The communication application includes a client process executable on a processor in a mobile device. The client process includes an interactive input process capable of receiving input signals from the mobile device, a communication initiating process responsive to the input signals for sending application initiation signals to the server process via the network, and a communication receiving process responsive to communication signals from the server process for receiving coupon information from the server process. The coupon information includes an encoded barcode image. The client process further includes a display process responsive to the receipt of coupon information for decoding the encoded barcode image and displaying the barcode image.
In a tenth aspect of the present invention, a communication application executable on a network includes an electronic coupon clearinghouse coupled to the network and containing a plurality of electronic coupons, a coupon database coupled to the electronic coupon clearinghouse; a server coupled to the network, and a mobile device capable of communicating on the network and receiving electronic coupons from the server via the network. The electronic coupons include an encoded barcode image. The server is capable of accessing the electronic coupon clearinghouse and receiving selected electronic coupons from the electronic coupon clearinghouse.
The mobile device is capable of decoding the encoded barcode images and displaying the barcode images on a screen display for scanning by a barcode scanner. In an eleventh aspect of methods disclosed, the present invention enables users to use their mobile device to post to Internet databases, and coupon feeds on Websites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Hi5, and the like, coupons retrieved via mobile barcode scan and search for purposes of real-time sharing of said coupons with friends, colleagues, etc.
In a twelfth aspect of the present invention, the system enables users to perform virtual coupon search, retrieval, presentation, and redemption via telecommunications devices. In a thirteenth aspect of methods disclosed, the system further includes an Internet connected coupon server that, in response to user queries via mobile phone camera scans of product barcodes, retrieves and displays on mobile phone product-specific primary and competing product secondary coupon images for user selection.
In response to mobile phone user selection of desired coupons, the system stores in a pending file on coupon server, product-specific primary and competing product secondary coupons, in the form of a coupon issuer reloadable and scalable coupon value escrow account number or merchant bank account number, for matching bar code search request.
In a fourteenth aspect of the methods disclosed, the systems also includes a method whereby, at point-of-sale POS checkout, the mobile phone user scans a quick response QR code containing the retailer's store and cash register identification. As the QR code is read into a file on the mobile phone, the file is expanded to include the identity of previously stored coupon numbers corresponding to prior user selection. In a fifteenth aspect of methods disclosed, the system further includes a coupon server that, in response to the inbound QR code file from the mobile phone user, appends the QR code file to the previously opened pending file.
The coupon server then connects, over the Internet, to an Automated Clearing House ACH server, whereby coupon server presents virtual coupon, in the form of a coupon issuer reloadable and scalable stored value escrow account number or merchant bank account number, along with sponsored loyalty points, for ACH verification, settlement, clearing, redemption, expiry, and balance reset of coupon and loyalty point values in coupon server and retailer point of sale POS system.
In a sixteenth aspect, the system further includes a coupon sever that, after verification from the ACH that the retailer POS system has closed the retail transaction, connects, over the Internet, to sponsor servers for retrieving, calculating and transferring, from the coupon server to retailer's loyalty server, retailer loyalty points matching joint mobile coupon user and retail loyalty card user identity. In a seventeenth aspect of the invention, the system further includes real-time sharing of barcode retrieved virtual coupons with users friends on Internet websites.
Finally, the system includes the production of data analytics to predict user habits. All publications, patents, and patent applications cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety for all purposes. The following presents a detailed description of a preferred embodiment as well as some alternative embodiments of the present invention. However, it should be apparent to one skilled in the art that the described embodiment may be modified in form and coupon to be optimized for a wide variety of situations.
With reference first to FIG. When holding a product package in a retail store a mobile phone user, whose phone is enabled with software of the present invention, scans one of a plurality of bar codes on the product package, the most common being a universal product code of the series UPC An automated routine within the software of the present invention connects user's mobile phone to the wireless network cloud , which in turn connects user's mobile phone to a coupon server. The software of the present invention then uploads to the coupon server the user's identification number ID and the previously scanned UPC code.
The coupon server then generates and saves a unique transaction number, and the coupon server fetches from user file a previously stored coupon number and its scaled, calculated reloadable coupon value corresponding to the product UPC scanned and uploaded by user's mobile phone. On multiple recurring occasions on a daily basis, the coupon server calculates and stores earned coupon value algorithmically accrued, in a plurality of mathematical models, in daily cumulative scaling increments based on received qualifying user activity in a plurality of coupon criteria. In example, but not limited to, qualifying user activity could include a user's electronic response to daily coupon server generated notifications as illustrated below;.
In addition to using qualifying user activity statistics as a basis for scaling the economic worth of stored coupon value, qualifying user activity statistics can be repurposed as individual and aggregated content for a variety of uses, including, but not limited to, display and sharing in online community websites. The coupon server creates a pending session file with user's ID, user's pre-registered sponsor loyalty account number, UPC code scanned, corresponding coupon number, coupon value and coupon server generated unique transaction number.
Coupon server then sends to user mobile phone menu of user selectable coupon descriptions. User selects desirable coupon s and the response is sent back to the coupon server for updating pending session file. Coupon server then initiates a routine in mobile phone to display previously stored barcoded and numeric savings card on the phone.
