US 20070011082 A1
A computerized method of listing items at an auction site using pre-stored item numbers and item keys. Item numbers and keys are obtained from the auction site by submitting to the site a generic item description and generic auction parameter data. In response to the submission the auction site returns a verification form with the item number and item key, which are extracted and saved for later use. When an actual item is to be listed on the auction site, a stored item number and item key are retrieved and combined with the actual item description data and actual auction parameter data and the combined information is then submitted to the auction site for verification. The auction site responds and a command is then issued to post the item for sale, after which a listing fee is charged to the user's account by the auction site. Items can be listed with original listing numbers or re-listing numbers, the latter saving the listing fee if the item is sold. Re-listing numbers and key are obtained by accessing a listed item that has not sold at the auction site, re-submitting the item for sale, obtaining the verification form, extracting the original item number and key along with the re-listing item number and key and saving them for later use. Actual item descriptions can contain information that permits the locating of other items the seller has for sale without interfering with the search engine at the auction site.
1. A method of presenting to a user on an auction site one or more auction items related to a linking auction item, comprising:
upon finding an item document by a user at the auction site, the item document describing a linking auction item, receiving a command to perform a background search by a facilitating server in response to the found item document, the background search being directed to find one or more auction items related to the linking auction item;
presenting to the user a list of links to any items found by the background search;
receiving a selection by the user of one of the links from the list; and
in response to the selection, invoking a search engine of the auction site to find and present to the user item documents for the one or more related auction items.
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1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to auction systems over a computer network and more specifically to assisting users to more efficiently list and re-list items for auction over a computer network, such as the Internet.
2. Description of the Related Art
If a listed item does not sell during the auction period, the seller has the choice of re-listing the item for sale. The seller is charged a listing fee to re-list the item, however, a credit is applied against this fee if the item is re-listed using the item number and unique key that were used when the item was first listed and the item is sold after being re-listed.
While the process described above is simple and convenient for sellers who list a few items for sale, there are serious deficiencies for sellers who wish to list hundreds or even thousands of items. One deficiency is the time it takes to manually list an item, say a few minutes. To list a thousand items would take about 16 hours. This is too great an expenditure of time to be practicable for the seller. Another aspect of this deficiency is that it is extremely difficult to synchronize the advertising of the items for sale in a trade publication or other advertising medium with their listing on the auction site because the time to list the items on the site may stretch over such a long time period as to make unpredictable the date and time any item is up for sale.
Another deficiency concerns the re-listing of items that did not sell. Not only is there is an extraordinary expenditure of time required to re-list the many items but the seller must use the same item number and key or lose the re-listing fee credit, which for thousands of items can amount to thousands of dollars.
Yet another deficiency is that, when the seller has multiple items listed for sale, the standalone description prohibits links to other items that the seller has listed. This prevents the seller from notifying a potential buyer of the other items for sale, when the buyer finds one of the seller's items.
Therefore, there is a need for an auction assistance system that allows a seller to list and re-list items without spending inordinate amounts of time doing so and without losing credit for re-listed items. Furthermore there is a need for an auction assistance system that allows the seller to inform the buyer of other items the seller has listed.
The present invention is directed to meeting the above needs. In accordance with the present invention, a computerized method of listing an item on an auction site includes selecting an actual item to be listed on the auction site and obtaining actual item description data and actual item auction parameter data for the actual item to be listed; then retrieving a previously obtained and stored item number and item key. Next, confirmation data that includes actual item description data, actual auction parameter data, the retrieved item number, retrieved item key, a user id and a user password is submitted to the auction site to post the item for sale.
Another method, in accordance with the present invention, is used to obtain the item numbers and item keys. First, listing input data containing generic item description data, generic auction parameter data, a user id and a user password is submitted to the auction site. Next, verification data is received from the auction site in response to the listing input data, where the verification data includes the listing input data and an item number and an item key. The item number and item key are then extracted from the verification data and saved for later use. Many item numbers and keys can be obtained prior to listing items for sale at the auction site, thus creating a repository of item numbers and item keys for later use.
