Google proposes ad-linked free taxi service to bring shoppers to physical stores

27 Jan 2014


In the backdrop of mobile and e-commerce giving a tough time to physical stores, a new Google patent proposes ad-supported free taxi rides for commuters to shop at brick and mortar stores - a move that may help them to compete with online retailers.

Google proposes ad-linked free taxi service to bring shoppers to physical storesThe internet company's ad foray could see  potential business customers being whisked to the point of sale via taxi following the US Patent and Trademark office award of a patent for an ad-based taxi service.

According to commentators, an algorithm tracking where people were and what they were looking to purchase, coupled with whether it was cost effective to add the cost of a taxi fare to the business premises, spelt a huge leap forward in digital marketing.

According to the patent, "The invention involves automatically comparing the cost of transportation and the potential profit from a completed transaction using a number of real-time calculations.

"For example, the calculation may consider various factors including a consumer's current location, the consumer's most likely route and form of transportation (such as train, personal car, taxi, rental car, or shared vehicle), the consumer's daily agenda, the price competing advertisers are willing to pay for the customer to be delivered to alternate locations, and other costs.

"In this regard, the customer's obstacles to entering a business location are reduced while routing and cost calculations are automatically handled based on the demand for the advertiser's goods and potential profit margins."

The are limits to the proposal, though, says CNET; if a person was searching for a car to buy then a free trip to the showroom would be a viable proposition, but a free lift to buy dental floss would not be viable.

The transport-linked ad service could encourage consumers to respond more often to location-based special offers, experts say.

Gregory Roekens, chief technology officer at advertising company AMV BBDO, told the BBC, "This is trying to turn advertising into a utility and remove barriers for consumers. It's a really interesting idea.''

Advertisers would mine databases recording people's habits, likes and preferences for ads to be targeted at the right people.

Combining the data with location data gleaned from wi-fi, cellular and GPS tracking would allow businesses to tailor their ads and special offers based on where people were, the time of day and their schedules.

According to Google, the addition of cheap travel to the locations would be the icing on the cake.

August saw the venture capital arm of Google invest $258 million in Uber, a San Francisco-based car hire network.

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