FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to an interactive event coordination method which enables event organizers to integrate all event-related activities, including contracting for services to be performed at the event and gifts to be received in connection with the event, into a single revenue management system.
More particularly, the present invention relates to an interactive registry system, such as a bridal registry system, which creates an on-line marketplace concept matching buyers and sellers while providing incentives to both parties for using the registry system.
The present invention in addition relates to a method for an event organizer to arrange the receipt of gifts for the event and services rendered in conjunction with the event.
The present invention also relates to an event planning method and system involving the use of knowledge templates that greatly simplifies the processes of event planning and service ordering.
The present invention relates as well to an event planning method and system constituting an information catalyst that transforms data into new and more effective formats.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Although the invention described below is useful for any type of event, it would be particularly useful in connection with a wedding. Therefore, background of the manner in which gifts are given to a wedding couple through the use of a bridal registry system will initially be described.
In a traditional registry system such as a bridal registry system, the bride and groom ‘register’ or sign up with a specific retailer, for example, a chinaware vendor or multi-purpose retailer, and then the couples select which items the retailer carries that they are potentially interested in receiving. Such a traditional registry system is set forth as a flow chart in FIG. 2A. In step 2, the event organizer, the bride and groom, register with one or more retailers and choose the items for a list. The couple then notifies their guests of their selected retailer(s) (step 4). Guests are then urged to visit the retailers and purchase their gifts for the bride and groom at these retailers (step 6) for two reasons: 1) to ensure that their gift is what the bride and groom need and desire, and 2) to ensure there are no gift duplicates, e.g., five guests who all bring toasters. Additionally, some retailers offer discounts if the value of the purchased products exceeds a certain amount. Once the event has passed, the event organizer visits the retailer(s) to collect the items purchased by the guests (step 8).
There are several problems inherent with this traditional registry system. First, the traditional registry locks the bride, groom and guests into a very limited range of gifts, as they must all be chosen from only the selection of the specific retailer(s). Second, the bride, groom and guests are also forced to pay whatever prices are stipulated by the retailer and cannot comparison-shop or ‘shop around’ to find the best price or value for the item they require. It is often the case that one retailer has certain goods at a lower price than another retailer but other goods are at a higher price and thus, the bride and groom, assuming they want the item and did not want to register at numerous retailers, would be compelled to place the item on the registry list in spite of the higher price. If they do find a better price at another retailer and purchase the gift at that other retailer, then the bride and groom may end up with two of the same gifts, i.e., someone else may purchase the same gift via the bridal registry. Third, the guest may not like the selection of the remaining gifts left for them to ‘give’ (or the cost of the remaining gifts), and yet there are no other obvious options. From the perspective of retailers, only one retailer, usually an expensive and established brand name with an established presence in the bridal registry market, will receive the revenue for the entire wedding's gift purchases, denying the market opportunity for smaller retailers, niche retailers, discount retailers or regional retailers
The online wedding marketplace also has yet to reach its true potential in terms of sales and branding. For example, in a recent article by Cate Corcoran called “The Bride Wore Swag”, Corcoran notes that the upscale retailer Williams-Sonoma has almost doubled their total registry sales within the first six months' of launching their website. Their e-commerce division, which totals forty people and in other industries normally takes years to turn a profit, expects to turn a profit by the end of the first year. Although Williams-Sonoma's online registry follows a traditional registry format, the as-yet nascent potential of online wedding sales is aptly demonstrated through their sites' early success.
Arranging for gifts is an important part of the event. However, more important, is arranging the services to be performed at the event, e.g., the entertainment, and the goods to be delivered in connection with the event, e.g., the food and flowers. There is much room for improvement in the manner in which an event such as a wedding is financed.
At present, there is a total lack of integrated financial planning options in the current event planning and wedding planning markets. The domain of e-commerce is the perfect arena for such a marketplace to function because it can contain unlimited resources of information, options and opportunities. The Internet also offers efficiency and ease in organizing and coordinating the potentially very complex and multifaceted event planning and financing process.
Typical lists for wedding financing are quite complex. Consider a typical list, set forth in FIGS. 1A and 1B.
It would be desirable to attempt to automate the process of allocating, distributing and paying for the various items listed in FIGS. 1A and 1B thereby leaving the bride and groom and their respective family and friends with more time and energy available for things more important than worrying about who exactly pays for what at any given time.
Traditionally, in preparation for an event such as a wedding, often as early as one or two years in advance of the “big day”, the bride and/or groom create an wedding plan, describing their wedding location (for example, a beach wedding or a hotel-based wedding) as well as their budget. Their preliminary “Event Plan” is finished with a preliminary choice for the location, budget and other important details regarding their wedding. Such a traditional event planning system is set forth as a flow chart in FIG. 2B. In step 10, the event organizer, the bride and groom, create their event plan, i.e., a list of desires for the event vis-a-vis entertainment, food, location, timing, etc. The couple then searches for vendors who are able to bring their plan to reality (step 12). The couple interviews the potential vendors in order to find the best fit between their plans and the vendors' capabilities (step 14). The couple then usually selects finalists for closer scrutiny. Finally, vendors are selected (step 16) and a contract is negotiated (step 18), signed and a deposit is paid (step 20). Once the event has passed, the event organizer pays any remaining obligation to the each vendor (step 22), it being assumed that a down-payment is usually made to the vendor in advance of the event.
There are several problems with this type of event payment system. First, the traditional planning and payment method requires the bride and groom as well as their respective family members and guests to keep track of a wide range of intricate payment obligations as indicated in FIGS. 1A and 1B. This makes payments for events in general, and weddings in particular, subject to potential complications as well as possible conflict. The system as currently implemented does not offer event planners a systematic way to organize and collect payments and gifts, nor does it allow for new sources of revenue. Furthermore, the current system offers both event planners as well as vendors few informal options of recourse when obligations are not fully met (aside from proceeding with expensive and time consuming legal procedures.)
The event or service planning method and system is an invention in the arena of business methods or processes as applied to the realm of e-commerce, or Internet commerce.
As yet, there is a total lack of integrated event planning options in the current event planning and wedding planning markets. The currently available services seem to transfer highly inefficient offline or “real world” planning processes and translate them to an equally inefficient online version. The domain of e-commerce is the perfect arena for such a marketplace to function because it can contain unlimited resources of information, options and opportunities.
The Internet offers efficiency and ease in organizing and coordinating potentially highly complex and multifaceted event planning processes. For example, the potential efficiencies of e-commerce may be obtained by uniting all event planning processes and vendors into an integrated vertical supply chain. This arrangement would more fully utilize the potential of the Internet for this sector by combining the many vendors and services into one event planning “supermarket.” This has not yet happened. As discussed in detail below, it is the intent of the present invention to facilitate and catalyze such an opportunity.
Among the advantages of computers and the Internet is the quality of perfect memory. Unlike most humans, computers have perfect recall. Humans, on the other hand, have the ability to generate useful information regarding personal events that computers, even supercomputers, remain incapable of. So while properly programmed computers can generate interesting as well as useful economic or weather models, for example, humans are still much more adept at planning events like a perfect wedding, a beautiful home renovation an ideal vacation, or other service options tailor made to suit their own individual lifestyles.
Similarly, in businesses or other organizations where individuals process information or knowledge as part of their job, the information that they gather is typically collected from multiple sources and further processed in order to generate value for the organization. Much effort is required to insure that when the knowledge that these individuals have acquired is fully utilized within the organization. Otherwise, when they leave the organization, much of their carefully acquired information is lost.
