Title:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR ENTERING A CUSTOMER IN SWEEPSTAKES
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A computerized method and system for providing an incentive for participating in an activity, comprising: establishing an account with the user; tracking usage of the account made by the user during a period of time, the usage associated with a numerical and/or character string; and transforming the numerical and/or character string into at least two entries for a sweepstakes.


Inventors:
Mathieson, Douglas Andrew (Atlanta, GA, US)
Application Number:
12/056758
Publication Date:
11/06/2008
Filing Date:
03/27/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/29
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DLA PIPER US LLP (P. O. BOX 9271, RESTON, VA, 20195, US)
Claims:
1. A computerized method for providing an incentive for participating in an activity, comprising: establishing an account with a user; tracking usage of the account made by the user during a period of time, the usage associated with a numerical and/or character string; and transforming the numerical and/or character string into at least two entries for a sweepstakes.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: if the numerical and/or character string is a winning string in the sweepstakes, calculating the benefit based on rules of the sweepstakes; distributing the benefit to the user.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the numerical and/or character string is divided into buckets which are used as entries, each bucket comprising at least a portion of the numerical and/or character string.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein each bucket includes a set of numbers and/or characters from the numerical and/or character string.

5. The method of claim 4, wherein the set of numbers and/or characters is a consecutive set of numbers and/or characters from the numerical and/or character string.

6. The method of claim 3, wherein each bucket has different odds and payout amounts.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein each numerical and/or character string can generate multiple entries in the sweepstakes based on the number of digits and/or characters in the string.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein customized advertising can be provided to the user based on user account activity.

9. A computerized system for providing an incentive for participating in an activity, comprising: a network connecting a user with a processor, the processor comprising an application capable of: establishing an account with the user; tracking usage of the account made by the user during a period of time, the usage associated with a numerical and/or character string; transforming the numerical and/or character string into at least two entries for a sweepstakes.

10. The system of claim 9, wherein the application is further capable of: if the numerical and/or character string is a winning numerical and/or character string in the sweepstakes, calculating the benefit based on rules of the sweepstakes; distributing the benefit to the user.

11. The system of claim 9, wherein the numerical and/or character string is divided into buckets which are used as entries, each bucket comprising at least a portion of the numerical and/or character string.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein each bucket includes a set of numbers and/or characters from the numerical and/or character string.

13. The system of claim 12, wherein the set of numbers is a consecutive set of numbers and/or characters from the numerical and/or character string.

14. The system of claim 11, wherein each bucket has different odds and payout amounts.

15. The system of claim 9, wherein each numerical string can generate multiple entries in the sweepstakes based on the number of digits and/or characters in the string.

16. The system of claim 9, wherein customized advertising can be provided to the user based on user account activity.

17. The method of claim 5, wherein the consecutive set of numbers and/or characters is taken starting from the right of the numerical and/or character string.

18. The system of claim 13, wherein the consecutive set of numbers and/or characters is taken starting from the right of the numerical and/or character string.

19. The method of claim 5, wherein the consecutive set of numbers and/or characters is taken starting from the left of the numerical and/or character string.

20. The system of claim 13, wherein the consecutive set of numbers and/or characters is taken starting from the left of the numerical and/or character string.

21. The method of claim 4, wherein the set of numbers and/or characters is a permutation of a set of numbers and/or characters taken from the numerical and/or character string.

22. The system of claim 12, wherein the set of numbers and/or characters is a combination of a set of numbers and/or characters taken from the numerical and/or character string.

23. The method of claim 4, wherein the set of numbers and/or characters is a permutation of a set of numbers and/or characters taken from the numerical and/or character string.

24. The system of claim 12, wherein the set of numbers and/or characters is a combination of a set of numbers and/or characters taken from the numerical and/or character string.

25. The method of claim 1, wherein the user is provided an incentive to complete multiple transactions.

26. The method of claim 6, wherein the different odds and payout amounts give the user an incentive to complete expensive transactions.

27. The method of claim 1, wherein each of the at least two entries is entered in a different sweepstakes.

28. The system of claim 9, wherein the user is provided an incentive to complete multiple transactions.

29. The system of claim 14, wherein the different odds and payout amounts give the user an incentive to complete expensive transactions.

30. The system of claim 9, wherein each of the at least two entries is entered in a different sweepstakes.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/909,092, filed Mar. 30, 2007, entitled “System and Method for Entering a Customer in Sweepstakes” which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 illustrates a system 100 for entering a customer in a sweepstakes as a reward for a particular behavior, according to one embodiment.

