Browse Prior Art Database

Merchant Information Exchange With a Handheld Device

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000016078D
Original Publication Date: 2002-Jul-28
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-Jun-21
Document File: 3 page(s) / 53K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Abstract

Often, when shopping in a store, there are items that seem to be impossible to locate. Sometimes you just know they must be there but you cannot seem to find them. Usually when people have this problem, they either seek out a store employee (who often does not know) or just give up and stop looking. Sometimes they may try again at another store with a more familiar layout. There are various ways for the merchant to help shoppers find items, each having a significant drawback. One option is to have paper handouts for shoppers to take with a generic list of items and their respective locations (e.g. bread aisle 10). Arranging to have paper handouts for each shopper is highly inconvenient, and therefore it is rarely used by stores. Also, when any item location changes, all the paper handouts are no longer valid. Furthermore, only so much information can fit on a paper handout and still be manageable. If a merchant wants to include more details about item locations (e.g., Anchovy Paste Aisle 12 middle right side), then the handout becomes too large and difficult to manage for an average shopper. If the merchant leaves off some details and only includes generic categories of items, then the usefulness of the list is dramatically reduced. An alternative approach that has received lukewarm reviews is to have a Kiosk located somewhere in the store. Because it is interactive (i.e. the shopper can use search features), finding item information is significantly enhanced. One of the biggest limitations with Kiosks is that they are not with you when you finally decide you cannot find that item for which you are looking. In fact, even if the store did have a Kiosk, unless the shopper is already familiar with the Kiosk location, they would first have to find the Kiosk before they could begin to find their item. The Kiosk might even be located at the other end of the store from your location, so that to use it, you might have to walk to the other end of the store. In addition, since only one person can be using a Kiosk at a time (and multiple Kiosk stations are expensive), you might have to stand in line to use it.

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Merchant Information Exchange With a Handheld Device

    Often, when shopping in a store, there are items that seem to be impossible to locate. Sometimes you just know they must be there but you cannot seem to find them. Usually when people have this problem, they either seek out a store employee (who often does not know) or just give up and stop looking. Sometimes they may try again at another store with a more familiar layout.

There are various ways for the merchant to help shoppers find items, each having a significant drawback. One option is to have paper handouts for shoppers to take with a generic list of items and their respective locations (e.g. bread - aisle 10). Arranging to have paper handouts for each shopper is highly inconvenient, and therefore it is rarely used by stores. Also, when any item location changes, all the paper handouts are no longer valid.

Furthermore, only so much information can fit on a paper handout and still be manageable. If a merchant wants to include more details about item locations (e.g., Anchovy Paste - Aisle 12 - middle - right side), then the handout becomes too large and difficult to manage for an average shopper. If the merchant leaves off some details and only includes generic categories of items, then the usefulness of the list is dramatically reduced.

An alternative approach that has received lukewarm reviews is to have a Kiosk located somewhere in the store. Because it is interactive (i.e. the shopper can use search features), finding item information is significantly enhanced. One of the biggest limitations with Kiosks is that they are not with you when you finally decide you cannot find that item for which you are looking. In fact, even if the store did have a Kiosk, unless the shopper is already familiar with the Kiosk location, they would first have to find the Kiosk before they could begin to find their item. The Kiosk might even be located at the other end of the store from your location, so that to use it, you might have to walk to the other end of the store. In addition, since only one person can be using a Kiosk at a time (and multiple Kiosk stations are expensive), you might have to stand in line to use it.

To solve these problems, the present invention gives each shopper the ability to download store layout and inventory information to a handheld/portable device via infrared (or other wireless) technology. By downloading such information, the shopper will not have problems finding items within the store or learning about item pricing or other store promotions associated with an item.

In one example, a handheld device for this invention could be a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), but this could also be extended to cellular phones, laptop computers and any other portable wireless device.

Advantages include:

Because the information is now in a computing device, various methods can be used to get information on items. These include searches, scrollable indexes, and drill downs (i....