The information and knowledge requirements that hold true for a business or other organization hold true for society at large as well. Individuals spend much time and effort in planning and executing events, yet much of the knowledge that is accumulated in the course of preparing for those events are lost once the event is over. Moreover, providing incentives to individuals or institutions to share information with others is also important. Existing systems for collecting and managing event related information are inadequate because they do not provide for effective submitting, accessing, updating, evaluating, and rewarding processes associated with event related information and knowledge.
Much of the time, effort and intense planning that goes into planning unique events and operations such as weddings, affairs, parties, vacations, renovations, marketing, advertising campaigns, and other complex human activities are lost since little or no effort is made to capture that information and knowledge for use by others outside their immediate company or organization. Each event may treated as a unique and custom occurrence, never to be replicated again, when in fact, much of the same time and effort to perform the same or similar activity is often needlessly replicated over and over again.
According to the present invention the disadvantages and problems associated with managing event related information and knowledge have been substantially reduced or eliminated. This is accomplished, in part, by the design of a novel digital tool.
Today's Internet pioneers have created a wide array of business designs from just a few digital tools. Each individual tool may be described as a general purpose strategic subsystem, or alternatively, as a “bit engine.” Just as machine tools shape and hone metal bit engines shape and home real-time data. Bit engines expand relationships and create value for customers, suppliers, employees and shareholders.
Among the major types of bit and engines currently in use are, customer productivity engines, e-learning engines, community engines, Internet marketplace agents, recommendation engines, and choiceboards.
Customer productivity engines connect customers to a company's IT applications. Productivity engines, however, often require significant customer sophistication and commitment. Therefore the customer productivity engine generally suits firms that sell high-ticket items to businesses or upscale consumers.
E-learning and engines provide online technical training and get customers quickly up to speed on a company's new products and technologies. Cisco's E-learning Center, which offers a virtual classrooms and on-line libraries, is among the most successful in this category.
Community engines that organize open-ended on-line conversations are among the most dynaimic of these basic bit engines. Discussion threads are the prime example of its use in business applications. A discussion thread begins when a user poses a question on a specific technical or business issue and the engine records further conversations as other users respond with solutions and advice.
Internet marketplace agents are bit engines that firms utilize in on-line business-to-business marketplaces and exchanges. Web based markets, such as Chemdex and Plastic-net allow firms to reach more customers a strike better deals. A company would use the marketplace agent to conduct business on these exchanges.
Recommendation engines help customers choose from a variety of existing products and services. GE Plastics, for example, uses a recommendation and to guide manufacturers to the expanding array of products the company and its partners develop. Amazon.com's engine uses reviews by other customers to generate fresh book recommendations.
Choiceboards are best illustrated by Dell's classic “configurator” and may be the most important bit engine to appear on the Web thus far. Choiceboards allow firms to slash inventory and other operating costs while offering customers products that match what they want more precisely. Customer orders set in motion the wheels of procurement, assembly and delivery. Choiceboards also provide realtime high-quality data on customer tastes and behavior that is critical in fast-moving industries. Choiceboards work best for products made from modular components that delivered to smart, flexible supply chain systems. The engine also requires sufficient customer knowledge of the product. Therefore, while choiceboards would seem useful to great many businesses, they would not be a good way to buy many services such event planning.
As discussed in detail below, the service planning method and system as applied to event planning, takes the concepts of recommendation engines and choiceboards and applies them in a new and non-obvious way to the realm of event planning.
In addition, the service planning method and system as applied to the searching for and acquiring of e-services (such as an electronic home or “e-home” services), takes the concepts of recommendation engines and choiceboards and applies them in a new and non-obvious way to the realm of electronic services planning, thereby taking advantage of a key computer quality.
Among the advantages of computers and the Internet is the quality of perfect memory. Unlike most humans, computers have perfect recall. Humans, on the other hand, have the ability to generate useful information regarding personal events that computers, even supercomputers, remain incapable of. So while properly programmed computers can generate interesting as well as useful economic or weather models, for example, humans are still much more adept at planning events like a perfect wedding, a beautiful home renovation an ideal vacation, or other service options tailor made to suit their own individual lifestyles.
In order to understand how the invention functions in a unique manner, it is important to understand how the traditional event planning process works, for example, in the context of a wedding.
FIG. 14 demonstrates a flow chart of a traditional wedding planning process.
Traditionally, tasks are broken down into the goal setting stage (step 310) in which basic questions are asked regarding the type of wedding desired. Once basic questions have been answered in step 10 the process proceeds to the early planning stage (step 312) in which basic style, location, approximate date and time, types of wedding, and wedding budget are formulated. Subsequent steps may occur at approximately 4 months prior (step 314), 3 months prior (step 316), 2 months prior (step 318), 1 months prior (step 320), 3 weeks prior (step 322), 2 weeks prior (step 324), 1 weeks prior (step 326), and last minute preparations (step 328) with typical tasks associated with these times set forth in FIGS. 1C and 1D.
FIG. 15 shows a flow chart of the manner in which the event organizer plans and organizes an event with emphasis on the process of locating, selecting, negotiating with and paying vendors.
The event organizer creates an event plan (wedding) in accordance with her objectives (step 330). She must then search for appropriate vendors (step 332), interview potential vendors (step 334), select the best vendors that meet her needs (step 336), negotiate with each vendor to arrange for performance, pricing and payment requirements (step 338), sign contract(s) and pay a deposit to the vendor(s) (step 340), and, if all goes well, pay any remaining obligation to the vendor(s) (step 342).
There are several problems inherent with this planning system. First, the traditional planning and payment method requires the bride and groom as well as their respective family members and guests to keep track of a wide range of complex activities as indicated in FIGS. 1C, 1D and 16. This makes planning for events in general, and weddings in particular, subject to potential complications as well as possible conflict. The system as currently implemented does not offer event planners a systematic way to collect, organize and integrate planning information, nor does it allow them to copyright and resell event planning information as intellectual property.
Furthermore, the fragmented nature of the wedding creates huge inefficiencies and frustrations for both vendors and couples, because for each wedding, the process of vendor-solicitation must be recreated. Each wedding becomes custom made event in which couples negotiates with between ten and fifteen separate vendors, services and retailers for an average wedding. Meanwhile, vendors are constantly striving to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. With approximately 2.5 million weddings in the US each year, these processes of vendor negotiations and couple searching are re-enacted millions of times every year. This amounts to a lot of woman-years and private energy that would be reduced and reclaimed by the present invention.
OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is an object of the present invention to provide a new and improved registry system such as a bridal registry system which eliminates the problems discussed above.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a registry system which operates both as an improvement of the traditional online registry system and also an inversion of the traditional registry process.
It is yet another object of the present invention to provides a novel integrated event coordination system (a gift collection and bill payment system for an event) with unique revenue generating options that eliminates the problems discussed above and, in addition, offers the possibility of easy access to new revenue streams for the event planner.
Still another object of the present invention is to provide a revenue management system for an event which operates both as a novel means of collecting cash gifts, donations, admission fees and other income related to specific events as well as a unique venue for paying the bills that arise from the organizing and execution of specific events or parties.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a new and improved service planning method and system which simplifies the processes of service ordering and event planning.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a new and improved service planning method and system in which pre-planned events and services can be repeatedly used and optionally tailored to meet particular requirements of an event organizer or consumer.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a new and improved event planning method and system that simplifies the processes of event planning.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a new and improved event planning method and system in which pre-planned events can be repeatedly used and optionally tailored to meet particular requirements of an event organizer or consumer.