User, still in the store, proceeds to checkout , clicks an option on the software of the present invention to scan a quick response QR placard near the POS system Mobile phone user scans a quick response QR code placard containing the retailer's store and cash register identification. An automated routine within the mobile phone is triggered by the QR scan, sending the expanded file to the coupon server The coupon server, in response to the inbound QR code file from the mobile phone user, appends to the previous pending session file the uploaded QR code file.
The coupon server then connects, over the Internet, to an Automated Clearing House ACH server , whereby coupon server presents coupon server generated unique transaction number, merchant ID, store cash register ID, and a virtual coupon, in the form of a coupon issuer stored value escrow account number or merchant bank number for ACH verification, settlement, clearing, redemption, expiry, and balance reset of coupon in coupon server and closing of transaction in retailer POS system ACH connects over its payment network to the merchant ID and store cash register ID corresponding to the retailer POS system specified in the transaction file previously received from the coupon server and presents the coupon server generated unique transaction number and verified coupon value to the retailer POS system.
With a positive confirmation of merchant ID, store cash register ID, coupon server generated transaction number, and coupon value, the retailer POS system closes the retail transaction, and the POS system signals the ACH that the retail transaction has closed. ACH in turn signals the coupon server that the retail transaction has closed, and the coupon server then deducts the expired coupon value from the previously stored starting coupon balance to arrive at an end-of-session coupon balance.
Instead, the coupon server interacts directly with the ACH, which in turn interacts directly with the retailer POS, thereby limiting errors and fraud. After user leaves the retail shopping session, the coupon server sends to the user mobile phone a set routine of periodic 2 way text messaged notifications for user to receive updates and provide answers for delivery back to coupon server.
Next, referring to FIG. To use the mobile gateway of the present invention, a user first scans barcode using barcode scanner attached to mobile device in step Barcode is then decoded in step Barcode may be decoded by barcode scanner in a variety of ways. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, barcode scanner is a digital camera. A system for decoding barcodes on mobile devices from digital images is disclosed in co-pending U.
The user could also decide to take a picture of the barcode using barcode scanner and send the snapshot or the raw data constituting the image to the control center to be decoded on server instead of on mobile device Alternatively, barcode scanner may be a laser-based scanner which is integral to or attached to mobile device Currently, laser-based scanners are the most commonly used barcode scanners. However, they generally lack the versatility of optical barcode scanners and can only usually decode a limited number of barcode symbologies.
After the barcode has been decoded in step , the barcode information and a user identification number are sent to server via wireless network in step In the case where the barcode is decoded by server , mobile device sends the user identification number and either the snapshot or the raw data of the barcode image.
Otherwise, just the decoded barcode number is sent. Server then uses the transmitted user identification number to look up the user's preferred retailers and coupon issuers using user database in step User database associates each user identification number with a list of preferred retailers. The server next parses the barcode into its constituent parts if possible in step This step is generally performed when barcode is a UPC-A barcode comprised of a manufacturer code, a product code, and a checksum digit.
The manufacturer code contained within barcode information is used by server in step to associate item with a list of retailers or coupon issuers using coupon issuer database Server then transmits the entire decoded barcode to each of the appropriate retailers a - n and coupon issuers a - m as identified in step in step The newly created WAP page is specific to each user of the system. That is, the mobile gateway is capable of aggregating and formatting the information, coupon, and options from retailers a - n and coupon issuers a - m into a format that is easily viewed on the screen of mobile device.
The user is then connected directly to the selected vendor or coupon issuer. The user can also utilize the WAP page to perform such actions as viewing a multimedia clip, purchasing the item related to the scanned barcode, etc. The mobile gateway is also capable of saving the barcodes that a user scans in user database These barcodes can then be accessed at a later time by mobile device or by workstation If a user elects to utilize workstation , the user will be able to access the same coupon using the stored barcodes that the user was able to access utilizing mobile device For example, a user could utilize workstation to purchase an item related to a barcode previously scanned by mobile device Referring to FIG.
The retail coupon distribution system includes a coupon clearinghouse for retailers and manufacturers. The coupon clearinghouse contains a database of coupons. Businesses such as retailers and manufacturers arrange for coupon information to be entered into the database Consumers can access the database via network communication using a two-way communication device or computer access.
The consumer can search the coupon database from home, business, or using mobile access. The coupon database can be configured using a profile engine The profile engine sorts coupons into collections based on customer profile.
The customer profile is a collection of predicates which identify the type, quantity, or quality of information that is presumed to be desirable to the customer. Suitable customer profile engines are described in U. A marketing entity that may have an association with the coupon clearinghouse delivers coupons to customer subscribers to a coupon service based on the customer profile. The marketing entity delivers the electronic coupons via the network communication to a customer's mobile communication device.
Several marketing schemes may be employed by the marketing entity In one example, the service delivers coupons on a regular scheduled basis, for example weekly. In another example, the service delivers coupons when a coupon of interest to the particular customer is made available by a retailer or manufacturer. In a further example, the service may be granted access by a customer to location information regarding the customer.
For example, the customer may activate global positioning system GPS locating information that identifies the location of the customer or the customer's two-way communication device. The service may be configured to deliver coupons to a customer when the customer's location is in the vicinity of a retailer that distributes a product that is determined to be of interest to the customer according to the customer profile. The mobile communication system supports two-way communication between the mobile device and a web site made available via the Internet Companies that supply services and information via the Internet can create mobile web site versions that allow user access on mobile devices such as cellular telephones, palm-held computing devices, pagers, and the like.
