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DE69737655T2 - Process and system for selling electronic coupons - Google Patents

Process and system for distributing electronic coupons Download PDF


Publication number
DE69737655T2DE1997637655DE69737655TDE69737655T2DE 69737655 T2DE69737655 T2DE 69737655T2DE 1997637655 DE1997637655 DE 1997637655DE 69737655 TDE69737655 TDE 6973765565TDE 6973765537
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DE69737655D1 (de
Scott N. Omaha Christensen
David D. Scottsdale Gwersen
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Catalina Marketing Corp.
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Centive Inc
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    • G — PHYSICS
    • G06Q20 / 00 — Payment architectures, schemes or protocols
    • G06Q20 / 38 — Payment protocols; Details thereof
    • G06Q20 / 387 — Payment using discounts or coupons
    • G — PHYSICS
    • G06Q30 / 00-Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30 / 02 — Marketing, e.g. market research and analysis, surveying, promotions, advertising, buyer profiling, customer management or rewards; Price estimation or determination


  • The present invention relates to a device and a method for the electronic distribution, generation, authentication and redemption of discount coupons and similar coupons. The method and apparatus of the present invention can also be used to track marketing data using electronic coupon advertising techniques.
  • Discount and similar coupons (e.g. credit, discount, discount, special offer and other coupons, here collectively referred to as "coupons") have become an essential part of the marketing strategy for numerous products, especially for retail consumer goods, Small items, food, hardware, clothing, and the like, typically found in local grocery stores, drug stores, and discounters. Manufacturers increasingly rely on coupons, discount and gift certificates to promote existing and new products, increase sales, and gather demographic information on consumer shopping behavior.
  • Known coupon techniques had several disadvantages - not least the low return or redemption rate and the fraud. According to the state of the art, coupons can be distributed by direct mail, printed in newspapers, magazines or the like, added to other commercial goods (e.g. detergent coupons for washing machines) or (e.g. from OEM device manufacturers) with the same or similar goods, computers or similar items. the like. (e.g. credit coupons for the next purchase). Such techniques require massive printing and distribution efforts and are historically characterized by a low return rate (typically less than 2 of the coupons distributed are also redeemed). Therefore, such mass distribution techniques may not be cost effective and may not be environmentally friendly due to the enormous amount of paper wasted.
  • The low levels of redemption may be due, in part, to difficulties a consumer may have with storing, cataloging, and finding suitable coupons before making a purchase. A consumer can therefore only have ready those coupons that have been sent to him and that he has kept. As many coupons continue to have an expiration date, the consumer may need to carefully catalog each coupon to ensure redemption before the expiry date. Such procedures are time consuming and tedious. Usually only consumers on a budget or those who are a hobby of coupon collecting have enough time to maximize the use of their coupons. Busy or wealthier consumers are unlikely to assume that such coupon management techniques are cost effective. Still, mobilizing or tracking this latter group of consumers may be more demographically attractive to the manufacturer.
  • With the introduction of double or even triple redemption coupons by some retailers (grocery chains or the like) as well as generous price reduction campaigns (e.g. gift certificates or the like), fraud has also increasingly become a problem in coupon marketing. Color copiers can be used to create coupons that are indistinguishable from the original. Unscrupulous consumers can use such coupon copies to steal larger numbers of reduced-price articles or to make payments for products that have never been bought. Unscrupulous retailers can also conspire with coupon brokers in order to redeem large numbers of illegally obtained or generated coupons, thereby defrauding manufacturers.
  • Since coupon discounts can be used for advertising purposes, the resulting net price for the consumer, including such a discount, can fall below the wholesale price of the manufacturer. A manufacturer can offer such large discounts in the hopes of securing future sales at full retail prices. If a consumer uses a photocopied coupon for multiple purchases of a retail item, the manufacturer can no longer achieve the desired repeat purchase at the full retail price, so that the meaning of the coupon process is lost.
  • In addition, well-known coupon techniques have provided product manufacturers with little - if any - useful data about the customers who redeem the coupons. Consumer demographic data is priceless for a product manufacturer who wants to determine which articles to target which consumer groups (e.g. through targeted advertising measures). Consumer demographics can also be used to more effectively distribute future coupons. Information on purchasing behavior (i.e. RFM information, last previous purchase, frequency and monetary value of the purchase) as well as the demographic data of certain consumers or consumer groups have a market value; they can be sold or traded for profit.
  • Various attempts have been made to reduce fraud, create more useful coupon distribution techniques, and track consumer demographics.