It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a new and improved event planning method and system in which events can be planned and considered property for the purpose of enabling the event planners to be compensated for planning of the event.
Briefly, the interactive registry system in accordance with the invention transforms the traditional bridal registry process into an online clearinghouse linking buyers (brides, grooms and guests) and sellers (bridal gift and service vendors) through a novel online marketplace concept that offers unique incentives to both parties. Unlike the constraints of a traditional registry where the gifts, the vendor and the donor are all expressly limited in the available options, the registry system in accordance with the invention allows for virtually unlimited diversity of gift items for brides and grooms, greater diversity of giving options for wedding guests, and the involvement of several competing vendors.
The interactive registry system in accordance with the invention is primarily an invention in the arena of business methods or processes as applied to the realm of e-commerce, or Internet commerce. The registry system works in the domain of e-commerce as a so-called ‘vertical marketplace’ or ‘cybermediary’, meaning that it links a variety of buyers and sellers in novel ways as the middleman within a specific market niche, in the case of a bridal registry, wedding gifts and services.
As yet, there is a total lack of wholesaling or discount merchandising options in the current wedding market, either in the domain of e-commerce or in the vein of traditional commerce. The domain of c-commerce is the perfect arena for such a marketplace to function because it contains virtually unlimited resources of information, a large variety of vendors, guests, clients and gifts, and great potential for creating and charting the requisite databases of registries and donors. The Internet also offers efficiency and ease in organizing and coordinating the potentially very complex and multifaceted intermediation process.
The interactive registry system in accordance with the invention offers unlimited options to all parties involved in, e.g., the wedding process: the bride and groom, the guests, and the vendors. The registry system involves the existence of a website which functions as a ‘cybermediary’ between all parties, negotiating the best terms for all involved.
The brides and grooms will benefit from unlimited choice in gifts, pricing and an economic rewards system, described below.
Guests will benefit from the unlimited gift choices and gift giving customization options, described below.
Vendors will benefit from increased volume of sales, ‘free’ advertising and a steady stream of new clients and revenue.
In order to achieve the objects above, an event planning method and system is proposed in accordance with the invention, also referred to herein as an “event planning engine” or “event engine.” The event engine allows event planners, in general, and brides and grooms, in particular, the ability to focus on the overall results desired in event planning without becoming entangled in the mechanics of searching for vendors and coordinating their various services in the hope of achieving a desirable outcome. In addition, the event engine allows for new forms of revenue generating services, such as allowing the event planner to copyright and sell event engine rights as well as to receive consulting fees regarding the proper use of their templates.
The event engine transforms the event planning process by creating an online database or datamart that collects, links and coordinates all event-related information needed to accurately and reliably reproduce the event again and again. By listing all event-related vendors, services, products, contracts and charges, another event planner can reproduce the same event over again at the same or similar cost without the need to recreate the entire exhausting event planning and creation process. Alternatively, the event engine is flexible enough to allow event planners to customize or tailor their event, without the need to re-plan and re-create the event from scratch.
Essentially, the event engine provides a means for novel and simplified event planning processes that allows for a wider range of planning flexibility as well as new income sources for event organizers.
Furthermore, the present invention provides a system and method for enabling an event planner to possibly obtain, by means of a copyright application, ownership of the intellectual property called an “event engine” or “knowledge template.” By constructing and copyrighting the event engine or knowledge template, the event organizer becomes a “knowledge template owner.” The knowledge template owner may subsequently re-package, re-market and re-sell goods and services that she has purchased for an event into new and useful forms suitable for purchase and use by others referred to herein as “knowledge template buyers.”
The system and method are implemented in part by software that runs on a central Web site, although the system could easily run just as well by software that runs on the knowledge template owner's computer and knowledge template buyer's computer utilizing a conventional peer-to-peer service.
Through this site, a consumer can peruse and browse knowledge templates in search of desired services and view those services in useful forms. The services can be classified by the type of event, the number of people expected for the event, the nature of the event, the theme of the event and/or the geographic location. In the case of a wedding, for example, the couple will not merely view the work of an individual caterer, band or dj (disc jockey). Rather, they will be able to view, in digital or analog form, the entire wedding. Thus, if a bride that wants a vegetarian, Scottish-style wedding for 150 guests within a 250 mile radius of her given zip code will be able to find, for example, the results of a sample knowledge template search indicated in FIG. 1E.
The results of individual service providers such as photographers and videographers will also be available for view if desired. The type of views will vary from event to event. For extremely popular events, streaming media webcasts or even cable broadcasts may be available.
The business method outlined in the invention is scaleable so that it can encompass new processes and potentialities. Such options include listing wedding services as well as consumer goods, allowing for direct cash donations and utilizing new or changing methods of vendor-shopping, be it through an online auction or an online personal shopper. All are described below.
When the interactive registry system is used as a bridal registry, it fulfills a specific need existing in the current wedding marketplace in a new and innovate way. The current wedding marketplace is highly fragmented. Some merchants are small family-owned businesses; others are large multinational chains. It is also often a very geographically regionalized marketplace. Hundreds of industries also converge during the wedding process. For example, in the U.S. alone, there are more than a half a million vendors that could be considered relevant to wedding planning in such industries as reception venues, florists, photography, musicians, transportation, printers and designers, jewelry, travel, hospitality, clothing, and more. This fragmentation of the industry by industry, vendor, region and a host of other factors has limited the existing options available to couples and limited the range of potential customers available to wedding vendors and retailers.
This fragmentation has also created huge inefficiencies and frustration for both vendors and couples, because for each wedding, the process of vendor-solicitation must be re-created. The average couple negotiates with between ten and fifteen separate vendors, services and retailers for an average wedding. Meanwhile, the average vendor is constantly striving to differentiate himself or herself in the marketplace to attract the next generation of wedding couples, as product and vendor loyalty is less relevant in a market that caters to once-in-a-lifetime events. With approximately 2.5 million weddings in the US each year, these processes of vendor hunting and couple searching are re-enacted several millions of times every year. This amounts to a lot of woman-years.
The bridal registry process in accordance with the invention provides a solution to these problems by effectively creating an online wedding marketplace that links all the various parties and offers a constantly updated catalog of all the potential transaction options to both the client and the vendor. This will give the bride and groom the maximum choice and value, the vendors a central source and framework in which to target new couples, and the guests the maximum flexibility in gift giving.
The bridal registry in accordance with the invention will function as both a directory listing service and a clearinghouse between the vendors, e.g., wedding product and service vendors, and the users, e.g., the bride, groom and guests.
From the Couple's Perspective
Through the interactive bridal registry system in accordance with the invention, potential items for a bride's registry will be ranked in specific categories such as according to the lowest currently advertised price, by brand name or by product popularity or, alternatively, by means of an online auction whereby the merchants compete to offer the couple the lowest price. Either way, the couple will have a virtually unlimited range of options for potential registry gifts and the guarantee of the lowest price on these items. Couples can also request cash donations, either open-ended or targeted to specific forthcoming expenses, e.g., for a mortgage on a new home or for the cost of renting the wedding hall or for honeymoon expenses.
The consumer products that couples specify as desired gifts can come from an almost unlimited number of individual vendors. The cybermediary or website will list the items by acting as an impartial wedding directory or listing service, but will ideally collect a commission from the selected final vendor in each category.