Mobile web pages typically display text and images with a format and layout that are adapted for receipt and display by a mobile device. The mobile communication system includes a server with wireless communication capabilities, one or more wireless communication devices , and a wireless communication network that facilitates communication between a wireless communication device and the server The Server is connected to an application host computer that stores and hosts applications that can be accessed by the wireless communication devices The application host computer supplies system support and maintenance services.
- fronks bellflower coupons.
Information is communicated via the wireless communication network to the wireless communication device and displayed on the wireless communication network so that the user can read information from the screen and store information directly in the receiving wireless communication device Server receives information coupon from any source and translates the information into an appropriate format and layout for transfer to the two-way communication device The server enables compatibility with legacy communication devices as well as new devices by supporting multiple types of information coupon sources, formats, device from factors, and transport protocols including WAP, HTML, and SMS.
The LCD display operates by altering the light transmissive properties of a field of liquid crystals. An image of a barcode is displayed on the two-way communication device by creating an optical image that can modulate a laser in motion, such as the laser used in a retail barcode scanning device. Usage of a machine-readable barcode image on the LCD rather than long human-readable strings of digits enables usage of existing coupon infrastructure without change.
Usage of the barcode image on the two-way communication device is more efficient and less cumbersome than usage of paper coupons. The barcode image immediately communicates information concerning the transaction to businesses in the transaction chain, from the retailer to manufacturers. Usage of the barcode image increases the amount of information that can be communicated. A downloaded coupon image can contain additional information to prevent coupon reuse, or tracking of usage. Two-way data communication devices can be configured to transmit and receive information with selected computers and servers, for example servers , , and , that are connected to various networks such as a wide area network , a local area network , or an Internet The communication network is a two-way communication path that connects a two-way data communication device to a selected computer or server.
The communication network allows a user of the data communication device to activate and engage applications that execute in the selected computer or server. The cellular telephone or pager can communicate over communication network with any of the servers , , , or others not shown that are connected on the communication network and include executable applications that communicate with processes loaded onto the cellular telephone or pager These communications permit the cellular telephone or pager to access information from any computers, servers, and other devices, such as other two-way communication devices, that are connected to the communication network The communications also enable the cellular telephone or pager to supply information to the communication network Similarly, any two-way communication device can be configured to communicate via the communication network with any computers or servers that are connected to the communication network and include any applications that communicate and interact with any processes loaded to the two-way communication device.
Server applications are accessible by any two-way data communication device that has access privileges to the server, independent of the device type and network type.
Coupon Redemption, Coupon Clearing House, Coupon Processing
Server applications are accessible to a two-way communications device in any location so long as the device can communicate with the communication network The two-way communication device, such as cellular telephone or pager , includes an internal processor that is capable of executing a client process. Executable applications, called server processes, are capable of executing on servers , , and connected to the communication network and communicate with the client process.
Internal processors in the servers , , and typically have higher processing capacity and performance than the size-limited processors internal to the cellular telephone or pager Processing tasks in the communicating device and the servers are typically balanced so that the processing load is more heavily distributed to the processor internal to the server. The cellular telephone has a telephone keypad and connects to the communication network using a data capable cellular telephone network The two-way pager communicates with an application on one of the servers , , and through a two-way pager network The cellular telephone network and the pager network connect to the servers , , and via a network such as the wide area network , the local area network , the Internet , or the like.
A client process in any two-way data communication device is stored as a client module in a memory, such as a nonvolatile memory, within the device. The client process executes various functions that are local to the communication device, including, for example, data display formatting, user interface input signal sensing, server communication packet formatting, receipt of information from the network, and conversion of input and output information.
The cellular telephone or pager has a client module that typically has a small storage capacity and low power consumption. The internal processor of the two-way communication device is typically a low-power circuit so that power consumption of the communicating device is small. The two-way communication devices, the servers, and the communication network permit a diverse variety of two-way data communication devices to function as open application platforms that allow system developers to create value-added-applications and services to a two-way data communication device.
US8533045B1 - Universal coupon redemption system and method - Google Patents
The communication network can expand functionality of communication devices such as cellular telephones or pagers beyond closed, proprietary functionality to an open architecture that allows free creation of new applications and utilizations. New applications for cellular telephones or pagers can be created and implemented for usage by new and existing communication devices without physical modification of the devices. Applications are implemented independent of operating system compatibility constraints. Hardware and software capabilities of the cellular telephones or pagers typically are fixed at time of manufacture since the devices do not have card slots or disk drives for adding or updating operations.
However, the cellular telephones or pagers can be modified or upgraded for new functionality by downloading soft capabilities via communication channels. To download applications, the client process executing on the cellular telephone or pager functions as an interpreter.
A server application executing on any of the servers , , or supplies information sufficient for the interpreter to generate a user interface on the client communication device. The user interface enables the two-way communication device to send messages and requests to the server. The server receives user selections and input data supplied by the user over the user interface and routes messages to a suitable server of the servers , , and , which may be the server that sent the original information.
The client process interprets the received requests and information and controls circuits within the two-way communication device. Applications in the two-way communication device are updated by changes on the server, rather than modifications internal to the device. Accordingly, application software is distributed and implemented at the server level with the cellular telephone or pager exploiting modifications and updates to the applications via communication with the server.
