US 20080183676 A1
A method of creating an aggregated Internet accessible registry includes the step of accepting a query from a registrant. The query contains an identifier and a search criteria, the identifier identifying one of a multitude of registry databases. Registries matching the search criteria in the selected registry database are retrieved. When the registrant selects one of the matching registries, a general user identifier that uniquely identifies the registrant is associated with the registry. Additional queries and registry selection completes the aggregation registry process. The aggregated registry is managed on-line by the registrants and accessed by guests. The aggregated registry provides a framework that allows automated updates by registry database provides without loss of the identity of an aggregated registry.
1. A method of creating an aggregated registry, said method comprising the steps of
Accepting a query from a registrant, said query including an identifier and a search criteria, said identifier designating a registry database in a plurality of registry databases;
retrieving a first set of registries from said registry database designated by said identifier, each registry in said first set of registries matching said search criteria;
receiving a selection of a registry in said first set of registries; and
associating a user identification with said registry, the user identification uniquely identifying said registrant;
wherein said aggregated registry comprises each registry in each registry database in said plurality of registry databases that is associated with said user identification.
33. A computer-implemented method for enabling a user to select for review, a gift registry associated with a retailer, the method comprising:
receiving a search request from the user;
searching, from among at least two unaffiliated retailers, for a gift registry that matches the search request;
communicating to the user information identifying the matching gift registry; and
in response to a user selection of the matching gift registry, automatically displaying the matching gift registry to enable the user to review information concerning items contained in the matching gift registry.
34. A method implemented by a local computer system coupled to the Internet for enabling a user to review a gift registry associated with a retailer, the method comprising:
enabling the user to enter a search request over the Internet;
searching for a gift registry that matches the search request, the searching including a search for a first gift registry in a first gift registry database on the local computer system and a search for a second gift registry in a second gift registry database on a remote computer system coupled to said local computer system by the Internet, said first and second gift registry databases each being associated with unaffiliated retailers;
communicating to the user information identifying a gift registry that matches the search request, wherein the matching gift registry is located on the remote computer system; and
in response to a user selection of the matching gift registry, automatically displaying the matching gift registry to enable the user to review information concerning items contained in the matching gift registry.
This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/715,295, filed Mar. 6, 2007, which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/611,540, filed Jun. 30, 2003 now abandoned, which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/273,326, filed Oct. 15, 2002 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,618,753, which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/459,766, filed Dec. 13, 1999 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,493,742, which are all hereby incorporated by reference in their entireties.
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates generally to the field of Internet accessible product registries. More particularly, this invention relates to a system and method for aggregating and managing multiple registries over the Internet.
2. Description of the Related Art
The advent of widespread access to the Internet has generated interest in the development of web applications capable of accessing registry databases. Registry databases are collections of registries. Each registry in a registry database describes a registrant, an event, and the items that the registrant would like to acquire in celebration of the event. Registry databases are generally maintained by retailers such as department stores. An event may be, for example, an engagement, wedding, anniversary, birthday, graduation, religious holiday, baby shower, baptism, confirmation, Mother's day, Father's day, or other significant event. Further, rather than representing an event, a registry may simply represent the generalized wish list of the registrant.
Internet accessible registry databases have many advantages over registry databases that are exclusively available in the store. First, an Internet accessible registry removes geographic limitations. Trips to the store to purchase registry items or to create a registry are no longer necessary. One simply accesses the registry over the Internet from the convenience of the home or office. The hassle of traffic, waiting in lines, and reliance on sales staff is circumvented. Using an Internet accessible registry, it is possible for a Tuscaloosa Ala. couple to register with a retailer in Manhattan, or for that matter, Venice, Italy. Second, for guests, the purchasers of registration items from a registry, options such as gift routing and wrapping are conveniently handled directly over the Internet. For example, gift wrapping and its concomitant hassles, such as waiting in long gift wrapping lines, is prevented by making such on-line designations. Third, Internet accessible registry databases provide advantages to retailers such as reduction in overhead costs and product exposure to an expanded, geographically unconstrained market—benefits that may be passed on to the consumer in the form of reduced retail prices.
Retailers that provide registration services over the Internet typically restrict the content of their registry databases to products offered by the individual retailer or, at best, to those of a highly limited number of retail partners. Thus, registrants to major events such as weddings must still register with several different retailers in order to attempt adequate coverage. Often registrants are not satisfied with the scope of their selections even after several different retailer-specific registries have been made. However, the typical registrant does not create more retailer-specific registries because of the burden it places on guests and because of the high degree of maintenance that is required by the registrant to maintain such a large number of registries. Further, existing retailer-specific registries do not offer registrants the option of registering unconventional items such as maid service, cooking lessons, or camping gear.