Through the bridal registry system, the couple will peruse the options available and make a tentative list of items desired, e.g., a toaster, a microwave, and a car. Depending on what they prefer, the couple can either be specific in their wish list, e.g., a Kitchenaid X-100 Model Multi-Blade Blender , or list in general terms, e.g., a blender. These specifications will then determine the scope of the later product bidding or price-comparison among the vendors.
The bridal registry system will also have links to copious sources of information and references for each potential gift or purchase. Links may be to other areas of the website, such as previous couples' feedback on their product or vendor purchases, or to other sources of information on the Internet, such as product or vendor web sites.
The couple's choices determine what listings become available to them and what options are open to the guests. For example, couples can bar non-wish-list related guest purchases if they so choose, or they can stipulate only cash contributions.
The couple then distributes the Internet address of the cybermediary to their guests. The guests then visit the cybermediary, obtain the data for the couple and purchase from the selected gift options as specified by the couple. However, the guests do not view the same information about the products being purchased in terms of price as the couple.
The couple will ideally receive an additional bonus through using the cybermediary. For example, the registry will credit a percentage commission of each purchase made through the registry to the couple. This commission is calculated to be a percentage of the difference between the advertised product price, or the price advertised to the guests purchasing the product, and the actual price of the item as solicited through the registry vendor-buyer intermediary process. This differential and the couple's commission are made possible because the registry always searches for or solicits the lowest prices in any given product line. This commission credit can then be used by the couple to purchase additional items as they choose through the registry process. The cybermediary will also ideally receive a commission from each purchase based on the same process.
In alternative embodiments of the invention, the bride and groom have access to three other methods for reducing their wedding costs. In one embodiment, the couple may opt to allow vendors to advertise their services either at their wedding or at the couples' registry and in turn receive monetary compensation or a discount on services rendered by the vendor in return for the advertising. In another embodiment, the registry will facilitate the sharing of wedding plans and desired services among registry users with the intent to allow shared access and payment obligations to the same service (and possible negotiations for a reduced cost). If, for example, two brides desire the same wedding hall or church or tent rental at different times on the same day, then the use and expense involved in the rental fees, decorating expenses and other fees may be shared. It is conceivable that two couples may even share a facility at the same time in order to obtain a level of service that they could not afford individually, as would occur in obtaining an exclusive wedding hall, or, alternatively, in order to save money. Another embodiment would allow vendors to modify the price of services or rentals, such as the fee for a wedding hall with time if it became apparent that demand for such usage was going up or down. In a case, for example, where no usage is anticipated a month prior to a given date, the vendor may allow significant discounts. This last embodiment would apply
The Revenue Management Systems (RMS), commonly utilized in the airline industry to optimize their revenue per flight to the wedding industry. RMS, applied to the wedding industry will result in potentially greater usage of resources for vendors as well as potentially increased savings for couples.
From the Guest's Perspective
Guests will first be notified by the couple of the Internet address of the interactive registry system. The guests will then view a customized couple ‘wish list’ and a listing of suggested retail prices for each item on the list that corresponds to the couple's customizations, stipulations and desires. The retail prices listed for the guest under the couple's consumer product ‘wish-list’ will correspond to the average advertised market prices for items in other, traditional bridal registries.
If a guest chooses to purchase one of these items, once an item in a specific gift category is purchased by the guests, such as a blender, that category listing is removed from future Registry listings for later guests. This ensures that there is no duplicate gift giving.
At the time of gift purchase through the registry system, i.e., the cybermediary, the guest must pay the amount of the gift in full. Alternatively, several guests may combine to purchase an expensive gift or service in which case each guest will pay their share of the amount in full. This amount is then held by the cybermediary to be divided between the vendor, the cybermediary, and the couple.
Guests also have additional options through the registry system. For example, they may choose to give something not on the list. The registry system will have recorded whether this item was already given or not, just as traditional registries do. If the item was never listed by the couple, then the Guest may search a modified view of the complete registry system product listings that are similar to what the couple views, but with the price information modified to include a suggested retail price. In this way, the registry system ensures that the couple will receive a commission off any item that any guest chooses through the registry process.
A guest may also simply specify a cash donation through the registry system, i.e., the cybermediary, which is credited to the couple's account in the same way as purchase commissions. These funds can be stipulated by the guest to be used only for specific purchases, or they can be open-ended. The couple may then shop accordingly through the registry system for the appropriate items using this cash donation. If the guest so stipulates, they can then be notified of exactly how their cash gift was utilized.
From the Vendor3 s Perspective
Couples will first post their gift preferences with the registry system, which will be organized into specific product categories e.g., toaster, blender, phone, etc. The specificity of the gift preferences will determine which vendors are able to compete for the product in question, i.e., whether a model number or brand name are specified for the product or not.
Vendors may compete through an auction process for each product listed on each couple's wish list. In the auction process, each vendor will post the lowest price they will be willing to accept for the product listed. If the category is vague, any product within the category listed will be acceptable for posting, but it will be up to the couple to determine which product they prefer from the products listed, even if the product they prefer in that category is listed at a higher price than another lower-priced product.
Alternately, the registry system may automatically price-shop among several vendors in any category through a computer comparison-shopping system called a ‘bot’. These bots are sometimes called ‘personal shoppers’, or ‘online shopping assistants’. They are computer programs that search the Internet for the product listed and the price listed using certain computer language protocols. In the case of the registry system, these bots can then create comparative lists for the couple of different retailers on the Internet that are all selling the same product.
Depending on the final revenue model of the cybermediary, the registry system's hot may only search selected retailers affiliated with the cybermediary, or it may search the entire Internet for each product listing. However, the registry intermediary process will remain impartial throughout. Vendor listings will always be free and open to as diverse a selection of vendors as is rational and feasible in each category. Certain vendors may be excluded from the registry system search if, for example, they have consistently delivered inferior products to past users of the registry system.
Once a final listing of a product's lowest price is found or is awarded through the auction process, as soon as a guest registers to buy that item, the vendor will receive a partial payment and the item will be held by the vendor until the wedding and shipped to the wedding couple. Upon receipt of the item by the couple, the cybermediary will release the remaining payment for the item to the vendor.
Alternatively, the vendor will be paid in accordance with a contract agreed upon by the registry and the vendor.
The reverse registry process always guarantees payment to the vendor because payment is already held by the cybermediary before the transaction with the vendor is completed. This makes using the registry system, despite lower vendor margins of sales, attractive to the vendors.
The event coordinated financing system in accordance with the invention transforms the money collection and spending process into an integrated on-line clearinghouse linking consumers of event related products and services (brides and grooms and event organizers), sellers of event related products and services (vendors) and revenue generators (gift givers, ticket buyers, Reverse Registry users, advertisers and others) through a novel online marketplace concept that offers unique incentives to all of the involved parties. In traditional collection and payment processes, cash gifts are collected and held in multiple locations and have no direct connection to the account used to pay the bills. This creates unnecessary complications in the planning, the payment and the accounting processes associated with these events. Using the financing system in accordance with the invention, all accumulated funds may be held in the same account from which the bills will eventually be paid. This allows the innovative financing system, for example, to utilize existing collateral in order to offer a loan against anticipated gifts and other event related revenues. Alternatively, the financing system can offer a standing line of credit to the event organizer which can be utilized by the event organizer to pay event-related bills in anticipation of event-related gifts and revenues. In this manner, payment for event-related services becomes similar to a mortgage or bridge loan with a short and fixed time span.