In one example, a cellular telephone or pager can receive a response to a message from an application executing on one of the servers , , and operating on the wide area network , the local area network , or Internet An interpreter in the cellular telephone or pager generates a user interface on the display screen of the cellular telephone or pager using information in the message. Typically the display screen is a liquid crystal display LCD but other types of display technology may otherwise be used. Selections made via the user interface enable the user to access information or send information to one or more of the wide area network , the local area network , and the Internet Once the user interface is operating, the cellular telephone or pager sends a message that is accessed on a computer within one of the servers , , and The computer responds to the message by executing an application.
The application typically includes resource locators for applications that are executable from any computers within the servers , , and In addition to the resource locators, the application includes common gateway and interface programs, and includes information for generating the user interface. When the user selects and operation or enters data, the interpreter accesses the selected resource locator and sends information to the resource locator to complete a communication link. The client process sends a message that identifies the resource locator to the selected server.
In this manner, applications that are installed on the wide area network , the local area network , and the Internet send to a cellular telephone or pager sufficient information to generate a user interface and process information received from the cellular telephone or pager New applications can be added at the servers , , and without any updating of the two-way communication devices. The cellular telephones , pager , or other two-way communication devices, include data communication circuits, a multiple-line display screen, storage or memory. Data-capable cellular telephones, telephones that use a cellular digital packet data network, include an internal processor, internal memory and a multi-line display screen, hardware resources that are only rarely used.
Additional capabilities enabled by applications installed on the servers , , and greatly increase the utility of two-way communication devices with little impact on cost, size, and power consumption of the devices. By performing the applications using the processing capabilities and memory that are basic components of a cellular telephone or pager , additional capabilities are available without additional costs or increases in size, weight, and battery life of the devices. Operations of a two-way communication device are similar whether the device is a cellular telephone , pager , or other type of device.
In response to requests by a user, the cellular telephone or pager transmits a message such as a data request to a server of the servers , , and on the cellular telephone network or pager network The server responds to the message by sending information to the requesting two-way communication device or, for some applications, by sending information to any specified device in the network.
The other specified devices can be other users, such as other cellular telephone or pager , or other computers connected to the servers , , and A cellular telephone or pager can receive a message from any computer connected to communication network The client process interpreter in cellular telephone or pager generates a user interface that enables the user to both initiate and respond to messages from many different types of applications. Interactions occur in real time. Capabilities are unconstrained by operations of the client process interpreter and are limited only by availability of applications on the connected servers.
Accordingly, various computers or systems that connect to the servers , , and must have sufficient information to permit communication with a particular cellular telephone or pager In one example, a cellular telephone contacts a central computer over a data-capable cellular telephone network The central computer is connected to multiple networks including the cellular telephone network , the pager network , one or more wide area networks , one or more local area networks , and the Internet The cellular telephone user initiates an application by sending a message including a resource locator to the central computer.
The central computer processes the message and retrieves information addressed by the resource locator from the appropriate network. After retrieving the requested information, the central computer generates screen images and transmits the screen images to cellular telephone In some embodiments, a single computer is configured to communicate with the cellular telephone In other systems, the computer can be configured to communicate with many or all other computer networks that can communicate with the cellular telephone A client process that executes on a processor in the two-way communication device initiates an interaction with a selected server in an initiate communication operation The selected server responds by transmitting information to the client process to generate a user interface and transmitting a resource locator for possible selection by the user.
The client process uses the resource locators to address applications on the selected server or other servers, or applications on the selected server that access other servers. Applications that the user can access via the two-way communication device are limited only by the applications provided on the server computers. New or updated applications are supplied by adding or modifying executable modules on the server, without any change to the client process in the two-way communication device.
The client process simply interprets information received from a server during execution of an application and transmits messages to request information from the server, client process requirements are unaffected by a new or updated application. Messages from a two-way data communication device such as cellular telephone or pager are transmitted to a network translator Network translator and the two-way data communication device communicate using a point-to-point communication protocol for a network that links the network translator and the two-way data communication device.
A data-capable cellular telephone network is a cellular digital packet data network that communicates either using a transmission control protocol TCP or a user datagram protocol UDP. Network translator transfers data between the two-way data communication device and the selected computer network after translator validates the communication path and may encrypt the message transferred to the computer network.
Network translator accumulates transaction and billing information for communication between the two-way data communication device and the selected computer network. For example, the network translator may control access for paying services, log traffic records for billing purposes, and supply a user directory service. As an alternative embodiment of accumulating transaction and billing information for verification and expiry of a plurality of electronic coupons, coupon verification is achieved by means of the users pushing a button on their mobile device, including but not limited to camera phones, laptop or tablet computers, mobile phones, personal digital assistants, smart phones, and cellular telephones, to present said plurality of electronic coupons, which actuates a program in the native application software on the mobile device with interaction with an Internet based computer server that performs a check sum digit calculation, field length verification, date and quantity check.
If the tests are passed, as an alternative embodiment, the coupon becomes visible for scanning into the point of sales POS terminal by cashier. The cellular telephone includes circuitry and software that perform voice and data communication operations and modules for operation on network The cellular telephone interacts with a server that includes a processor, storage, and applications software for executing applications on two-way communication devices such as the cellular telephone A client process executes on a processor, such as a microcontroller, within digital cellular telephone The client process communicates with server over a two-way data communication network, for example a cellular digital packet data CDPD network For a two-way communication device that is a pager, two-way data communication networks include PACT, or other priority two-way paging networks with data transport capability.