Even with the introduction of Internet accessible registries, the practice of restricting registry database content produces the unsatisfactory result that guests attempting to buy gifts for registrants must search multiple retailer-specific web sites. Such inconvenience is magnified when the guest does not even know where the registrant is registered. Several retailer-independent web sites have attempted to address the shortcomings of retailer-specific Internet accessible registry databases. These web sites allow a registrant to build a gift registry that is not retailer-specific. However, while functional, such web sites are unsatisfactory in practice. The registrant must manually enter large amounts of information, such as a product description, price, and possible places that the registry item can be found. Further, there is no method by which a retailer can update the registry when a purchase is made. Rather, such web sites typically require that the guest update the registrants' web page as gifts are purchased. This has the disadvantage that every guest must use the registrant's web page and diligently update it. Often, this is simply not possible because some of the guests do not have access to the Internet.
In view of the situation described, what is needed in the art is a system and method for managing a large number of registries in a single uniform environment such that the amount of work required by both the registrants and the guests is minimized and the content of the registries is expanded beyond traditional retail content.
The present invention provides a system and method for aggregating registries. The system and method allows registrants to collect all registries, both custom and retailer-specific, in a single web site. The present invention allows registrants to expand the number of event types for which they create registries. Using the features of the present invention, registries for even the most common events, such as birthdays, are created by registrants and are easily accessed by relatives and friends over the Internet.
In a preferred embodiment, a query from a registrant, which includes an identifier and a search criteria, is received by a server. The identifier is used to select a particular registry database from a plurality of registry databases. The search criteria is used to identify matching registries in the selected registry database. In response to a selection of one of the matching registries, a user identification that uniquely identifies the registrant is associated with the selected registry. As the registrant selects additional registries, an aggregated registry forms that is composed of each registry that has been chosen. Because selected registries are associated with a user identification rather than transferred to a secondary registry database, an aggregated registry typically spans multiple primary registry databases.
In another aspect of the present invention, a query is received from a guest and multiple registry databases are searched. The query typically includes a name of a registrant and an event date. A unique identifier, for each matching registry in any of the multiple registry databases, is then communicated to the guest. When the guest selects one of the unique identifiers, the registry associated with the unique identifier is opened for review. The guest may pick items in the registry for purchase while the registry is open. In a preferred embodiment, the guest may make additional queries. The additional queries may designate different registrants or additional event dates. As with the original query, each registry database is searched for matching registries. Unique identifiers, each representing a matching registry, are communicated to the guest. The guest selects one of the unique identifiers and the corresponding registry is opened. Items selected by the guest from the opened registry are added to an aggregated purchase list that includes all items selected by the guest from previously selected registries.
When the guest has finished making queries and selecting items, a single purchase transaction is performed. The purchase transaction includes the steps of producing a requisition for each registry database provider represented in the aggregated purchase list. Each requisition corresponds to a particular registry database provider and includes each item in the purchase list that originated from a particular registry database supported by the corresponding registry database provider. Then, using a credit and/or debit system, such as a credit card associated with the guest, an electronic purchase transaction is executed for each requisition.
In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a registrant may log onto a server. During the log in process, a unique user identifier is obtained from the user profile of the registrant. The user identifier is used to generate an aggregated registry that includes each registry in a multitude of registry databases. Once the registrant selects one of the registries in the aggregated registry, management of the registry over the Internet is possible. On-line management typically includes adding/deleting items from the registry, reviewing the registry purchase order history, altering an item order quantity in the registry, identifying a party that has made an order using the registry; and/or sending a message to a party that has made an order using said registry.
In yet another preferred embodiment, registry database providers may access their registry databases from a server to review/update registry databases with in-store activity, revise on-line catalogs of products, and review registry orders. However, even when registry database providers update their respective registry databases, aggregated registries, i.e. the associations between user identifications and registries, are preserved.
For a better understanding of the nature and objects of the invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
Like reference numerals refer to corresponding parts throughout the several views of the drawings.
The components in system memory 114 in this exemplary system include an operating system 116 and the identity of registry database providers 118. In one embodiment of the present invention, a registry database provider 118 may be a retailer such as a department store. Each registry database provider 118 may be associated with one or more registry databases 120. There is no limit on the number of distinct registry databases 120 that a particular registry database provider 118 may have in system memory 114.
