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This invention relates generally to computer systems, and more particularly, to systems that assist users in locating products of interest at local retailers.
Web-based shopping comparison services are available that allow users to compare product prices at online retailers. In a typical scenario, a user browses to a shopping comparison service home page and initiates a search for a product of interest. The user can enter a product's model number or more general information such as a desired type of product. The shopping comparison service identifies online retailers that carry suitable products. The user is generally presented with a web page containing a list of prices for the product of interest and a list of associated online retailers at which the product is available. Web pages such as these are often indexed by internet search engines.
Online shopping comparison services are helpful when users are interested in purchasing products online, but do not assist a user who is interested in purchasing a product at a brick and mortar store. The online retailers that are located may not even have brick and mortar establishments, let alone establishments that are in the user's vicinity.
A user who wants to locate a local retailer who sells a product of interest may therefore turn to an online directory service. With an online directory service, a user can locate retailers who sell certain types of products by performing a directory search. For example, a user who is interested in purchasing a particular model of television set can attempt to locate local electronics dealers by performing a search using the search term “electronics.” However, online directory services are not able to provide pricing or availability information for particular products.
It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved local shopping information online.
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In accordance with the present invention, an online localization service is provided that provides users with information on which local retailers sell particular products.
A user with a web browser may perform a search for a product and location of interest using an Internet search engine or using a query engine associated with the localization service. The location of interest, which is sometimes referred to as a search origin, may be defined by a place name (e.g., the user's city), a zip code, or other geographic terms. The product of interest may be defined using product terms such as a product name, a product model number, a product category, etc.
The user may be provided with search results that match the user's search parameters. The search results may include a list of universal resource locators, each of which corresponds to a web page associated with the localization service. When the user clicks on a desired universal resource locator, the universal resource locator and its embedded user search parameters are provided to the localization service.
The localization service has databases. The localization service may extract the search parameters from the universal resource locator when the localization service receives the universal resource locator from the user over the internet. A page generation engine may use information in the databases and the extracted search parameters to dynamically generate a web page for the user. The web page may include a list of which retailers in the vicinity of the search origin carry the product for which the user is searching. Web pages such as these may contain pricing information, information on how far each retailer is from the search origin, product images and other product information, and promotional information.
The localization service may have an advertisement server that applies display criteria such as location-based display criteria to the search parameters that are received from the user. The search parameters and display criteria may be used to determine which targeted advertisements are to be displayed for the user.
Further features of the invention, its nature and various advantages will be more apparent from the accompanying drawings and the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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FIG. 1 is a diagram of an illustrative system for a localization service that can be used to provide information on locally available products to interested users in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 show illustrative product detail pages that may be displayed to a user by a localization service in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 5 shows an illustrative product category page that may be displayed for a user by a localization service in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 6 shows an illustrative store detail page that may be displayed for a user by a localization service in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of illustrative databases that may be used by a localization service in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 8 is a flow chart of illustrative steps involved in establishing and maintaining databases for a localization service in a system of the type shown in FIG. 1 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 9 is a flow chart of illustrative steps involved in using a localization service to provide users with information on locally available products in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
FIGS. 10 and 11 contain a flow chart of illustrative steps involved in using a page generation engine to provide a user with pages such as a store detail page, product detail page, and product category page in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
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The present invention relates to computer-implemented methods for providing users with online information on locally available products. An illustrative system 10 for providing users with localized online product information is shown in FIG. 1.
The entities of FIG. 1 may have associated computing equipment. The computing equipment that is used by the various entities of FIG. 1 may be based on one or more personal computers, workstations, mainframe computers, networks of such computers, or any other suitable computing equipment.
The computing equipment may be interconnected by communications network 18. Network 18 may include local area networks, wide area networks such as the internet, or any other suitable communications networks.
Brick and mortar retailers 12 (companies with physical stores) have physical stores in which they offer products for sale. Customers may visit the physical stores of retailers 12 and may browse for merchandise. Retailers 12 may also have an online presence, but the present discussion will generally focus on the brick and mortar aspects (physical presence aspects) of each retailer\'s business.
The products that retailers 12 offer for sale are generally manufactured by manufacturers 16. Manufacturers 16 include companies that fabricate products from raw materials, companies that assemble products from the parts made by other companies, subsidiaries of larger companies (e.g., subsidiaries that are associated with different brand names), etc.
Users 24 have software on their computing equipment such as web browsers 26. Web browsers 26 may be used to access web pages from services such as internet search engine 20 and localization service 28 over communications network 18.
Localization service 28 may have one or more databases 34 that may be used to dynamically generate web pages for users 24 with web browsers 26. The information that is stored in databases 34 may be made accessible to search engines such as search engine 20. This allows search engine web crawlers to examine and index the content stored in databases 34. One way to ensure that the web pages of localization service 28 are crawlable by search engine web crawlers is to embed crawlable links in the web pages. By ensuring that most or all of the dynamically generated web pages from databases 34 are linked to each other with crawlable hypertext markup language (HTML) links, the content of databases 34 may be made available to users who perform searches using internet search engines such as internet search engine 20.
The content of databases 34 may also be made available to users 24 over communications network 18 using page generation engine 36.
The information in database 34 may be obtained from retailers 12, manufactures 16, geocoding sources 22, and other suitable sources. This information may be acquired by localization service 28 over communications network 18 using data acquisition engine 32. For example, data acquisition engine 32 may access information that has been stored in databases 14 by retailers 12 and information that has been stored in databases 44 by manufacturers 16. Entities such as retailers 12 and manufacturers 16 may also push information to localization service 28. For example, a retailer or manufacturer may store information in databases 34 using promotional console 30. With one suitable arrangement, promotional console 30 may be provided in the form of a web-based interface. A retailer or manufacturer can log into the promotional console 30 to upload information such as lists of retail stores, store addresses, store hours, store coupons and other promotions, manufacturer coupons and other promotions, product information such as product features, product specifications, product images, product manuals, etc.