  • Die (DeLapa et al.) Discloses a goal-oriented coupon system. The one in this patent is extremely instructive. It shows a system for distributing coupons with a machine-readable (bar) code containing both customers and customer identifications. The consumer code can be replaced by a generic code with which the coupon is authenticated from a search table and further information about it can be queried. All of the machine-readable code can be uploaded to a central database to identify the coupon itself and the consumer. The uploaded information can be used for marketing (determining which consumers should be sent coupons next) and / or for discount purposes.
  • Although the system of the US patent mentioned strives for a more precisely targeted distribution, it is still based on the distribution of paper coupons to consumers who may throw away such bulk mailings unopened ("advertising waste"). Furthermore, the system requires that the consumer provide demographic information in a questionnaire or the like in order to receive the coupons. However, because the coupons of this US patent are preprinted, there may be more frequent copying or trading in coupons.
  • Furthermore, the mentioned US patent does not contain any mechanics for capturing subsequent demographic information. With the collection of consumer data at the retail level, additional mechanics may be required to upload such consumer information to a centralized database and thereby capture consumer demographic information. In order to process such data, the retailer may require additional hardware and software, which the retailer is initially reluctant to purchase.
  • In a retail store, it can be essential to screen consumers as soon as possible. Thus, if additional processing time is required to process the coupons from the system from the aforementioned US patent at the checkout, retailers are less likely to adopt such techniques.
  • Nor does the system of the foregoing contain any mechanics that could ensure that the person receiving the coupons is the target person.
  • If a consumer moves, the new residents can take over the coupons addressed to them and redeem them at the old address. Any target tracking data will then be inaccurate or incomplete.
  • DE (Murphy, issued April 19, 1994) discloses an interactive advertising system for on-line terminals. Remote end devices record compressed and encoded advertising video signals that can be stored on an internal hard drive. These advertising videos can be played and the consumer can select the desired products on the device. In (column 7, lines 45-50) this patent specifies that a printer can be provided for printing selected coupons.
  • The apparatus of FIG. 4 can solve some of the problems of distributing paper coupons. However, they seem to be more about distributing promotional content than collecting demographic information or distributing coupons. Thus the apparatus of this system does not appear to be equipped to process demographic information or prevent coupon fraud. In addition, use on a college campus is specified for this system - i.e. within a limited and narrow group of consumers.
  • DE (Von Kohorn, issued July 7, 1992) discloses a system and method for creating and redeeming tokens from television data. Product information and authentication data can be transmitted and displayed or output on a television set and a home printer. The viewer can select a coupon to print and then redeem it at a retail store.
  • This US patent discloses a technique for preventing coupon fraud (column 7, lines 16-38). However, this technique requires action by the retailer to ensure that a coupon is valid; In one embodiment, the consumer has to identify himself. Such approaches can prove invasive and cumbersome in a retail store where multiple coupons need to be redeemed at any time.
  • Also, the broadcast-based system of the aforesaid US patent does not appear to be directed to specific consumers with specific coupons. Rather, the coupons are apparently sent to all television users who are equipped with the appropriate devices. However, (column 9, lines 40-48) of this patent specification discloses the gathering of marketing data from consumer information encoded in the coupon.
  • DE (Axler et al., Issued April 19, 1994) discloses a feedback coupon issuing machine. A consumer kiosk is set up in a retail store or the like, in which advertising can be displayed (LED roll display) and the consumer is given the opportunity to print out selected coupons. Consumers approaching the device are detected with proximity sensors.
  • The apparatus of Figure 1 may solve some of the problems of distributing paper coupons. However, apart from the number and type of coupons printed, it is difficult to capture significant amounts of consumer demographic data. In particular with the keyboard disclosed therein, entering consumer data can be difficult in a retail store. As a result, the apparatus of this US patent is hardly suitable for collecting consumer demographic data.
  • A fundamental shortcoming of the device is that it does not appear to target or motivate certain customers to go to a retailer with certain coupons. Rather, the arrangement of the associated device in a retail shop can make it easier for a consumer to want a particular coupon. In other words, a consumer can select several products to buy in a retail store and then check the coupon kiosk of the aforementioned US patent to determine whether a discount applies to one of the purchases. However, this jeopardizes the basic objective of coupon issuance - motivating customers to purchase a particular product.