In an illustrative preferred embodiment, each registry 122 in registry databases 120 may include search data such as the full name of the registrant and, if existing, coregistrants, an event date and location, the store number where registry 122 was created, and a sales consultant number or name. Registry 122 may further include a field that specifies a registrant password that is used if the registry is to be password protected by system 100. Similarly, registry 122 may specify a guest password that must be specified by a guest before access is granted to registry 122. In the preferred embodiment, registry 122 includes a shipping address to use for purchases made prior to the event and a second shipping address that is to be used after the event. Further, registry 122 may include a variety of control flags. For example, registry 122 may include a flag that controls whether the registry is accessible over the Internet, a status flag that is capable of designating whether the registry is “active” or canceled, a flag that records when the last change to registry 122 was made, and/or an add/update flag that may be used to synchronize registry 122 with a registry on another server. Finally, each registry 122 in the preferred embodiment includes registry items 124. Preferably, each registry item 124 has a retailer registry identifier such as a stock keeping unit (“SKU”) or a universal product code (“UPC”) number, a quantity desired, the quantity of the product that has already been purchased, a description of the product, and the product purchase price.
The components of system memory 114 in the exemplary system of
System memory 114 also includes an upload module 128 for receiving an update of registry database 120 from a registry database provider. Such updates may be incremental updates or full replacements of a registry database 120. In a preferred embodiment, a registry database 120 is assigned an update file and an associated update control file. When update of registry database 120 is required, a registry database provider sends the update file to system 100 from a remote computer through network interface 112. Preferably, the update file is sent using file transfer protocol (FTP). Once transfer of the update file to system 100 has completed, the update control file is sent. The presence of update control file in system 100 triggers upload module 128 to open the associated update data file and update the appropriate registry database 120 with the contents of the update file. The update control file is then deleted from system 100. One of skill in the art will appreciate that numerous variations of upload module 128 are possible. All such variations are within the scope of the present invention. For example, in an alternative embodiment, the control file is not deleted from system 100 after an update. Rather, upload module is triggered to perform a subsequent update when the timestamp of the update control file changes.
In some embodiments of the present invention, system memory 114 includes a download module 130 that may be used by registry database providers 118 to download registry orders made by guests and/or registry 122 updates made by registrants on system 100. In a preferred embodiment, download module 130 may be implemented as an FTP server. When a registry database provider provides the appropriate password associated with the registry database provider, access is granted and information downloaded. Preferably, registry orders are in a file with a customized format that was specified by the registry database provider 118. It will be appreciated that the data transferred by upload module 128 and download module 130 may be secured in a variety of different ways known to those of skill in the art. For example, the data may be encrypted, transferred over the open Internet, on leased lines, or on virtual private networks.
Web site 132 provides a graphical user interface that is used by guests, registrants, and registry database providers. Web site 132 includes three modules, an aggregation module 134 for aggregating registries 120, a shopping module 136 that provides an interface to guests, and an on-line management module 138 that provides an Internet interface for on-line registry management by registrants. Web site 132 may optionally include a variety of other modules, such as a registry database provider in store registry module 140. Module 140 may support registry database providers such as small businesses or shop owners that do not have an in house electronic registry database. Module 140 may be accessed from such businesses or shop owners and serve as a proxy to an in house electronic registry.
The utility of upload module 128 may be further appreciated by reference to
As illustrated in
As shown in
Profile database 126 (
In some embodiments of the present invention, registrant profile 300 includes an event date 316 and an event type 318, such as a wedding or birthday. Further, a personal web page 320 may be designed using a profile wizard provided by web site 132 and associated with a particular event. The personal web page may provide guests with information such as news related to the event, driving instructions, hotel information, and/or uploaded images.
In yet other embodiments of the present invention, the registrant profile stored in profile database is two-tiered. The top tier includes basic information about a registrant, including a general user identifier. Several lower tiered profiles may exist, each representing a distinct event for which the registrant has registered. Each of the second-tiered profiles may include an associated web page that provides information related to the event.
Preferably, each guest profile includes the information necessary to support a single click purchase by the guest. Such information typically includes credit card and/or debit card information, a billing address and a reference phone number or E-mail address. The guest profile is typically generated by prompts made by system 100 the first time a guest logs in to the system.