The digital cellular telephone communicates with a server application on server using telephone interaction description language PIDL and terminal interaction language TIL information formats.
TIL facilitates parsing on the two-way data communication device, reducing memory requirements. Data types are compressed for optimal transfer over the two-way data communication network. For example, verbs in PIDL are compressed using a binary tokenization. Graphics are compressed using run-length-limited compression. Text is compressed using conventional text compression methods. An operation is a related set of actions that are combined in a sequence so that no delay is incurred between actions. The server stores applications in PIDL language and generates PIDL language modules in response to information or selections made by the cellular telephone TIL is configured so that data can be stored unaltered in memory of cellular telephone and referenced directly with little or no parsing.
Interactions with a cellular telephone user is directed by information from the user to activate applications that are stored in a server. The user retrieves TIL data stored in a memory of cellular telephone after receiving the data from server over a CDPD network The user reviews the information in the TIL data and selects options or requests further information based on coupon of the information and the interaction desired by the user. The cellular telephone receives data from the server and displays a first screen of information on a display screen Screen information typically includes text, an image, or a combination of image and text.
The user can respond to the screen, typically by actuating a NEXT key to view the next screen. The user can return to a previous screen by actuating a PREV key, enabling the user to navigate through the screens. While a screen is presented, the user can actuate a scroll key or scroll keys to move the portion of the screen display up and down. Other formatting configurations may be utilized for navigating through informational screens. More desirably, such a coupon redemption system is controlled by an independent third party to directly handle coupon validation, verification and redemption.
Even more desirably, such a coupon redemption system and method can be readily integrated into retailers' existing POS systems, including self-checkout systems, for a relatively modest cost. Most desirably, such a coupon redemption system and method provides a verifiable coupon redemption audit trail. The present invention satisfies these needs. The present invention comprises a universal coupon redemption system and method for redeeming both paper and electronic coupons that incorporates the ability to audit each coupon redemption record processed for payment.
The system and method of the present invention addresses the two major origins of fraud in prior art coupon redemption systems: Moreover, the system and method of the present invention also advantageously addresses the increasingly complex identification of coupons by removing the encoded redemption requirements from the coupon by providing the ability to validate coupons based on the coupon issuer's registered coupon redemption requirement data. In the disclosed embodiment, the universal coupon redemption system and method of the present invention comprises a data center in which coupon information is managed and maintained for both for paper coupons and for electronic coupons.
The data center contains a central coupon registry where coupon issuers register their coupons. The CPA is used to verify and validate coupons presented for redemption. The verification and validation process for paper coupons involves the cashier scanning the coupon's barcode using the retailer's POS system. If there is a match, the CPA queries the list of products purchased to determine if the redemption requirements of the coupon have been met. If the coupon's redemption requirements have been met, the coupon is validated and the POS system is notified to issue a credit to the customer in the amount of the coupon as designated in the validation requirements.
The CPA then generates and retains a copy of the coupon redemption transaction. The cashier then places the redeemed coupon in the cash drawer for further processing. If the presented coupon is not on file in the local copy of the coupon registry database, or if the coupon's validation requirements are not met, the POS system generates a message on the cash register display advising the cashier and customer the reason why the coupon was not verified or validated. Validated paper coupon redemption transactions are held in abeyance until the paper coupons from the cash drawer are matched to coupon transactions and shredded by a coupon shredder that is a built in to the CPA.
As coupons are matched and shredded, the matched coupon redemption transactions are transmitted by the coupon redemption system to the data center for payment processing. Validation of electronic coupons is accomplished in an identical manner; however, electronic coupons are presented to the retailer as prescribed by the electronic coupon distribution vendor. In one embodiment of the universal coupon redemption system and method of the present invention, paper and electronic coupons may be identified in the coupon registry database using simple numeric equivalents of the coupons' GS1 DataBar.
In this manner, the GS1 DataBar numeric equivalent may be used to verify, validate and redeem paper and electronic coupons. By taking advantage of the numeric equivalent of the GS1 DataBar barcode, coupon validation may be simplified. Moreover, by relying on the numeric equivalent of the GS1 DataBar barcode, a paper or electronic coupon may be identified only by a simple numeric code that generally will not exceed 18 digits and, in most cases, will be only digits.
Preferably, this is accomplished by creating a numeric equivalent based only on the manufacturer's ID and the manufacturer's coupon issue number. Because the manufacturer's ID and the manufacturer's coupon issue number comprise the least amount of identifying data necessary to uniquely identify a coupon, relying on this minimum amount of information greatly simplifies use of the otherwise increasingly complex GS1 DataBar barcode.
In this manner, the only encoded identifying data that needs to appear on the face of the coupon is the manufacturer's ID and the manufacturer's coupon issue number. This greatly simplifies the complexity of the GS1 DataBar barcode that appears on the coupon and saves valuable space on the face of the coupon. As will be apparent to those skilled in the art, there are numerous additional advantages of the coupon redemption system and method of the present invention.
First, the coupon redemption system and method of the present invention provides transparency of coupon redemption transactions by recording an audit trail for each coupon redemption transaction and reporting the applicable coupon redemption transactions including their audit trails to both manufacturers and retailers. Another advantage of the present coupon redemption system and method is the elimination of shipment of paper coupons to clearinghouses and other outside operations, thereby saving costs.