  • In addition, the kiosk can take up the valuable display space. In a retail store (e.g. a supermarket or the like), even one or two meters of shelf width for receiving and displaying goods can be extremely valuable. Some product manufacturers even pay a retailer "rent" for exposed shelf space in the form of discounts or advertising fees. A retailer may be reluctant to give up such valuable coupon kiosk space. Also, access to the kiosk can be time consuming and frustrating for customers in a queue. The additional costs can prevent the provision of additional kiosks.
  • The describes a system for issuing and redeeming electronic discount coupons. The coupon data is written on a portable customer card. At the end of a shopping visit, the customer redeems the electronic coupons in the checkout area by inserting the card into the pay machine.
  • The describes a personalized coupon generation and processing system.Coupons requested by consumers are personalized to those who respond to the speech.
  • A preferred embodiment further comprises the steps of storing coupon map data in a compressed format; instructing each consumer computer to request a consumer to contact a coupon distributor to receive a unique validation code; instructing each consumer computer to receive the validation code as input; deriving an authorization code from the validation code and instructing each consumer computer to compare the authorization code with a stored code; and instructing each consumer computer to print the at least one coupon on paper if the authorization code matches the stored code.
  • The data package can be transmitted to a consumer computer on diskette, on-line or via a dial-up connection. The number of times a consumer has redeemed a given coupon can be counted in order to trigger a fraud notification if a consumer's redemption frequency exceeds a predetermined number. In response to information from the redeemed coupons, a revised database can be generated and a new revised data package distributed to a revised selected consumer group.
  • An object of the present invention is to improve consumer responsiveness to coupon sales campaigns.
  • Another object of the present invention is to provide more accurate data on which consumers are redeeming particular coupons in a coupon sales campaign.
  • Another object of the present invention is to provide additional demographic data associated with consumer behavior and coupon redemption for a coupon sales campaign.
  • It is a further object of the present invention to reduce the frequency of fraud and copying when redeeming coupons.
  • Another object of the present invention is to improve consumer response to a coupon campaign by targeting consumers with particular coupon product lines in response to demographics from previous coupon campaigns.
  • These and other objects of the present invention will become more apparent in connection with the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment.
  • Figure 3 is a first part of a flow chart for the operation of the apparatus and method according to the present invention;
  • Figure 3 is a second part of a flow chart for the operation of the apparatus and method according to the present invention;
  • Figure 13 is a front view of a disc mailer showing the packaging of a SELLECTSOFTTM- floppy disk shows;
  • Figure 12 shows a sequence of user screens in the method and apparatus of the present invention;
  • shows as a block diagram the operation of the device and the method according to the present invention;
  • shows a user screen in the method and apparatus according to the present invention;
  • shows as a block diagram the operation of the coupon printing according to the invention;
  • shows as a block diagram the operation of the system and method according to the invention;
  • Fig. 3 shows in flow diagram the operation of the consumer software portion of the present invention;
  • Figure 3 shows a detail of the screen 1 of Figure 1;
  • Figure 3 shows a detail of the screen 3 of Figure;
  • Figure 6 shows a detail of the screen 6 of Figure;
  • shows a detail of a screen for selecting further product subcategories from the screen of FIG. and
  • Figure 8 shows a further detail of the screen of Figure 8;
  • As a flow chart, FIG. 1 shows an overview of the mode of operation of the method and the device according to the present invention. A SELLECTSOFTTM-Create a diskette with coupon information and program data for displaying and generating coupons.
  • SELLECTSOFTTM and SELLECTSoftTM are trademarks of SELLECTSoft, L.C. The SELLECTSOFTTM-Disk can contain the data for generating a number of coupons for different goods. An initial diskette can contain a standard coupon selection, or it can be tailored to predetermined consumer demographics or manufacturer specifications.
  • In step SELLECTSOFTTM-Disks sent to consumers - preferably computer owners. Computer ownership is easily accessible demographic information obtained from warranty registrations, membership in on-line services, software purchases, and magazine publishers or the like. A SELLECTSOFTTM-Diskette can be in a predetermined format (e.g. MS-DOSTM, WindowsTM, MacIntoshTM or the like) must be pre-formatted according to the consumer demographic data. Consumer demographic information can also be used to help the SELLECTSOFTTM- Provide diskette with suitable system files and printer drivers for each consumer.