FIGS. 2, 3, and 21a-21f provide examples of various operations that can be used to establish sweepstakes entries, according to several embodiments.

FIG. 4 illustrates possible interception points in system 101, according to one embodiment.

FIGS. 5-8 illustrate methods for entering a customer in a sweepstakes as a reward for a particular behavior, according to several embodiments.

FIGS. 9-20 are example screen shots illustrating a system for entering a customer in a sweepstakes as a reward for a particular behavior, according to several embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a system 100 for entering a customer in a sweepstakes as a reward for a particular behavior. In one embodiment, the system meets applicable federal, state and local laws. The system 100 can include a sweepstakes system 110, a client user interface 105, a customer user interface 115, and a prize administration partner and/or a prize indemnity partner (referred to throughout this document as a prize administration/indemnity partner) user interface 120, all connected by a network 101. The client user interface 105 can be utilized to send transactions to the sweepstakes system 110 which will become entries for customers in various sweepstakes. The transactions are based on any user activity that creates a numerical and/or character string. In one embodiment, sweepstakes drawing periods and times are pre-set, and can be defined in the sweepstakes rules. However, those of ordinary skill in the art will see that any drawing period and time can be set. Examples of behavior that could be encouraged include: credit card transactions, credit card balance transfers, home equity line draws, student loan draws on credit, checks written against loans or credit card accounts, online purchases, online credit card payments, online balance inquiries, debit card transactions, ATM card activities, checking account check transactions, co-brand card transactions made with a partner, referrals, activities performed within a certain timeframe, category transactions (e.g., April travel transaction will receive double entries), utility bills (price paid, kilowatt hours used), and/or cell phone minutes.

The client user interface 105 can be utilized by clients to communicate with the sweepstakes system 110. (Note that, in one embodiment, a client application can be used to process information and communicate with the sweepstakes system 110.) A client can be any entity which wishes to encourage behavior of a customer. The client can be, for example, a credit card company, a bank, a lending entity, a store (e.g., an online store, or a brick & mortar store), a utility company, a phone company, or any other entity that wants to encourage purchase and/or use of any item and/or service, and or any combination of the above. The client can also be an entity that facilitates shopping with other entities, and can also be affiliated with the sweepstakes system (e.g., an online shopping portal). In one embodiment, clients can also be entities that wish to advertise on the sweepstake system's web site, which can be accessed by the customer's user interface 115.

The customer user interface 115 can be utilized by customers to communicate with the sweepstakes system 110. (Note that, in one embodiment, a customer application can be used to process information and communicate with the sweepstakes system 110.) A customer can be any individual that is enrolled in the sweepstakes. Customers can include an individual that performs the activity that is being rewarded (e.g., a customer using a particular credit card). In one embodiment, in order to comply with some sweepstakes rules, the customers can also include individuals that wish to write in and enter the sweepstakes. The sweepstakes system 110 can communicate with the customer through a variety of methods, including but not limited to email, written correspondence, text messages and by allowing customers to log in to the sweepstakes system 110 using the customer user interface 115.

In one embodiment, the sweepstakes system 110 can employ different methodologies for the determination of sweepstakes entries derived from the incoming transaction and based upon program rules and applicable law. The sweepstakes system 110 can take a transaction and generate one or more entries (e.g., mathematically based on the number of digits in the numerical string or logically based upon the number of characters in the text string equivalent) in a range of sweepstakes, each potentially with different odds and payout amounts. In general, the processing application 199 would interact with entry method logic database 148 to determine which set of pre-established rules should be utilized to translate the incoming transaction into discrete sweepstakes entries. The generation of entries could be based upon any combination of mathematical algorithms, text operations and statistical permutations and combinations. FIGS. 2, 3, and 21a-21f provide examples of various mathematical algorithms, text operations and statistical permutations and combinations that can be used. Those of ordinary skill in the art will see that other mathematical algorithms, text operations, and statistical permutations and combinations can be used.