Shipment of paper coupons can be eliminated because the coupon redemption system and method of the present invention captures and reports the source of the coupon transaction, as discussed above. Moreover, in the case of a paper coupon, the redeemed paper coupon is destroyed before the coupon redemption transaction is released to the manufacturer for reimbursement to the retailer.
This provides an additional level of security and fraud protection. The benefits and advantages of the present invention will become more readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the relevant art after reviewing the following detailed description and accompanying drawings, wherein:.
While the present invention is susceptible of embodiment in various forms, there are shown in the drawings and will hereinafter be described a preferred embodiment with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered an exemplification of the invention and is not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiments illustrated. The universal coupon redemption system and method of the present invention is a comprehensive solution to the myriad problems that plague the redemption of coupons today in the retail market place. The system and method of the present invention solves both of these problems.
As shown generally in FIGS. Such servers generally are known to those skilled in the art and may be specially programmed to allow for the method of the present invention to be performed by the server in communication with manufacturer computing devices and retailer coupon processing appliances over the network The server preferably is a network-capable server and typically includes a microprocessor, memory, a network interface, a keyboard and a monitor, again as known to those skilled in the art. Additionally, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the system and method 1 of the present invention may comprise a plurality of servers and numerous manufacturer computing devices and retailer coupon processing appliances as may be necessary to adequately handle a desired number of manufacturers and retailers as may use the system and method 1.
The server preferably is configured to store an operating system, such as Windows NT Server, Mac OS X, UNIX or similar network-aware operating system, as well as application software that enables the server to execute the steps of the universal coupon redemption method 1 of the present invention, which preferably is programmed as software instructions stored on the server To that end, the application software may include an internet Web server, such as the Apache Web server or Microsoft IIS; an interpreter, real-time compiler, or libraries allowing execution of programs in a known computing language, such as Perl or Visual Basic; and, a database engine, such as Microsoft SQL Server, or Oracle.
Moreover, in the preferred embodiment of the universal coupon redemption system and method 1 of the present invention, the application software residing on the server is compiled using a software product to encrypt the application software, wrapping a protective layer around the software. In the preferred embodiment of the system and method 1 of the present invention, such software product comprises CodeArmor, commercially available from V. Encrypting the application software advantageously results in an executable application software program that is protected against reverse engineering, malicious attack or modification.
Additionally, as further described below, the server preferably comprises a database configured to store data about the participating manufacturers' coupons. The database may be a relational database, or any other suitable type of database as is known in the art. As will be further appreciated by those skilled in the art, the memory of the server may include any suitable combination of random access memory, read-only memory, disk storage memory or the like as is known to those skilled in the art. Such computing devices are generally known to those skilled in the art.
It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that such browser should be capable of interpreting and executing program instructions downloaded from the network and from the server Registration of a coupon consists of the coupon issuer the manufacturer or an agent for the manufacturer accessing the data center using their manufacturer computing devices to access a password-protected website used to register their coupons. Registration data for a coupon includes the purchase requirements associated with the coupon and used to validate the coupon during redemption.
Thus, the coupon registry is a comprehensive database of coupon offers from all manufacturers using the universal coupon redemption system and method 1 of the present invention. The records within this coupon registry database contain all of the necessary information required to ensure that each coupon redeemed at a participating retailer's store has been verified as authentic and that all of the coupon's redemption requirements have been validated when the coupon is presented for redemption. Preferably, the registry is stored electronically in the data center as noted above.
The master registry as stored in the data center is refreshed on an as-needed basis and an updated copy of the registry is downloaded from the data center to each retailer's CPA as a daily scheduled activity. The local CPA copy of the registry is refreshed at the retailer level to keep it current with coupon issues that are added to or deleted from the master registry The local CPA copy of the registry is updated by the CPA accessing the data center on which the master registry is stored through the retailer's network interface device which may be a network switch which accesses the data center through computer data network As further shown in FIGS.
The CPA is used to verify and validate coupons presented for redemption using the system and method of the present invention, as further discussed below. Broadly speaking, and as further described in detail below and shown in FIGS. Once all products have been scanned, the POS system communicates the coupon barcode data and the list of items purchased to the CPA The CPA then compares the coupon's barcode data against the local copy of the coupon registry database stored in the CPA If the coupon's redemption requirements have been met, the coupon is validated and the CPA instructs the POS system to issue a credit to the customer in the amount of the coupon as designated in the validation requirements in the coupon registry database The CPA then generates and retains a copy of the coupon redemption transaction, and the cashier places the redeemed coupon in the cash drawer for further processing.
If the presented coupon is not on file in the local copy of the coupon registry database , or if the coupon's validation requirements are not met, CPA instructs the POS system to generate a message on the cash register display of the POS terminal advising the cashier and customer of the reason why the coupon was not verified or validated. Validated paper coupon redemption transactions are held in abeyance until the paper coupons from the cash drawer are matched to the coupon transactions and shredded by a coupon shredder built in to the CPA As coupons are matched and shredded, the matched coupon redemption transactions are transmitted by the CPA to the data center for payment processing.
Validation of electronic coupons is accomplished in an identical manner; however, electronic coupons are presented to the retailer as prescribed by the electronic coupon distribution vendor, and validated electronic coupon transactions transmitted by the CPA to the data center for payment processing under the same conditions as paper coupons. The universal coupon redemption system and method 1 of the present invention provides, in the preferred embodiment, for weekly payment processing for paper and electronic coupons redeemed Sunday through Saturday.