  • As shown in, the SELLECTSOFTTM-Package the floppy disk attractively in a direct mail floppy disk mailer to encourage the consumer to open the packaging and examine the software contained therein. The attractively packaged SELLECTSOFTTM-Disc may generate consumer interest in ways that other bulk coupon mailings cannot. A consumer may be more reluctant to throw away a computer disk than a mailed coupon package. Therefore, a computer diskette is likely to have a longer "dwell time" in the consumer's home than a mailed coupon package. Since a large number of coupons can be stored on just one disk, the frequency of mailing campaigns can be significantly reduced. In this way, the total cost of selling SELLECTSOFTTM-Diskette equal to, if not lower than, conventional mailing method.
  • The SELLECTSOFTTM-Diskette can be provided with a date code in such a way that the software on it is switched off as soon as the date indicated in the date code is reached. When the date is reached, the consumer can be asked to call an 800 line to request a new disk or download new coupon dates. Using the date code, the SELLECTSOFTTM- Coupons generated by floppy disk will have an effective expiry date in addition to those printed on the coupon itself.
  • SELLECTSOFTTM-Send the disk with a prepaid return mailer which will be used to return the disk as soon as all coupons have been printed out or when a new disk has been issued.
  • Furthermore, computer owner demographics, although expanding rapidly, can create a profile that retailers would like to capture. Typically, the owners of home computers have a higher level of education and income and therefore have more money at their disposal. Although this is also changing rapidly, the home computer owner profile is heavily male-oriented, while paper coupons traditionally have their largest audience among women. With the SELLECTSOFTTM-Disc reach desirable consumer groups that traditional paper coupon techniques miss.
  • In step a consumer can use the SELLECTSOFTTM-Include the floppy disk in the computer by opening the SELLECTSOFTTM-Loads software from drive B: \ or at least partially stores it on the hard drive. In WindowsTMApplications can be run in WindowsTMWindow, a picture symbol (icon) can be generated, which the consumer clicks to open the SELLECTSOFTTM-To call up the software. In order to prevent or reduce fraud, you can use the part of the SELLECT SOFTTM-Software prompt the consumer to use the SELLECTSOFTTM-Disk in drive B: \ od. like. to insert.
  • Is the SELLECTSOFTTMSoftware has been loaded into the consumer's computer, he can view a welcome screen as in or screen 1 in. A warning screen such as screen 2 of the can also be output. The consumer can then be prompted to call an 800 or audiotext number as shown in screen 3 of FIGS. Such toll-free or value-added connections can serve a number of purposes. The consumer finds work with the software on the SELLECTSOFTTM- The diskette is difficult or the diskette is faulty (e.g. because it was exposed to a strong magnetic field during shipping), the consumer can receive support in overcoming the problem or a new SELLECTSOFTTM-Retrieve the disk.
  • Second, the 800 or audiotext port can be used to obtain an authorization number that the software on the SELLECTSOFTTM- Floppy disk is unlocked. This authorization number can be used to prevent unauthorized use of the SELLECTSOFTTM- Prevent software from being used by unintended targets (e.g., new tenants at the consumer's old address) and provide a means of reducing coupon fraud, as discussed in more detail below. Thirdly, in conjunction with the authorization number, the 800 number can be used to record additional demographic data - for example age, income or the like.
  • To prevent unauthorized use of the SELLECTSOFTTMTo prevent floppy disks, various means can be used to verify that the caller to an 800 number is, in fact, a target consumer. In step, the "Automatic Number Identification (ANI)" - also known as "Caller ID" - can be used to confirm that the caller is actually calling from the address of the target consumer. The correctness of the connection information can be found in a consumer database or entered at this point for future use. If a consumer does not call from his home telephone (e.g. from an office connection, cell phone or the like), he can be asked about the reasons for the difference from the 800 connection.
  • In step, the operator on the 800 connection can request marketing information from the consumer and enter it in the consumer database. This can be the age, the marital status, the income level, the number of children or the like. The operator can also verify the spelling of the name and address. If the consumer has given the operator this information, he / she will receive a validation number from him / her with which he / she can run the software on the SELLECTSOFTTM- Can unlock or unlock the floppy disk.
  • The validation number can be obtained from the consumer, if from SELLECTSOFTTM-Software requested to be entered into his computer. The process by which SELLECTSOFTTM-Software is unlocked is based on an algorithm that takes into account a lot of information - including the consumer name, the serial number of the SELLECTSOFTTM-Disk and the activation date. Only one advantage of this software authorization approach is that disk duplication is simplified because the disks in a particular campaign are identical to one another.