The financing system in accordance with the invention, also sometimes referred to as the “General Fund” herein, may be designed to allow vendors to receive payment guarantees with the consent of the event organizer. Under this agreement, event organizer's access to the money available in an account will be restricted until contractual event-related goods and services have been fully paid, thus guaranteeing vendor payment, subject to contract fulfillment.
The financing system in accordance with the invention is primarily an invention in the arena of business methods or processes as applied to the realm of e-commerce, or Internet commerce. The financing system works in the domain of e-commerce as a so-called ‘vertical marketplace’ or ‘cybermediary’, meaning that it links a variety of buyers and sellers in novel ways as the middleman within a specific market niche, in this case for example, providing financial services for event organizers. The financing system links event-related gifts, income, loans and payments into a unique, single and restricted account.
The domain of e-commerce is a very suitable arena for such a financial system to function because it contains virtually unlimited resources of information, a large variety of vendors, gifts, event-related income options and great potential for creating and charting the requisite databases of vendor contracts and loan obligations. The Internet also offers efficiency and ease in organizing and coordinating the potentially very complex and multifaceted coordination process.
As yet, there is a perceived lack of financial service options in the current event management market, either in the domain of e-commerce or in the vein of traditional commerce. While wedding loans, for example, are available, there is currently no way for a bride and groom to link their loan to gifts and other sources of income so that payment for wedding related goods and services is executed in an organized and efficient manner. They may get a loan, but they still have to sort out all of their bill payment obligations. Since their obligations may be quite complex, both in terms of arranging for timely payments as well as in terms of finding the available funds, the loan does little to help the couple in an area where they still need much help-time.
The financing system in accordance with the invention is designed to allow couples and event planners to save time by putting all of their event-related income and expenditure in a single account with several payment options that include automated payments to selected vendors.
Further, the financing system in accordance with the invention, offers a wide range of savings, payment and financing options to all parties involved in event planning (e.g., in the wedding process: the bride and groom, the guests and the vendors). The financing system utilizes the existence of a central website connected to a central database which functions as a financial ‘cybermediary’ between all parties.
The event organizers (brides and grooms) will benefit from wide range of financing, savings and payment options for their event. They will also have access to an optional and novel income generating system, described below.
Gift givers (attending guests or non-attending invited guests) will benefit from easy access to safe and secure methods of giving cash gifts or donations with a wide range of customization options. For example, guests may pay at any time they find convenient either before or after the event or, alternatively pay in installments.
Vendors will benefit from increased payment security (since the money is “in the bank”), ‘free’ advertising and a steady stream of new clients and revenue.
Another advantage is that the business method involved in the invention is scaleable, such that it can encompass new processes and potentialities. Such options include extending financial to post-event services such as, in the case of weddings, home finance and mortgage financing, allowing funds left over from event financing to be directly applied, for example, to home purchase or rental.
When the General Fund financing system is used as a means of wedding financing, it fulfills a specific need existing in the current wedding marketplace in a new and innovative way. The current wedding process is highly fragmented requiring multiple payments and negotiations with vendors as well as cash gifts and presents from possibly hundreds of family friends and guests. There is thus a great need for a centralized fund, such as would be created using the General Fund, to help the couple keep an accurate and convenient track of event-related income and expenses. In addition, the financing system may be designed to aid the couple by providing easy access to event financing that is linked to their account as well as novel means for generating income as described below
This fragmentation has, as mentioned above, created huge inefficiencies and frustration for both vendors and couples, because for each wedding, the process of vendor-solicitation must be re-created over and over again. The average couple typically negotiates with between ten and fifteen separate vendors, services and retailers for an average wedding. Meanwhile, the average vendor is constantly striving to differentiate themselves in the marketplace to attract the next generation of wedding couples, as product and vendor loyalty is less relevant in a market that caters to generally once-in-a-lifetime events. With approximately 2.5 million weddings in the US each year, these processes of vendor negotiations and couple searching are re-enacted several millions of times every year. This amounts to a lot of man-hours or labor.
The financing process in accordance with the invention provides a solution to these problems by creating and presenting optional pre-negotiated terms and contracts to both couples and vendors alike. This option is intended to save both the couple and the vendors much time. In addition, the financing system will present an optional service that will guarantee vendor payment subject to complete contract fulfillment. The financing system will, in this case, ideally provide on-site personnel to monitor contract fulfillment and pay vendors only after all parties are satisfied. In this manner, the couples stress level and frustration will be reduced, since the task of monitoring the vendors' performance will be in professional and qualified hands. The vendors will also be relieved in the knowledge that payment will be forthcoming without question once their hard work is successfully completed. In this manner, the financing system offers solace to both the client and the vendor. This will give the bride and groom a simple solution to financing and paying for their wedding, the vendors a central source and framework for payments and contract fulfillment, and the guests the maximum flexibility and ease in giving cash gifts.
In operation, once a General Fund account is open, the event organizer will distribute the Internet address of the cybermediary to their guests and vendors, along with a password necessary to access the relevant areas of the site. The guests who wish to give a cash gift then visit the website of the cybermediary, and select the amount and date of their gift. Other options may include, but are not limited to payment by installments or payments linked or, alternatively, to life events (such as the purchase of a home). However, the guests do not view the same account information about the event as the couple.
As mentioned above, the financing system is designed to provide the event organizer (bride and groom) access to other methods for reducing their event (wedding) costs. In one option, the couple may opt to allow vendors to advertise their services at their event (wedding) and receive monetary compensation or a discount on services rendered by the vendor in return for the advertising. In another option, the couple may opt to sell or lease broadcast rights of their event. Family and friends and other guests who could not make it to the wedding will pay a fee for viewing the affair in video or streaming media format as broadcast over the Internet. Recordings and photos may be transmitted and paid for as well. Other sources of event-related funding may come from, for example, income generated by the reverse registry or, alternatively, by means of corporate benefits or corporate matching funds that the General Fund has negotiated with specific employers. In all cases, the General Fund will collect the appropriate revenues for the event organizer. It is also conceivable that the event could be a “pay-per-view” type of event in which the main stream of income would be from people wanting to see the event at sites remote from the event, e.g., a boxing match.
In another embodiment, the financing system may be designed to facilitate the sharing of wedding plans and desired services among registered users with the intent to allow shared access and payment obligations to the same service (and possible negotiations for a reduced cost). If, for example, two brides desire the same wedding hall or church or tent rental at different times on the same day, then the use and expense involved in the rental fees, decorating expenses and other fees may be shared. It is conceivable that two couples may even share a facility at the same time in order to obtain a level of service that they could not afford individually, as would occur in obtaining an exclusive wedding hall, or, alternatively, in order to save money. Another embodiment would allow vendors to modify the price of services or rentals, such as the fee for a wedding hall with time if it became apparent that demand for such usage was going up or down. This last embodiment would apply for example, in a case where no usage is anticipated a month prior to a given event, the vendor or supplier may allow significant discounts.
This would in operation be similar to the Revenue Management Systems (RMS), commonly utilized in the airline industry to optimize their revenue per flight, but would be applicable to the wedding industry. RMS has not yet been applied to the event planning industry, in general, or to the wedding industry, in particular. RMS, applied to the event planning and wedding industries will result in potentially greater usage of resources for vendors as well as potentially increased savings for couples.
The financing system process guarantees payment to the vendor because payment is already held by the cybermediary before the transaction with the vendor is completed. This renders the financing system attractive to the vendors.