On the following Monday, the coupon redemption system and method 1 sends participating manufacturers and retailers a summary statement or report of coupons redeemed along with the supporting coupon redemption transaction records. In the preferred embodiment, an independent third party bank account is maintained for processing payments to maintain the neutrality of the system. Manufacturers' payments into the account preferably occur on Wednesdays, while payments to retailers from the account preferably occur on Fridays.
However, those skilled in the art will recognize that the precise payment dates may vary without departing from the scope of the instant disclosure. The preceding broad description of the operation of the universal coupon redemption system and method 1 of the present invention is summarized in simplified form as shown in FIG. At step 2 , the manufacturer registers the coupon with the system and method 1 of the present invention where the coupon and its redemption requirements are stored at step 3 in the master registry of the data center At step 4 , the coupon data is downloaded to the CPA and stored at step 5 as a part of the local copy of the registry on the CPA At step 6 , a customer presents the coupon to a cashier during a product purchase transaction.
The CPA validates and verifies the coupon by confirming that the coupon is in the registry and that all of the coupon's redemption requirements have been met and, if so, instructs the POS system to issue the appropriate credit to the customer. Once the physical redeemed coupon is scanned and shredded by the CPA , the CPA sends the record of the redemption transaction at step 9 to the data center so that the manufacturer can reimburse the retailer.
While the foregoing provides a broad, general overview of the universal coupon redemption system and method 1 of the present invention, the following provides further detail regarding additional components of the system and offers more specific operational details. As shown in FIG. The system and method 1 begin with a new product purchase transaction at step During a product purchase transaction the retailer's cashier scans the products being purchased during the transaction at step Once all of the products have been scanned, the retailer's cashier then scans the coupons presented by the customer at step If no coupons are presented by the customer, the purchase transaction is cashed out at step and the purchase transaction is completed at step However, if coupons are presented by the customer at step , the coupons are scanned by the POS terminal and the scanned coupon data is transmitted to the POS controller through the retailer's network interface device At step , the POS controller communicates the coupon data to the CPA , again through the retailer's network interface device Once the coupon data is sent to the CPA at step , the CPA validates and verifies the coupon as further described below at step However, if the coupon is valid, the CPA then checks at step to see whether the coupon previously has been redeemed during the purchase transaction a duplicate coupon.
However, if the coupon is not a duplicate, the CPA then verifies the coupon at step to confirm whether the coupon's purchase requirements have been met as further described below. However, if coupon's purchase requirements have been met that is, the coupon is verified , the CPA then communicates with the POS controller at step and instructs the POS controller to issue a credit for the value of the coupon.
The CPA then adds the coupon redemption transaction record to the day's activity log for later processing at step as further described below. Once all coupons have been processed in the manner discussed above, the product purchase transaction is cashed out at step and the completed at step In the preferred embodiment of the universal coupon redemption system and method 1 of the present invention, the basic coupon redemption rules are as follows: The coupon validation and verification processes described herein follow the preceding coupon redemption rules.
However, those skilled in the art will recognize that the coupon redemption rules may be varied without departing from the scope of the instant invention, and all such variations are included within the scope of the present disclosure. As discussed above, coupon validation and verification described generally at steps , and , above involves confirming that the coupon is registered in the registry , confirming that the coupon has not already been redeemed during the purchase transaction and confirming the all of the coupon's purchase requirements for redemption have been met.
These steps are shown and described in further detail in FIGS. In the preferred embodiment of the universal coupon redemption system and method 1 of the present invention, coupon verification processing step begins when the first coupon presented for redemption by the customer is scanned by the retailer's POS system during a product purchase transaction at step in FIG. The TLOG, as known to those skilled in the art, is a summary of all products presented for purchase during a product purchase transaction.
At step , the CPA compares the coupon's barcode data with the local copy of the registry stored on the CPA to confirm that the coupon is registered and, if so, the CPA retrieves and assembles all of the coupon's redemption requirements as retrieved from the local copy of the registry at step At step , the CPA then scans the current product purchase transaction's TLOG as communicated to the CPA by the POS system to ensure that the required product s have been purchased by looking for matching product information at step If no match is found, the coupon is rejected at step and the coupon verification process for the coupon is completed.
If a match is found, then the CPA deems the coupon to be redeemable at step and then continues the verification process by confirming whether the coupon's redemption requirements have been met at step as shown in further detail in FIG. If the redemption requirements for the coupon have been met, the CPA communicates the coupon's redemption value, as retrieved from the coupon's record stored in the local copy of the registry , to the POS system with instructions to apply the value of the coupon to the product purchase transaction's total as an adjustment.
At step the CPA also marks or flags the coupon as having being used during the particular product purchase transaction so that the same coupon cannot be reused during the same product purchase transaction. At this point, the coupon verification processing is complete step for the coupon, and the preceding coupon verification process is repeated for each coupon submitted by the customer. At the end of the product purchase transaction, the TLOG data is saved by the CPA to be later sent to the data center once the surrendered coupons have been destroyed by the CPA , as further described below.
As discussed above, one part of coupon verification process involves confirming whether the coupon's redemption requirements have been met at step This process is shown in further detail in FIG.
- Efficient Coupon Redemption.