  • Copy protection techniques can be used to prevent further copying of the SELLECTSOFTTM-Prevent floppy disk. For example, a known bad sector can be copied onto the floppy disk to prevent the floppy disk from being copied with DOS utilities. However, copy protection need not be a long-term problem, since SELLECTSOFT's real-time authorization systemTM-Software can significantly reduce or eliminate coupon copy fraud. In addition, the consumer's identification (as a barcode) and / or his name and address (as plain text or barcode) can be printed on each coupon generated in order to discourage copying.
  • As an alternative to or together with a human 800 operator, an audio text system (for example a voicemail menu or the like) can be provided in order to obtain marketing data and output validation numbers. When calling an 800 number, the consumer can be guided through a sequence of voice menus and then use the touch toneTM-Keyboard of the phone to enter information.
  • Alternatively, or in addition to the techniques discussed above, the SELLECTSOFTTM- Floppy disk with modem communication software to upload marketing information via modem (if the consumer is equipped) and to download validation information. Such a process can operate similarly to the warranty registration software that is typically bundled with computer hardware and software. In WindowsTM the consumer can use the keyboard of his computer to write marketing information into a user screen, which is then saved and sent to SELLECTSOFT via the modemTM- Database can be uploaded. After receiving this demographic and identification information, a validation number can be downloaded to the consumer's computer via the same modem connection.
  • As soon as marketing information is received, it can be added to the consumer database (step). The consumer database can contain the names of consumers who have received the SELLECTSOFTTM- Diskette selected as well as containing demographic information for each consumer. In step, the database can then be supplemented with a unique identification number or identifier for each consumer who has been assigned a validation number. The identifier can be the validation number itself, a unique combination of the same that is coded together with other data, or a completely different number. The ID can also be found on the SELLECTSOFTTM- Floppy disk can be saved and used for fraud tracking as discussed below.
  • If the consumer has received a validation number, he can use it on the SELLECTSOFTTM-Activate the software stored on the floppy disk. How the software works on the SELLECTSOFTTM- Floppy disk is shown in the as well as -. Greetings and warnings are output to the consumer in and on screens 1 and 2 of the. In and on the screen 3 of FIG. 3, the consumer can be asked to call the 800 number, as discussed above. In and on the screen 4 of the consumer can then be requested to enter the validation code received from the 800 connection.
  • The validation code can allow unauthorized use of SELLECTSOFTTM-Prevent software. Each validation number can be the serial number of a particular SELLECTSOFTTM-Disk must be clearly assigned. A consumer may therefore be unable to own SELLECTSOFTTM- Validate floppy disk with a neighbor's validation number. The validation number also ensures that correct marketing information is received from the consumer before the coupon is issued so that the SELLECTSOFTTM-System generated demographic data are very accurate compared to those from known systems. In addition, the validation number reduces the number of consumers to be tracked by the system and supports the maintenance and cleaning of the shipping lists. Consumers who are not given a validation number after a certain period of time can be approached by the telemarketing staff with the question of why the SELLECTSOFTTM-Software has not been used and / or to assist the staff in getting the consumer to use the SELLECTSOFTTM-System to persuade.
  • If a valid validation code has been entered, an instruction screen can be displayed, as shown as screen 5 in FIG. The screen 5 can be a teaching program for SELLECTSOFTTM-System and for the application of SELLECTSOFTTM-Software included.
  • From the instruction screen 5, the user proceeds to the main menu screen 6. The - show how the menu system works. The consumer clicks on a general category and then clicks on more specific categories within this. It should be noted that in the preferred embodiment, the SELLECTSOFTTM-Software for a graphical user interface (GUI) under WindowsTM3.x or WindowsTMNTTM is designed. The screens shown in the are therefore not necessarily output in the order shown. If a validation number has already been entered, a user can immediately go to the instruction screen 5 or the main menu screen 6 once the SELLECTSOFTTM-Software has been loaded.
  • From the main menu screen 6, a user can select one of a number of categories of goods to view. Each product group can be grouped according to a category and also appear in more than one category. Examples of categories include supermarket departments (e.g. frozen food, fruit and vegetables, meat, delicatessen or the like) or other product categories (e.g. electronics, fast funds or the like). The user can select a category, as known from the prior art, by clicking on an icon or from a pull-down menu. As shown in Figure 4, each category may contain one or more screens of coupon graphs. The user can browse the coupon screens of one or more categories as shown in FIGS. In addition, a simple text search engine can be provided with which the user can quickly find a coupon of interest. The user enters a word or part of a word that denotes a brand, a category or a type of goods.The SELLECTSOFTTM-Software then displays one or more coupons on the screen that are most closely related to the input data.
  • From a coupon menu, like the and