Google has been granted an unusual patent that allows companies advertising on the Internet to provide free or discounted taxi rides to their businesses. The motivation behind the invention is to get potential customers to a “bricks and mortar” or high street business so that salespeople can close the deal. It will also give people the opportunity to see what they are buying in real-time.
The invention has been devised so that the cost of transportation will automatically be compared with potential profit that would come from the transaction if completed. Algorithms will be used to detect the best route and transport form from the location of the customer, using several real-time calculations. Obviously, the more money spent on any purchase, the more cost-effective the taxi idea would be.
The way it would work is that when a customer responds to an advertisement, either via computer, tablet or smart phone, the technology will work out the where and how to ensure the customer gets a free ride. Critics have likened the idea to any discount deal or coupon offer that persuades customers they are getting better value for their dollar. They say people will be more likely to “click” if they are getting that something extra.
The Google patent, filed in January 2011 and published about two weeks ago, is titled Transportation-aware physical advertising conversions. It states that automatic calculations would take a number of different types of transportation into account, not just taxis, although the concept extends to how Google would give people free taxi rides. The options might include cars – either owned or rented, shared vehicles, and trains. It would also take into account how much competing advertisers would be willing to pay for their customers to be taken to “alternate locations,” as well as other costs involved. The invention allows for customer to choose their transportation options if they wish.
According to the patent application, a “computer-implemented method” would be used to provide relevant advertisements. The computer would have numerous “target customer profiles,” and these would be associated with various requirements and a specific advertisement. Advertisements would also be associated with specific business locations and would have a “bid value.”
It has been said that Google will probably combine this new technology with location data that can be extracted via GPS tracking devices, wi-fi sources, and even using cellular phones. Commentators have also pointed out that five months ago Google invested $258 million in Uber, a car hire business that is based in San Francisco. This, they say, indicates the thinking at Google, even if the free taxi idea takes a while to be implemented.
Explaining the value of the invention, Google states that “bricks and mortar” businesses are sometimes forced to invest money in costly properties that are in areas where there is high traffic, rather than buying lower-cost properties. This is because, in reality, it can be extremely difficult to get potential customers to business locations to make a sale. Advertisers often offer “inducements” like the coupons and discounts already mentioned, to draw them to the place of business. But these can add a financial burden that the business has to carry.
Customers investing in “Internet-based commerce” look for conversions, or consumer transactions that end in a sale. Usually they specify what Google terms a “maximum bid for a conversion.” They are then charged according to the number of times customers go to the web site so that they can complete the transaction. A problem is that cost of transportation is not factored in for those customers that want to physically see and inspect goods and merchandise. This is a primary reason for Google wanting to patent a way that they will be able to give people free taxi rides to various business premises.
By Penny Swift