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Apple Reveals Fashion App to Drive Consumers to Online Retailers

1b - Cover - Driving Customers to Online Stores 
Earlier today we presented you with Apple's new Virtual Closet application. That application had a cross-over element to it for shopping online. This second report follows through on yet another Apple patent that was published today aimed at driving consumers to fashion retailers specifically. Apple is obviously working with Ralph Lauren and other designers and fine clothiers to drive sales their way. Those designers and clothiers involved in the program will be able to send out invitations, promotions and cross sell into accessories like jewelry and so on and so forth. It's also a vehicle for Apple's new high-end iAds. The new app will provide a social networking aspect to it as did the Virtual Closet. Apple has thought differently here and is well on the way to delivering a new kind of application that will be the first of many to follow no doubt.



Patent Background


Many buyers of high fashion desire to educate themselves prior to purchasing fashion items. In particular, buyers can wish to review what different merchants offer, compare the offered merchandise with what buyers already own, and review the latest trends. In addition, some buyers can wish to identify sales and availability of merchandise before going to a store to shop. To do so, buyers may need to purchase and read several fashion magazines, call or visit different stores to ascertain the availability of different items, and perform research using different sources (e.g., the Internet or other sources).


While all of the resources a buyer may need to most effectively shop may be available, the resources may not be centralized or easily accessed from a single location. In addition, some resources may not be available over the same types of communications links. For example, some resources may only be available over the telephone, such as information regarding the specific availability of merchandise in particular stores. As another example, some information may only be available from a combination of resources (e.g., a buyer may be required to access different sources associated with different sellers). From a user's perspective, this lack of centralization of interactions with the fashion provider can require more effort from the user wishing to take advantage of shopping resources than they wish to give, and perhaps even dissuade the user from shopping with the fashion provider (thus at a cost to the fashion provider).


Patent Summary


This is directed to system and methods for providing enhanced access to high fashion services in accordance with some embodiments of the invention. In particular, this is directed to providing enhanced access to high fashion through an integrated application of an electronic device.


For example, the electronic device may include an integrated application operative to interface with one or more fashion provider systems to provide access to different services and different information available from the fashion providers. For example, the integrated application can connect to servers available from one or more stores or high fashion providers to receive data reflecting their latest collections. As another example, the integrated application can receive recommendations from fashion providers regarding recommended combinations of merchandise to form outfits.


In some embodiments, the integrated application can provide functions to attract or entice a user to view a particular fashion provider. For example, through the integrated application, a user can be provided with promotions and invitations to special events, access product availability, access a store locator, and be provided with opportunities to pre-order and reserve fashion items. In some embodiments, the integrated application can provide enhanced fashion item information to a user. For example, a user may scan an advertisement including a barcode, embedded pixel pattern, or other information-including pattern with an electronic device. By doing so, the user can access enhanced information associated with the fashion item of the advertisement. As another example, social networking features can be provided by allowing a user to create wish lists, look books, gift guides, or other collections of fashion items. These collections may then be provided to a social website or otherwise shared such that friends and acquaintances can provide feedback on the collections.


In some embodiments, the integrated application can provide a user with sales assistance (e.g., while the user is in a store of the fashion provider). For example, fashion items in the store may include an optical pattern (e.g., a barcode) on their price tag. A use may then scan the optical pattern to obtain additional information or features associated with that fashion item. For example, the optical pattern may be scanned by taking a digital image of the price tag with a camera of the user's electronic device. By analyzing the digital image of the optical pattern, the integrated application may access information associated with the fashion item such as ratings, availability (e.g., in a particular size, color, style, or the like), comparisons (e.g., price comparisons of the same or similar items from other fashion providers or other store locations), outfit recommendations, and other suitable features.


In some embodiments, the integrated application can provide a user with up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. For example, the integrated application may access a database of fashion items currently owned by the user. Based on that database, the integrated application may locate fashion items available for purchase from one or more fashion providers that can be matched with the users currently owned fashion items to produce an outfit. These matching fashion items may then be recommended to the user for purchasing.


In some embodiments, the integrated application can provide a user with post-purchase opportunities. For example, the user can be provided with opportunities to rate and review a store, a fashion provider, a fashion item, or any combination of the above. As another example, an interface can be providing allowing a user to mix-and-match currently purchased fashion items to build outfits. As another example, using historical data to identify buying trends of a particular user, fashion providers can deliver personalized notifications directly to the user's electronic device.


