Just days after making headlines for its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods, Amazon has once again sparked the attention of the retail community with news of a patent quietly approved in late May that would regulate online shopping within its physical stores.
Amazon was awarded a patent on May 30 titled “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” which limits access to the retailer's competitors sites while shopping in Amazon-owned stores. Customers attempting to comparison shop on Amazon’s Wi-Fi network will potentially be met with blocked access or redirecting to Amazon sites, ultimately narrowing the ability to “mobile window shop.”
While shoppers can easily work around this newly developed patent by opting out of Wi-Fi connection and instead using their mobile data connection, it poses major questions for the future of retail technology.
The trend of testing in store and buying online was once popular with and even pioneered by the e-commerce giant. Technology such as enhanced barcode scanning on the Amazon app made price comparing simple for consumers. As Amazon increases its physical retail presence, it does so while simultaneously regulating the online comparison capability that first grew its brand. Amazon Books will soon be joined by Whole Foods as Amazon's brick-and-mortar stores.
In addition to its purchase of Whole Foods, rumors surfaced last week that Amazon plans to buy enterprise chat platform Slack. But Amazon’s buying sprees historically haven’t given Wall Street cold feet. Earlier this year, a Needham & Company analyst said Amazon will only continue to grow. In a research note, Managing Director Kerry Rice said the internet retail company would claim half the total U.S. retail market in five years, reported CNBC.