With respect to the operation of the invention, the financing system is designed to enable couples will visit the WWWed website and peruse existing potential categories of products and services listed through the general fund listings. Products will be divided into three general areas:
1. Financial Services such as loans for event expenses.
2. Payment Services for event expenses.
3. Revenue Generating Services for event expenses.
Couples will determine which services they will require and will create an electronic listing with WWWed that reflects their choices. This listing can be updated by the couple at any time and can be as specific or as general in each category as the couple desire and are customizable by the couple, or user, in several ways. There is flexibility in revenue generating services. The process for opting for advertising revenues begins when the event organizer (couple) submits basic demographic data concerning the place and time of their wedding, the number of expected guests as well as the guests' home zip code and age range. The event organizer also submits preferences regarding the type of advertising that they would accept for their wedding. Advertising may take the form of (but is not limited to):
1. advertising listed on the personal wedding invitation;
2. advertising listed on an XML or HTML based document, e-mail or other online form of wedding invitation;
3. advertising listed on an XML or HTML based document, e-mail or other online form of communication with friends, family and other potential guests;
4. advertising banners listed on a personal wedding website;
5. advertising on a webcast or video or digital reproduction of an engagement party;
6. advertising on a webcast or video or digital reproduction of the wedding ceremony;
7. advertising on a webcast or video or digital reproduction of the wedding reception;
8. advertising on a webcast or video or digital reproduction of the honeymoon;
9. advertising with placards placed next to the products at the wedding ceremony or the wedding reception;
10. brochures placed at guests' tables prior to or during the wedding reception;
11. Promotional CD's or other material in digital format that may be used to promote a band or other wedding related business or businesses given to guests' prior to or during the wedding reception;
12. free samples of products with attached advertising distributed to guests prior to or during the wedding reception or prior to or during the wedding ceremony.
This data is pooled with the data of other event organizers. The advertising requirements of potential advertisers is also pooled and correlated with the list of available events. Suitable events are submitted to potential advertisers to review. If the potential advertiser finds a suitable selection of event(s) (wedding(s)) that meet their requirements, the advertiser may offer the event organizer a contract for services.
In order to verify attendance of the expected demographic sample at the event, the administrator of the financing system would appoint a representative to verify attendance and other aspects of contract fulfillment.
Similarly, the event organizer may sell broadcast rights to their event (wedding). Individuals who wish to view a live streaming media presentation (webcast), video, photos or other digital representations of the event (wedding) will pay a fee to the administrator of the financing system, or its representative who will, in turn, give a percentage of all payments to the event organizer.
The effective use of an online central database for event planning and implementation in accordance with the invention, streamlines the entire event planning process making complex tasks and events painless to plan, to implement and to duplicate at a later time.
Typical lists for wedding planning, for example, are quite complex. Consider a typical agenda, described in outline form in FIG. 14 and listed in greater detail in FIGS. 1C and 1D.
Utilizing the event planning method and system in accordance with the invention, the processes involved in planning for and implementing the various agenda items listed in FIG. 14 can be made simpler, leaving the bride and groom and their respective family and friends with more time and energy available for things more important than worrying about who exactly has to do what at a specific time.
Utilizing the event planning method and system as illustrated in FIG. 17, the number of processes, and therefore the amount of time, that the couple has to spend on wedding planning and preparation as described in FIGS. 1C and 1D, is greatly reduced. Utilizing a “Six Sigma” approach to the processes involved in event planning, significant time savings are provided to event organizers. Beyond the application of Six Sigma methodology to a new area-event planning, the event planning method and system also involves the creation of a new form of “bit engine.”
A method is thus proposed for sharing event-planning information so that other interested parties who would be willing to pay for such planning information may use it over again. Although wedding planning is mentioned as a preferred embodiment, it is not desired that the present invention be limited to the exact construction and operation illustrated and described herein. Accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents which may be resorted to are intended to fall within the scope of the claims, since numerous modifications and variations will readily occur to those skilled in the art.
With respect to the weddings, a wide variety of businesses cater to this large and highly fragmented market. Merchants range from small family-owned stores to national chains. Affiliated businesses from other industries such as travel agencies, home furnishing stores, department stores, and hotels are also included. As a result of this highly heterogeneous mix of large and small as well as local and national businesses, the wedding industry has become a highly fragmented industry. This translates into a highly complex and fragmented wedding planning process for the typical bride and groom that must deal with as many as ten to fifteen vendors for a typical wedding. This is further complicated by the fact that these ten to fifteen vendors are the finalists in a selection process that can easily involve many prospective candidates for each vendor category. Therefore the ten to fifteen vendors who actually perform the wedding represent a mere tip of the iceberg in this regard.
This complexity is outlined in FIGS. 15 and 16.
FIG. 15 represents the typical stages involved in wedding planning in schematic form while FIG. 16 shows the same scheme in a more realistic format in which each subsequent step has a potential impact on previous steps. In a typical case, for example in which a bride and groom have settled on a photographer only to find out much later that the photographer's contract is not acceptable for whatever reason. This places the couple back four steps in what seems, on the surface, to be a linear and orderly process.
Utilizing an event engine, as shown in FIG. 17, the couple eliminates much of the complexity associated with traditional planning processes by reducing the amount of steps necessary to plan a wedding by one to two orders of magnitude. This is especially significant since, while the traditional process as outlined in FIG. 16 applies to each and every individual vendor and supplier, the event engine process takes into account all of the necessary vendors and suppliers in a simplified linear manner outlined in FIG. 17.
One of the most difficult parts of planning a wedding is the process of finding one's local vendors. Using an event engine to prepare a wedding will make this process easier by supplying much of the details that an offline wedding consultant would supply. This simplifies the process of finding reliable vendors in one place.
Another difficult aspect of the planning process is the bride's anxiety about whether the vendor will deliver its services as promised. In fact, it is anticipated that the buyer of the event engine or knowledge template may contact the owner and seller of the knowledge template, and, for a fee, obtain additional details and advice regarding the use of the knowledge template in order to gain feedback regarding the vendors' reliability and performance. The bride and groom can then read reviews and ratings from previous customers and get a sense of the vendor's service. In addition, for a possible additional fee, the bride and groom can view photographs and videos or other digital or analog reproductions from the event engine and judge the effectiveness of the venders' performance for themselves.
This effectively converts every event engine or knowledge template owner into a potential wedding consultant regarding the details of her own wedding. (An event engine or knowledge template owner will be anyone capable of creating an event engine or knowledge template—whether that entity is private or commercial.) This solves some additional problems for the wedding service providers.
An additional problem commonly encountered by wedding service providers is the difficulty to effectively market goods via the Web or via their Web sites. Because the customer cannot physically inspect their products and services via the Web it is desirable that the bride and groom have access to product and service reviews, product and service ratings, and other information that can be relied on by the customer to make an informed decision regarding their wedding plans. In many cases, however, wedding service providers are small businesses and lack the resources needed to generate or disseminate their services.
The present invention allows brides and grooms, guests, vendors and other event organizers to post reviews, comments, advice and other forms of feedback regarding the efficacy of any individual knowledge template for other event organizers to see. Since the knowledge templates will contain direct links to the vendors associated with a given knowledge template, this will allow further means of encouraging as well as disseminating good service.
