News Column

Patent Application Titled "Social Network Loyalty-Reward System and Method" Published Online

July 3, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Computer Weekly News -- According to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews journalists, a patent application by the inventor Rorabaugh, Mark R. (Centreville, VA), filed on December 6, 2012, was made available online on June 19, 2014.

No assignee for this patent application has been made.

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Traditional loyalty programs are usually managed by one vendor, and provide rewards to only the current customer. In addition, to participate in a loyalty program, the customer is required to produce a physical card or enter Personally Identifiable Information, such as a telephone number.

"Many services simply broadcast discounts or coupons when you are near a particular location, and users are not otherwise rewarded for repeat business. Other systems reward only the repeat customer, but not his friends or relatives.

"Thus, a social network loyalty-reward system and method solving the aforementioned problems is desired."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent application, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "It is to be understood that both the following summary and the detailed description are exemplary and explanatory and are intended to provide further explanation of the invention as claimed. Neither the summary nor the description that follows is intended to define or limit the scope of the invention to the particular features mentioned in the summary or in the description. Rather, the scope of the invention is defined by the appended claims.

"In certain embodiments, the disclosed embodiments may include one or more of the features described herein.

"In a new social network loyalty reward system and method, multiple vendor loyalty programs may be handled by one software application (App) or program called 'Groyalty.' The system in combination with a user's mobile device may permit participation in a vendor's loyalty program by detecting the user's presence near a store, cash register, or similar mobile or stationary device with the application, which, in turn, is connected to a Groyalty system (which may be a single server, server cluster, cloud-based system, etc.) through the internet. This obviates the requirement for a customer to produce a physical card or enter an 'ID' number to receive loyalty points. This embodiment of a loyalty program requires no action on the user/customer's part. Another embodiment of a loyalty program requires user action, specifically the action of providing a loyalty program card or an 'ID' number or similar.

"The system is specifically designed and arranged to utilize a user's social network, as defined for example by the user's contact list stored in the user's mobile device, and may provide rewards to those parties, as well as to the user/customer themselves. The contacts may also be harvested from various social networking websites such as Facebook.RTM., Linkedln.RTM., etc. The source used for the contacts may be chosen, in embodiments, by individual vendors or by Groyalty administration, or by the users. Users may provide login information for accounts with one or more social networking websites to permit the Groyalty application to access their contact lists. Users may also input contacts manually in some embodiments. This system may provide incentives for a portion of the user's social network, up to and including the entire social network, to visit those locations participating in the program. Members of the user's social network who are also Groyalty members may be linked to the user in a Groyalty database or similar system for ease of delivering incentives. Other contacts who are not yet Groyalty members may be invited to join Groyalty. In some embodiments, a person need not be a member of Groyalty to receive such incentives, which may be directly emailed or otherwise delivered in the form of a standard coupon or similar.

"In a new computer-implemented social-network loyalty-reward method, information that a user is engaging or has engaged in a transaction is received, additional information relating to the transaction is received, contact information for one or more people known by the user is determined at a computing device from the user's existing electronically stored contact information, and the sending of rewards to the one or more people known by the user is electronically initiated at the computing device in response to the user engaging in the transaction.

"Registration information may also be received from the user and stored. Electronically initiating the sending of rewards may include sending rewards by text message, email, phone alert, app notification, or network posting. Determining contact information may include accessing the user's contact list on the user's mobile device or accessing the user's account on a social networking website. The additional information relating to the transaction may include transaction amount, products or services purchased, vendor, or location of transaction. A user's presence may also be detected at a point of sale during a transaction with a proximity detector. The proximity detector may communicate with the user's mobile device and detect that the user is registered with a loyalty-reward system. A user's presence at a point of sale during a transaction may be detected by reading information from a magnetic strip or other programmed card or bar-code, or from a keypad or other manual input. Loyalty rewards may be transmitted to the user's mobile device at a point of sale. Receiving additional information relating to the transaction may include receiving stored transaction information from the user's mobile device.

"Additional information regarding the one or more people known by the user may also be received, and electronically initiating the sending of rewards to the one or more people known by the user may include using the additional information regarding the one or more people known by the user to select which of the one or more people to send the rewards to, or what rewards to send to the one or more people. A picture or sample audio recording may be taken at a point of sale to provide evidence that the user engaged in a transaction.

"Vendor input may be used to set the type and amount of rewards sent. Vendor input received from a vendor may include information regarding how rewards should vary between times of day or year and between vendor locations, between users having different characteristics, and based on the number of users involved, and what circumstances trigger rewards to be sent. A user interface may be displayed to a vendor, and the user interface may be configured for a vendor to input rules governing rewards sent, and vendor-transmitted rules governing rewards sent may be received through the interface.

"All rewards received by each person to which rewards are sent and whether the rewards received are used, and when they are used, and the circumstances under which the rewards are used may be tracked, and this information may be used in initiating the sending of rewards. The sending of rewards to the user may be initiated electronically at the computing device. The rewards sent may vary based on the number of users conducting a transaction in a single location within a certain time period or based on the number of locations a single user conducts transactions at within a given time period.

"Methods may be carried out by a system of software modules. Such a system may include a contact information determination module, a reward determination and/or sending module, a proximity detection module, and an information receiving module. Such modules may for example reside on a remote server, be dispersed among several devices or reside in the cloud.

"A computer-readable storage medium includes a program, which when executed on a processor performs an operation, the operation including receiving information that a user is engaging or has engaged in a transaction, receiving additional information relating to the transaction, determining contact information for one or more people known by the user from the user's existing electronically stored contact information, and electronically initiating the sending of rewards to the one or more people known by the user in response to the user engaging in the transaction.

"A system includes a processor and a memory containing a program, which, when executed by the processor, is configured to perform an operation including receiving information that a user is engaging or has engaged in a transaction, receiving additional information relating to the transaction, determining contact information for one or more people known by the user from the user's existing electronically stored contact information, and electronically initiating the sending of rewards to the one or more people known by the user in response to the user engaging in the transaction.

"These and further and other objects and features of the invention are apparent in the disclosure, which includes the above and ongoing written specification, with the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated herein and form a part of the specification, illustrate exemplary embodiments and, together with the description, further serve to enable a person skilled in the pertinent art to make and use these embodiments and others that will be apparent to those skilled in the art. The invention will be more particularly described in conjunction with the following drawings wherein:

"FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a social network loyalty/reward system according to the present invention.

"FIG. 2 is a flowchart of a mobile device resident application in a social network loyalty/reward system and method according to the present invention."

For more information, see this patent application: Rorabaugh, Mark R. Social Network Loyalty-Reward System and Method. Filed December 6, 2012 and posted June 19, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=1163&p=24&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140612.PD.&OS=PD/20140612&RS=PD/20140612

Keywords for this news article include: Patents, Software.

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Source: Computer Weekly News


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