Now that the general architecture of a system in accordance with the present invention has been disclosed, the concept of registry aggregation can be described. Referring to
In processing step 408, the search criteria specified in processing step 406 are used to search the specified registry database 120 for matching registries 122. Next, in processing step 410, the registrant selects a matching registry 122. In processing step 412, the general user identifier 302 of the registrant is assigned to the registry 122 selected in processing step 410. Preferably, the assignment of a general user identifier 302 to a registry 122 is made by populating a specific field in registry 122, which is reserved for general user identifiers, with general user identifier 302.
In a preferred embodiment, the assignment of a general user identifier 302 to a registry 122 is not overwritten when registry database 120 is updated by upload module 128. Thus, for example, the assignment is not overwritten even when the registry database provider 118 associated with the registry database 120 that includes registry 122 updates the registry.
Registry aggregation occurs when the process illustrated in
To illustrate the aggregation process of
In view of the foregoing general description of the invention, those skilled in the art will recognize a number of benefits associated with the disclosed technology. For example, there is no requirement that the various registries in an aggregated registry be in the same registry database 120. Thus, there is no requirement that the various registries 122 in the aggregated registry have a similar or compatible data structure. Furthermore, because registries in an aggregated registries are left intact in their native registry databases, it is possible for registry database providers to upload database updates without overwriting the associations made in the aggregation process. Another advantage of the aggregated registry is that it is not dependent upon the name of the registrant or other personal information provided by the registrant. Thus, an aggregated registry can include registries that have slight variations of the registrant's name, or indeed, different names altogether.
Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides a permanent framework for hosting registries throughout the life of each registrant. Accordingly, system 100 can be configured to send E-mail messages to a registrant on the eve of birthdays, and other major calendared events. The E-mail message can invite the registrant to generate an aggregated registry for the event. In another aspect of this framework, customers can rely on system 100 to send them reminders about major events, involving friends, business associates, family members or colleagues that may require the purchase of a gift or card.
To better appreciate certain aspects of the present invention, an illustrative registrant session is shown in
Once the registrant selects a registry 122, the registrant may update the registry (step 614). Such updates may include, for example, changing the order item count of a registry item 124, and adding or deleting registry items 124. Because the component registries 122 of an aggregated registry remain in their native registry databases 120, it is possible to communicate the updates made in processing step 616 to the appropriate registry database provider 120 using downloader 130.
To better appreciate additional aspects of the present invention, an illustrative guest session is shown in
One of the advantages of the present invention is that the guest may make multiple queries in a single Internet session 718. Each query 704 may be for a different party and/or event. Thus, in a single session, a guest may make several different selections, or purchases, from several different registry databases 120. Each selection made by a guest in a single Internet session is collected into an aggregated purchase list. At the end of the Internet session, a single aggregated purchase transaction 720 is performed. If the guest had logged into system 100 (702) and the guest profile includes credit card information, the single aggregated purchase transaction may be automatically performed using the information stored in the guest profile. Finally, the session ends 722. In an alternative embodiment, guests do not log into system 100 until step 720.
The system and method of the present invention allows guests to purchase gifts directly from retailers without selecting a registry or accessing a registry database. When a guest purchases a gift from a retailer without accessing a registry, 906 designates a retailer rather than a registry database provider. Thus, it is possible for an aggregated purchase list 900 to include both records 906 that designate a registry database provider and records 906 that designate a retailer.
The advantage of an aggregated purchase list is that it provides convenience to the guest. Rather than executing a series of on-line sessions to buy registry items, a guest makes all necessary selections during one session. Further, the aggregated purchase list provides transaction flexibility. That is, all purchases may be made in a single credit card transaction by server 100. In such an embodiment, respective registry database providers 906 may have accounts that are credited for purchases made through server 100. Additionally, separate credit card transactions can be arranged for those registry database providers that have no such account. Most importantly, the credit card transactions made, either collective or separate, are transparent to the guest. Now that the structure of aggregated purchase list 900 has been disclosed, one of skill in the art will appreciate the convenience that it provides to the guest.
Although not shown in
The present invention can be used in conjunction with a master registry database. In a preferred embodiment, the master registry database is a registry database that is maintained by a retailer that has several outlet stores. Referring to
The embodiments were chosen and described in order to best explain the principles of the invention and its practical applications, to thereby enable others skilled in the art to best utilize the invention and various embodiments with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. For example, it will be appreciated that one or more components of upload module 128 may be implemented directly within web site 132. Further, one or more registry databases 120 may actually reside on one or more remote servers 142 that are accessible to system memory 114 through network interface 112. It is intended that the scope of the inventions be defined by the following claims and their equivalents. system memory 114 through network interface 112. It is intended that the scope of the inventions be defined by the following claims and their equivalents.