A similar process is used to obtain re-listing numbers for items that are listed on the auction site but did not sell during the auction period. The process of listing an item on the auction site can use either a new listing number or a re-listing number, meaning that any item can be listed using a re-listing number. Items that sell using a re-listing number allow the seller to save a listing fee. Many re-listing numbers can be saved in a repository for later use.
An aspect of the present invention is that item descriptions can contain information that enables potential bidders to find other items for sale by the seller without interfering with the search engine of the auction site.
An advantage of the present invention is that a great number of items can be listed on an auction site in a short period of time.
Another advantage of the present invention is that items that did not sell on the first listing can be easily re-listed. Additionally, when re-listing an item, the item, the item description and the auction parameters can be changed regardless of the origin of the first listing. Thus, re-listing item numbers become a resource and the use of this resource can be more easily planned to assure that a re-listed item is one that will sell, thereby assuring the recovery of the re-listing fee.
Another advantage is that listing and re-listing of items can occur at a time that is convenient to the seller. This permits the seller purchase advertisements in trade magazines and to include the item numbers in those advertisements. Thus, when the items are actually listed on the auction site, a demand for the items will already exist.
Yet another advantage of the present invention is that a bidder can be informed of other items that a particular seller has for sale on the auction site without using the auction site search engine for such purposes. This permits the bidder to find related items the seller may have available and increases the likelihood that the bidder will submit a bid for those items.
These and other features, aspects and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following description, appended claims, and accompanying drawings where:
An additional server system 20 in
The process, shown in
Independently of the process in
The above steps are repeated as determined in step 92 for each item to be listed. Once a record in the database has been used to actually list an item, the database must mark the record as used.
If a seller has a large group of items to list to an auction site, a problem arises in that the loop shown in
The present invention has a process for handling the listing of a large group of items. This process is the scheduling process shown in
Thus the above scheduling process therefore helps to improve the number of bids that a seller may receive on any particular auction because fewer auctions expire at the same time.
As an alternative to using linked item descriptions to help the potential bidder find items related to an item searched for and to avoid the waste of time in performing repeated similar searches after the item searched for is reviewed in detail, the present invention also contemplates the use of background searches of the auction site. These background searches are conducted by a Web browser “plug-in”, stand-alone client side application, or framed Web page, which is triggered when the potential bidder conducts an original search for a particular item on the auction site. Generally, the original search produces hundreds or thousands of results and these results are lost when the user examines one of the items in detail. The background search, when triggered, corrects this problem by searching for items up for auction on the auction site that are similar to the item shown on the potential bidder's screen and by preparing a list of hyperlinks for the potential bidder from this background search information. The potential bidder then selects one of the hyperlinks and is taken to the auction relating to the item whose hyperlink was selected. When the potential bidder views that item, the process repeats itself, conducting another search in the background for items related to the one currently being viewed by the potential bidder.
Search results from the background search are either narrowed or expanded. To narrow the search results a filter is set up based pre-defined search parameters that the potential bidder has stored at the Web site which conducts the background search. This permits the site to filter out search results that do not interest the potential bidder.
The search can be expanded by having auction sellers register at an auxiliary Web site (i.e., a site which is not the auction site). Using this registration information a background search is conducted over the entire World Wide Web for items that the registered seller is selling and a database for that seller is compiled. This database is presented to the potential bidder when the bidder selects an auction of that seller.
Filters for the background search data include but is not limited to selecting search data that matches a category of item, a specific seller such as the seller for the originally sought item and specific auction starting and ending times.
It is contemplated that an auxiliary Web site receive instructions for performing a search from the computer of the potential bidder. The auxiliary Web site conducts the search for the potential bidder and returns the results to the potential bidder. The auxiliary Web site maintains a database that stores these background search results, cumulatively, for possible later use, until the potential bidder ends the session.