Positive reviews that would be included with each event engine or knowledge template would be a source of essentially free advertising for such small businesses. In addition, phone consultation or by a personal consultation with the knowledge template owner who lives in the same geographical area will be another cost effective source for referrals and new business. Since the reviews associated with each event engine will be available online and categorized according to zip codes and other means of classification such as style, cost and physical location (beach, hotel, chapel), it becomes much easier for the bride and groom to obtain relevant information regarding the large and diverse selection of wedding service providers available to them. This information is especially valuable if the bride and groom have chosen to plan a wedding in an area where they do not live. For example, it may not be very easy for a bride and groom who are away at college to prepare to interview and review all, or even a significant portion of, the many wedding service providers available to them if they want to get married in the geographical location of the bride's parents, who may be located thousands of miles away, or, perhaps, in another country.
Another problem commonly faced by wedding services is an inability to efficiently attract potential consumers to their Web sites. One way of attracting consumers has been to market the site through television (for the larger venders), radio, newspaper and Internet advertisements or listings at major wedding-related Internet sites such as ModernBride.com. However, advertising a site using conventional methods can be expensive, and can consume significant human resources. In addition, it is often difficult or impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of a given advertisement. By connecting wedding service provider's site to the bride and groom by means of an event engine or knowledge template, the vender has a quick, inexpensive and effective access to potential customers.
The present invention addresses these and other problems.
Since online events handling benefits event planners the most, WWWed database design, in accordance with the invention, focuses on helping event administrators. These tasks include:
Make it easy to offer repeated events;
Make it easy to collect, aggregate, and view registrations by event participants;
Provide convenient means for communicating with event participants and contractors;
Provide means for coordinating the activities of event participants and contractors.
In order to achieve maximum efficiency data within the WWWed database is divided into activities and events.
An activity is a kind of event; it is the type of thing for which people register. Activities might be weddings or kitchen remodeling or home improvement projects. An event is an instance of an activity. An event might be a wedding taking place at the New York Hilton Hotel at 6 PM on Jun. 5, 2001 in New York City or a kitchen remodeling that was completed on Oct. 28, 1999 in San Francisco. This distinction between activities and events can help event planners avoid repeated work. For example, the planning for a specific type of wedding or kitchen needs to be performed only once. A knowledge template can be used in accordance with the invention to create all subsequent instances of the original event. In this manner, major planning needs only to be performed once. From then on, whenever they want to create a new wedding or kitchen based on a prior template, they do not need to repeat planning and entering the same information. Instead, they may simply make relatively minor modifications to the original template in accordance with a particular event. These modifications could include, for example, where and when a specific event takes place. This process makes it quite convenient to offer similar events on a repeated basis based on a common knowledge template.
Use of the knowledge template, in accordance with the invention, will both centralize and streamline the logistically complex event planning process. This streamlining will allow event planners to focus more time and energy on the implementation aspects of event planning. In order to support the implementation aspect of event planning, key information on event planners, vendors, staff, and other contacts is stored in WWWed database, offering quick access to contact information when and where it s needed. Schedule management will allow real time handling of event details, while a central task list will allow planners to view all event tasks either all at once or by calendar view, if desired in order to build a successful event day-by-day, task-by-task. Other functionalities to be incorporated are the inclusion of a wireless messaging system to keep planners and vendors in touch with each other, the ability to allocate individuals to demographic groups for potential target marketing as well as multiple and cross-event reporting, thereby allowing event planners to track vendors, guests and expenses across different events.
The invention therefore operates both as a novel means of organizing, storing and retrieving event planning information related to specific events as well as a unique venue collecting income from the intellectual property that is generated as a result of the event planning process.
The event planning method and system in accordance with the invention is primarily an invention in the arena of business methods or processes as applied to the realm of e-commerce, or Internet commerce. The invention works in the domain of e-commerce as a so-called ‘vertical marketplace’ or ‘cybermediary’, meaning that it links a variety of buyers and sellers in novel ways as the middleman within a specific market niche, in this case, providing event planning knowledge templates in a unique package called “event engines” to event organizers. The event engine, as described in the invention, links event-related concepts, plans, products and services into a unique, integrated and unified knowledge template.
The domain of e-commerce is the perfect arena for such an event planning service to function because it contains virtually unlimited resources of information, a large variety of vendors, and event related services and products. The Internet also offers efficiency and ease in organizing, coordinating, and streamlining the highly complex and multifaceted event planning process.
As yet, there is a lack of totally integrated service options in the current event planning market, either in the domain of e-commerce or in the vein of traditional commerce. While wedding packages, for example, are available, they are invariably limited to a single vendor or a small group of vendors with limited planning options. That is fine, for example, if a working bride has her heart set on a wedding at a particular establishment. What should she do, however, if she wants to put together a very special wedding of her own? The invention offers a quick and easy route to plan and arrange a custom wedding without spending an inordinate amount of time in the process.
The present invention greatly reduces the complexity of event planning by dramatically reducing the number of individual processes required to complete the entire event planning process.
In an expanded context, the invention is designed to facilitate an integrated service package that includes, in the case of weddings other related services beyond integrated wedding planning services. These additional services include pre-marriage services, screening and counseling as well as post-marriage counseling on a voluntary basis. The premise of the services will be to serve the needs of the couple as well those of a society that have a common interest in furthering and preserving a stable and fruitful marriage. This is the broad vision that the invention serves to further.
In a sense, the invention is seeking to integrate an unevenly applied marriage sector with a fragmented wedding industry.
The event engine or knowledge template process in accordance with the invention provides a solution to the problems posed by a fragmented wedding industry by creating and presenting mass customized wedding packages in the form of the event engine or knowledge template. These packages may include pre-negotiated terms and contracts presented to both couples and vendors. In addition, the event engine or knowledge template will present an optional service that will guarantee vendor payment subject to complete contract fulfillment.
In order to maintain the highest possible levels of service, the cybermediary utilizing the event engine or knowledge template may hire onsite personnel to monitor contract fulfillment and pay vendors only after all parties are fully satisfied. In this manner the couples stress level will be reduced, since the task of monitoring the vendors' performance will be in professional and qualified hands. The vendors will also be relieved in the knowledge that payment will be forthcoming without question once their hard work is successfully completed thus offering solace to both vendor as well as client.
Much as mass customization has enabled consumers to purchase custom made goods at mass produced prices, the invention will enable event planners in general, and brides, in particular, to arrange custom weddings (with minor modifications to an existing knowledge template or event engine) at relatively low prices and, more importantly, at greatly reduced time cost for the bride and groom and their respective families.
The use of a knowledge template allows couples and event planners to save time by putting their entire event related activities and obligations in one place. Utilizing the existence of a central website connected to a central database which functions as a ‘cybermediary’ between all parties, the event engine coordinates all event planning functions. Essentially, the event engine helps the event planner in an area where she needs much help-time.
Another advantage is that the business method involved in the invention is scaleable, such that it can encompass new processes and potentialities. Such options include extending the event engine or knowledge template to include other complex business and social activite that can be published copyrighted and shared such as plans for:
1. home improvement projects
2. new kitchen design projects
3. kitchen renovation projects
4. birthday parties
5. engagement parties
7. sweet sixteen parties
8. graduation parties
9. corporate affairs
10. fund raising events
11. anniversary parties
12. custom vacations
13. local advertising campaigns for products
14. local advertising campaigns for services
15. local marketing campaigns for products
16. local marketing campaigns for services
17. local election campaign coordination
18. weddings and wedding-related celebrations
In addition to the above, homes have an increasing variety of options in the area of electronic services and entertainment. Even with the current limitations in bandwidth, cable companies such as Time Warner, satellite companies such as Direct TV and Internet Service Providers such as AOL offer consumers a myriad of products and services. With the building of a new multi-million dollar home for their CEO, Microsoft showcased the concept of the electronic home or “e-home.” Clearly, the intention in building this home is to showcase what may become available, sooner or later, to the general public.
