

macrumors 68040
Sep 6, 2007
3,148
836
NE PA USA
So Steve is Big Brother? Can't I just get rid of "Big Brother" anytime I want by turning off my computing devices? Also, can you tell me what a "real life" is like or what one does in it? I keep getting conflicting reports. Thanks in advance.

LOL! Love your answer!

Do people really think that this is anything new? Companies and marketeers have been tracking demographic and purchasing habits for years so that they can market better or make products better. Honestly... I don't see the big deal. So they learn something about me and try and sell me things that I might like anyway? Or they learn that I don't like something and stop trying to sell it to me... ultimately I have the choice... buy or don't buy.

Just amazes me how paranoid some people are... don't like it... turn it off. Don't want it... don't buy it. Move on and get a "real life". :p
 

freiheit

macrumors 6502a
Jul 20, 2004
643
90
California
the best products?

The best products for me are typically not what "the masses" are choosing. How horrifying to want to be just like everyone else; a faceless drone doing and buying what someone else tells you is cool.
 

Popeye206

macrumors 68040
Sep 6, 2007
3,148
836
NE PA USA
The best products for me are typically not what "the masses" are choosing. How horrifying to want to be just like everyone else; a faceless drone doing and buying what someone else tells you is cool.

You make a great point... everyone is different. Not that I like buying everything others are... heck I stuck with Apple through the 90's when everyone was bailing on them... but it is nice sometimes to see what others think of products and know that there is some validity behind it. Also, just because 75% of the population drinks milk and so do I does not make me a faceless drone.

You always have the ultimate choice... buy or don't buy.
 
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