Although the present invention has been described in considerable detail with reference to certain preferred versions thereof, other versions are possible.
One alternative method for linking item descriptions includes encrypting the other items' information including descriptions, phrases, and titles. In one method, the encrypted information is inserted into an URL that takes the seller to an auxiliary site at which a client-side program, such as a Java script program, runs to decrypt the other item descriptions and present the seller with a selection list in readable text. Making a selection causes the seller to return to the search engine of the auction site which will find and display the item selected. Instead of residing on an auxiliary site, the program for de-encrypting the keyword information can reside at the auction site, or even in the item description itself in the case of self-decryption. If the auction site encrypts and decrypts the other item information, there is no need to leave the auction site. The auction site encrypts the other item description data to prevent the auction site search engine from being interfered with during a search for an item selected by the user. When the item requested by the user is found, the encrypted data in the item description of the found item is automatically decrypted and presented to the user, giving the user the choice of selecting the other items for searches.
Another alternative method for linking item descriptions includes creating a keyword in the item description data, wherein the keyword's letters are separated by a delimiter such as a space, underline, comma or period so that the auction site's search engine cannot find the keyword when a search is requested. For example, if the requested item was “U.S. Automobile classics” and the seller want to inform the potential buyer of a related item such as a Jaguar that he has listed on the auction site, a delimited sequence, “J-a-g-u-a-r” is embedded in the item description for the “U.S. Automobile classics”. This prevents the auction site search engine from finding the Jaguar item in a search because the delimiters prevent a match. A program resides either on the auction site or on another site to remove the delimiters from the keyword and then pass the non-delimited keyword back to the search engine of the auction site. The auction site search engine then displays the item related to the keyword.
Yet another alternative method for linking item descriptions includes entering keywords into an item's description data and then inserting those keywords into the auction site's database in a table (or in pre-designated fields of an existing table) set up for storing keywords. The table maintains an associative link with the item data in the auction site's database. When a search is performed at the auction site and the item is found, the table of keywords is called up and the related keywords are displayed along with the found item's description data. The searcher selects one of the keywords and is re-directed to the auction site's search engine with the selected keyword as the search parameter.
Yet another alternative method for linking item descriptions includes embedding other item keywords between HTML tags or other protected area specifically designed for keywords. The auction site's search engine is configured to ignore information in the protected area. The keyword information is stored in a keyword table (or in pre-designated fields of an existing table) set up for keywords. When a search is performed at the auction site and the item is found, the table of keywords (or keyword fields) is called up and the related keywords are displayed along with the found item's description data. The searcher selects one of the keywords and is re-directed to the auction site's search engine with the selected keyword as the search parameter.
Yet still another alternative method for linking item descriptions includes placing a pointer, such as an URL, inside the item description, where the pointer is used to access an auxiliary host connected to the Internet. When a Web page containing the item description having the pointer is accessed by the potential bidder's browser (or equivalent interpreter), the pointer accesses the auxiliary host to produce an auxiliary list of keywords, item descriptions, and/or item numbers that represent all of the currently active actions for the sellers items and displays the list inside the auction description. The list from the auxiliary host can also be displayed in a pop-up window generated when the URL is selected and displayed over the Web page containing the item description from the auction site.
The auxiliary list is preferably dynamic in that it can be changed at any time so that the list is always up-to-date when viewed. This means that when an auction for one or more items ends, the list is updated to only show currently active auctions. Because the list resides on the auxiliary host, the information in the list is not visible to and so does not interfere with the auction site search engine. A variation of the above alternative is that the auction site has Java, Java-Script or similar code inside the item description on the auction site. This code when executed allows the potential bidder's browser to have access to the dynamic list of items on the auxiliary site. Thus, code for displaying the dynamic list of items can reside on the client side, i.e., with the browser or on the auxiliary site.
Therefore, the spirit and scope of the appended claims should not be limited to the description of the preferred versions contained herein.