Therefore, imagine the complexity of services that will become available within the next 5-10 years when e-Home services, ranging from new types and forms of entertainment to new and improved personal services become available to the general public. The current list of options in the area of electronic services and entertainment will multiply as new vendors enter the market. At that point, faced with a myriad of multiple product, service, and vendor options the consumer of these services will be inundated with an overwhelming array of choices.
Using the service planning method described herein, the consumer will submit a confidential list of preferences to the cybermediary which will return a list of service templates to the consumer that match the submitted criteria. An example of such a service template is described in FIG. 1F with regard to e-services and in FIG. 1G with regard to the selection of multiple charitable organizations. In choosing a service template, as opposed to researching, contacting and contracting with individual vendors, the consumer saves time and money while, at the same time, choosing templates tailor made to suit their own individual preferences and lifestyles.
Utilizing the existence of a central website connected to a central database which functions as a ‘cybermediary’ between all parties, the invention serves to coordinate all event planning functions. Event organizers will benefit from access to all event related services, goods and payments in one convenient location.
Briefly, the knowledge template or event engine contains much or all of the information and knowledge of processes necessary to reconstruct an event. In a representative operation, event organizers will proceed as usual to plan their weddings. Once they have put together a wedding package that includes the photographer, the caterer, the florist, the musician, band, and all the rest, a database file or datamart is created on-line which will list all their preferences and all their vendors.
New event organizers will search the database and try to find a (wedding) knowledge template (or “wedding template”) that meets their needs based on specified parameters, for example, location, budget and other factors. The database will allow access not only to wedding planning information, but to actual views and reviews of the affair as well. If the couple sees exactly the type of wedding that they have in mind, they further examine the photographs, recordings, comments and other online mementos from that particular wedding template. If they decide that is the type of wedding template that meets the needs of their own intended wedding, then, for a fee, that template information will be released to them, and with their approval, the cybermediary will arrange for the date and time to replay that wedding template with all of the required vendors.
In this manner the existing wedding template will successfully propagate itself over and over again utilizing, with minimal variations, the same vendors the same people who did the previous wedding using the same wedding template.
In addition, the present invention allows several classes of participants, including, event planners, guests and vendors to give feedback and comments regarding a particular event. This will allow future users more options with more useful and relevant information. In addition, each individual information or knowledge template can be linked with similar events as well as with vendor sites for additional information and feedback.
In its basic form, the event engine or knowledge template should contain, at a minimum, several or all or the following information elements:
Time, place and number of guests at the event;
List of vendors that performed work at the event;
Breakdown of total costs for the event listed by vendor—including price per guest;
Breakdown of total costs for the event listed by category—including price per guest;
Minimum and maximum number of guests—including price per additional guest beyond minimum;
Photographic, audio, or video recordings of the event, whether in digital or analog form;
Comments by the consumer regarding the quality or nature of the services performed;
Religion and/or culture;
Wedding Style (formal or informal).
A list of vendors will include, but will not be limited to, several or all of the following service providers:
1. Reception Sites
9. Jewelry Stores
10. Travel Agencies
In the case of a kitchen renovation project the knowledge template should contain, at a minimum, several or all or the following information elements:
A diagram or photograph of the original kitchen;
A diagram or photograph of the new kitchen;
List of contractors that performed work project;
Total cost of project;
Breakdown of total costs for the project materials;
Breakdown of total costs for the project listed by contractor;
Comments by the consumer regarding the quality or nature of the work and services performed.
An example of a kitchen renovation template is shown in the combination of FIGS. 1H, 1I, 1J and 1K and FIGS. 25-30. FIG. 1H describes and evaluates vendors who performed specific services. FIGS. 1I-1K list pricing information for merchandise purchased. FIGS. 25-30 show different views of a kitchen renovation design.
In another embodiment, the event planning method and system in accordance with the invention will be designed to facilitate the sharing of wedding plans and desired services among registered users with the intent to allow shared access and payment obligations to the same service (and a possible basis for negotiating a reduced rate). If, for example, two brides desire the same wedding hall or church or tent rental at different times on the same day, then the use and expense involved in the rental fees, decorating expenses and other fees may be shared. It is conceivable that two couples may even share a facility at the same time in order to obtain a level of service that they could not afford individually, as would occur in obtaining an exclusive wedding hall, or, alternatively, in order to save money. Another embodiment would allow vendors to modify the price of services or rentals, such as the fee for a wedding hall with time if it became apparent that demand for such usage was going up or down. This last embodiment would apply for example, in a case where no usage is anticipated a month prior to a given event, the vendor or supplier may allow significant discounts.
This would in operation apply the Revenue Management Systems (RMS), commonly utilized in the airline industry to optimize their revenue per flight, to the event planning and wedding industry. RMS has not yet been applied to the event planning industry, in general, or to the wedding industry, in particular. RMS, applied to the event planning and wedding industries will result in potentially greater usage of resources for vendors as well as potentially increased savings for couples.
The event planning process guarantees payment to the vendor because payment, either partial or full, is already held by the cybermediary before the transaction with the vendor is completed. Provisions would be made to prevent refunding of this payment upon commitment by the vendor to deliver the goods and/or perform the services. This renders the event engine system attractive to the vendors.
An important benefit of the invention is that it allows the consumer of services to benefit from the time and energy previously expended by another consumer or bride in finding the best possible service. The consumer may search for the highest quality, lowest price, most convenient location or whatever quality or qualities that the consumer finds attractive in a vendor. After the services have been successfully performed, the consumer may sell the information that she has acquired as a knowledge template. Others may use this knowledge template, either as is or in a modified form, to purchase the same or similar service for their own needs.
The use of an event engine or knowledge template fulfills a specific need existing in the current wedding marketplace in a new and non-obvious way. The current wedding marketplace is highly fragmented. It is also often a very geographically regionalized marketplace. Many industries also converge during the wedding process. For example such industries as reception venues, florists, photography, musicians, transportation, printers and designers, jewelry, travel, hospitality, clothing, and more are all relevant to this space.
This fragmentation by industry, vendor, region and a host of other factors creates a major headache for the negotiation and payment procedures that are involved in coordinating such a complicated endeavor. It also creates problems for vendors who must negotiate, service and bill multiple parties. The invention thus has an express purpose to simplify this complex process for all involved parties.
This fragmentation also creates frustration for both vendors and couples since for each wedding the process of vendor solicitation must be created over and over again. Typically, a couple negotiates with between ten and fifteen separate vendors, services and retailers for their wedding. Meanwhile, vendors are continually striving to differentiate themselves in the marketplace to attract the next generation of wedding couples. This is due to the fact that product and vendor loyalty is less relevant in a market that caters to once-in-a-lifetime event. These processes of vendor hunting and couple searching are constantly being reenacted.
The invention simplifies this situation by streamlining the entire process. It also provides vendors with a straightforward means of differentiating their products or services to the bride and groom (the event organizers).
The invention is also designed to provide new income sources to couples, such as selling and consulting revolving around the use and application of a particular knowledge template or event engine to recreate their wedding. This may also provide newly wed couples and other event planners with additional sources of revenue.
As mentioned above, the service planning method and system as applied to the searching for and acquiring of e-services (such as an electronic home or “e-home” services), takes the concepts of recommendation engines and choiceboards and applies them in a novel way to the realm of electronic services planning.