Promotions, Invitations & Special Event Notifications


Apple's patent FIG. 4 shows diagram 400 of functions for attracting a user to view a fashion provider. For example, the functions of diagram could be used to initially educate a user about a fashion provider, generate user interest in the fashion provider, and otherwise entice a user to visit with and shop at the fashion provider (e.g., physically visit a store of the fashion provider, shop at an on-line site of the fashion provider, or otherwise view the provider's fashion items).


2 Fachion app - promos, invites, specical event notifications 

As indicated above, the application could provide a user with promotions and invitations to special events. The promotions could include, for example, coupons for on-sale items, time-sensitive sale information (e.g., a sale such as "buy this item within the next two hours to receive 25% off!" to incite buyers to come to stores to take advantage of the limited offers), or any other suitable promotions. The invitations could include general events for a specific subset of customers (e.g., a "friends and family" event), a personalized event for the user himself, alerts of particular fashion items (e.g., a new collection that has arrived, fashion items now on sale, and the like), or any other suitable fashion item. For example, invitation 402 shows an exemplary invitation to "Preview Fall 2009 Collection" that could be provided via an integrated application on your iPhone. As another example, alert 406 shows an exemplary alert of available fashion items, where the alert could be provided to a user through an integrated application of electronic device 408.


In some embodiments, a user could pre-order or reserve fashion items of interest. For example, a user may select a fashion item from the fashion iPhone app's interface. The user may then choose to pre-order the fashion item and have the fashion item delivered to them (e.g., mailed to their home), or the user may pick up the item at a local store. As another example, a user may reserve the selected item. For example, the user could reserve a desired fashion item in a particular size or color. The user may then come to the fashion provider's store to view the reserved fashion item in-person or to try on the reserved fashion item.


Browsing the Virtual Store


3 - browsing a virtual store 

Apple's patent FIG. 5 shows diagram 500 of functions available to a user for browsing a store on their iPhone. For example, the functions of diagram 500 can provide a user with enhanced information regarding one or more fashion items of a provider after the user has been attracted to view the fashion provider (e.g., attracted by functions such as those illustrated in FIG. 4).


As shown in diagram 500, a user can receive advice regarding popular items through the integrated application. For example, the integrated application could monitor trends by keeping track of what fashion items people are buying. In this manner, the integrated application could determine what are "hot" fashion items and could provide recommendations of these popular items to the user. For example, interface 502 shows an exemplary interface for providing recommendations of popular items to a user. In some embodiments, the recommendations could be separated into various categories. For example, as illustrated by interface 502, a user could receive recommendations of fashion items that are currently popular as gift items, as leisure items, as luxury items, as jewelry, that are within a certain price range, or recommendations of fashion items that are within any other suitable category.


As shown in diagram 500, the integrated application can provide a user with gift guides, allow a user to generate and update a wish list and a look book, and use social networking features to request and receive feedback from friends or other members of a social network.


To provide for social networking features, the user catalog may be accessible by a social website such as an on-line blog (e.g., Xanga), a news-feed, a personal news-feed (e.g., Twitter), a social networking site (e.g., Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace), or any other suitable social website. Acquaintances, friends, or other members of the social website may then access the user's collection to view the collection, provide feedback on the collection (e.g., comment on fashion items they like or dislike, rate fashion items, or provide other suitable feedback), provide recommendations (e.g., recommend fashion items to complete an outfit), and the like.


Apple's iAds: Enhanced Ads


As is also indicated in FIG. 5, the integrated fashion app could provide fashion item information to a user through enhanced advertisements. For example, an advertisement for a fashion item could be provided through any suitable medium such as an advertisement in a magazine, an advertisement in a newspaper, an advertisement on a bus stop, an advertisement on a poster, an advertisement on a website, or any other suitable medium. The enhanced advertisement could include a barcode or other optical pattern associated with the fashion item. The integrated application may then read and analyze the optical pattern by, for example, taking a picture of the barcode with your iPhone (or other iOS device with a camera) to determine additional, enhanced information associated with the fashion item. For example, the enhanced information could include information such as stores in which the fashion item is currently available, sizes in which the fashion item is currently available, colors in which the fashion item is currently available, price, style, brand, fashion provider, ratings, recommended fashion items to complete an outfit, or other suitable information. The optical pattern can, for example, directly include the enhanced information or can include a serial number or other identifying information allowing the integrated application to access a remote database of associated fashion item information.


Various Screenshots: Sales Assistance, Cross-Selling & Post Purchase


4 - Apple Inc Fashion App - various screenshots - Sales Assistance, Post Purchase etc 

Apple credits Monica Tran, Christine Cho and Stanley Ng as the inventors of patent application 20100191578, originally filed in Q4 2009.


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