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This process begins at step with the CPA identifying the coupon from the coupon's bar code as communicated by the POS system, as discussed above and retrieving the coupon's product quantity purchase requirements step and product or item purchase requirements the UPC, or universal product code of the product to which the coupon applies at step from the local copy of the registry stored on the CPA At step , the CPA next scans the TLOG for the product purchase transaction to confirm that the correct product or item has been purchased during the product purchase transaction by looking for the appropriate UPC code.
If the coupon's product or item purchase requirements have not been met that is, the correct product was not purchased during the product purchase transaction , the CPA communicates with the POS controller at step and instructs the controller to display a coupon redemption failure message through the POS terminal the display on the cash register and the coupon is not processed further and is not redeemed. If the coupon's product or item purchase requires have been met that is, the correct product was purchased during the product purchase transaction , the CPA then scans the TLOG to confirm that the product was purchased in the correct quantity as required by the coupon's redemption requirements at step If the coupon's product or item quantity purchase requirements have not been met that is, the correct number of products were not purchased during the product purchase transaction , the CPA communicates with the POS controller at step and instructs the controller to display a coupon redemption failure message through the POS terminal the display on the cash register and the coupon is not processed further and is not redeemed.
If the coupon's product or item quantity purchase requirements have been met that is, the correct quantity of products were purchased during the product purchase transaction , the CPA then confirms whether the coupon's redemption requirements require that a second product be purchased at step If coupon's redemption requirement require the purchase of a second product, then steps through are repeated for the second product at steps through the same manner as discussed above.
If so, at step the CPA next scans the TLOG for the product purchase transaction to confirm that the correct free product or free item has been purchased during the product purchase transaction by looking for the appropriate UPC code. If the correct free product or free item was not purchased during the product purchase transaction, the CPA communicates with the POS controller at step and instructs the controller to display a coupon redemption failure message through the POS terminal the display on the cash register and the coupon is not processed further and is not redeemed.
If the correct free product or free item was purchased during the product purchase transaction or if the coupon provided only for a monetary discount when redeemed, then the CPA communicates with the POS controller at step and instructs the POS system to issue a credit against the total price of the product purchase transaction in the amount called for by the coupon or in the amount of the free product or free item.
The above process is repeated at step for all coupons presented for redemption during the product purchase transaction. As discussed above, the CPA retains copies of all TLOG data until the physical coupons that were surrendered for redemption during the product purchase transaction are destroyed by the CPA Only after destruction of the coupons does the CPA communicate to the data center that the coupons have been properly redeemed and instruct the data center to invoice the product manufacturer for reimbursement of the coupons to the retailers.
This ensures that: This process is shown in FIG. All paper coupons validated using the universal coupon redemption system and method 1 of the present invention must be destroyed by the CPA before the retailer will receive reimbursement for the coupons from the manufacturers. Electronic digital coupons are immediately sent to the data center by the CPA for processing once they have been validated and the product purchase transaction session has been concluded as described above and shown in FIGS. To verify the paper coupon redemption transactions, the paper coupons surrendered by customers during the product purchase transactions are collected from the cash drawers preferably at a regular interval, such as on a daily basis and delivered to the CPA Typically the CPA is located in a back room or other administrative office at the retailer's facility and, preferably, the CPA is operated by the retailer's authorized personnel or, in some embodiments of the system and method 1 of the present invention, by authorized representatives of the operator of the data center As further discussed in detail below, the CPA is a device that includes, among other components, a barcode scanner and a shredder or other means to permanently destroy paper coupons.
At step , the coupon's barcode is decoded by the CPA and the decoded data is compared against the TLOG files for all of the product purchase transactions that previously were stored on the CPA as discussed above. If the coupon is located in a product purchase transaction TLOG file, and the coupon is not marked or flagged as having been previously verified or processed and destroyed by the CPA , the coupon is destroyed by the CPA In the preferred embodiment, this occurs by shredding the coupon as further discussed below.
Upon confirmation that the coupon has been successfully destroyed, at step the CPA marks or flags the coupon as having been verified or processed and destroyed by the CPA and the CPA the communicates with the data center at step and sends data regarding the coupon redemption transaction to the data center for further processing invoicing the manufacturer for reimbursement to the retailer and the data associated with that coupon redemption is purged from the internal data file of the CPA Such rejected coupons are not communicated to the data center for further processing.
The preceding process is repeated for all paper coupons collected from the cash drawers until no more coupons remain. This process preferably occurs on a regular basis, such as daily, but may be repeated more or less frequently, as desired, without departing from the scope of the present disclosure. It is possible for coupons that have been successfully validated and stored in the CPA's internal data file to become orphaned. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, a coupon record will be deemed orphaned if the physical coupon is not processed by the CPA within three days following the expiration date and it will be purged from the system.
However, as those skilled in the art will recognize, this time may be varied without departing from the scope of the instant disclosure. As discussed above, the CPA preferably is located at each participating retailer's facility.
About Universal Marketing Services
The coupon shredder assembly essentially is a specialized paper shredder designed to destroy redeemed coupons up to a size of 3 inches wide and 6 inches long, in the preferred embodiment of the system and method 1 of the present invention. Those skilled in the art will recognize that other maximum coupon sizes are possible without departing from the scope of the instant invention, and the CPA and coupon shredder assembly may be scaled, if necessary, to accommodate different sized coupons. The CPA controller board preferably is a microprocessor-based board configured to support the Linux operating system in the preferred embodiment.