Thus, in one embodiment, as the customer spends more in dollars, the associated numerical string of the transaction becomes longer, creating more entries and therefore increasing the customer's chance of winning. In one embodiment, a single transaction could qualify for multiple drawings (“entry buckets”) depending on the number of digits of the numerical string and the established program rules in the system. For example, if a client wants to encourage use of a particular credit card, and in particular encourage the use of the customer making large purchases on the credit card, the administrator of the sweepstakes system 110 could set the system parameters so that several entry buckets were used, each bucket having a different number of digits, and the dollar amount for the winners by bucket. The customer would be encouraged to use the credit card because he or she would be entered into a sweepstakes each time a purchase was made with the credit card. In addition, the customer would be encouraged to charge large purchase amounts on the credit card because, as explained in more detail below, this would cause the customer to be entered in more sweepstakes, and for larger potential payout amounts.

FIGS. 2 and 3 provide an example of a system for providing a reward for encouraging certain behavior, according to one embodiment. As displayed in FIG. 2, a series of five sweepstakes buckets can be utilized for purchases using a credit card: A 2-digit bucket can have odds of 1:99, a payout of $5, and a weighted payout per entry of $0.05. (Note that 1:99 designates that for every 1 entry that wins, 99 entries will not win.) A 3-digit bucket can have odds of 1:999, a payout of $100, and a weighted payout per entry of $0.10. A 4-digit bucket can have odds of 1:9,999, a payout of $1,000, and a weighted payout per entry of $0.10. A 5-digit bucket can have odds of 1:99,999, a payout of $25,000, and a weighted payout per entry of $0.25. A 6-digit bucket can have odds of 1:999,999, a payout of $250,000, and a weighted payout per entry of $0.25. As illustrated on FIG. 3, when a customer buys an item that costs $4567.89, as a reward for using the particular credit card, the system and method could enter the customer in five different drawings set up in the system. The entries are based on the embedded numbers in the transaction amount. In this example the entries would be:

2-digit entry bucket: 89

3-digit entry bucket: 789

4-digit entry bucket: 6789

5-digit entry bucket: 56789

6-digit entry bucket: 456789

(Note that, in one embodiment, a 1-digit entry bucket could also be used.) Say, for example, that the winning numbers were 88 for the 2-digit bucket, 789 for the 3-digit bucket, 5955 for the 4-digit bucket, and 99999 for the 5-digit bucket. The sweepstakes can take place at any time (e.g., on particular dates, once a week, once a day, etc.). If there is a daily prize of $10 for the 2-digit bucket; $100 for the 3-digit bucket; $1000 for the 4-digit bucket, and $25,000 for the five digit bucket, then the customer above would win $100 because he won the 3-digit bucket. Multiple entries in each category could win. (Note that, in one embodiment, prizes other than money can be awarded, or a combination of prizes and money can be awarded.) Thus, if there were 150 entries of the winning number 789 in the 3-digit bucket category, 150 people would win $100. In one embodiment, insurance could be used to insure for an unknown number of winners. In another embodiment, if more than one person chooses the winning number, the reward amount for that sweepstakes could be split among all of the winners. Note that in many cases, the customer will not win anything on certain transactions, but as the customer completes more qualifying transactions (e.g., by spending more money on a credit card) he is entered in more sweepstakes, and has a greater overall chance of winning. Note that winners can win more than one bucket in a drawing period.

FIGS. 21a-21f provides additional examples of various operations that can be used to derive sweepstakes entries. FIG. 21a provides a logic statement for the example set forth in the above paragraph. This is referred to as Mathematical Operation A. In this embodiment, entries are generating by applying a mathematical algorithm which divides a number by a series of divisors to yield remainders that can be used as entries in the sweepstakes system 100. Referring to FIG. 21a, S is the numerical string of the incoming transaction. In one embodiment, this string is utilized regardless of the decimal point. Thus, for example, $2351.64 could be treated as the string 235164. In another embodiment, the numbers before or after the decimal point could be disregarded. Thus, for example, $2351.64 could be treated as the string 64 or 2351. N is the length of the numeric string. Thus $2351.64 has a length of 6. X is the counter for the processing loop for evaluating the mathematical operation. D is the divisor for the division operation. In one embodiment, the divisor can be expressed as an exponential function of a base unit B, which is set according to the program rules. For example, if D is equal to B raised to the X power and if B is set to 10, the divisors of 10, 100, and 1000 would result for X=1 to 3. Those of ordinary skill in the art will see that other mathematical sub-routines can be used to achieve different or analogous outcomes. Y is the minimum number of digits in a qualifying transaction. Z is the maximum number of digits in a qualifying transaction. Y and Z are determined by program rules. Thus, if the program rules state that the minimum number of digits is 2 and the maximum number of digits that can be used is 4, Y is 2, and Z is 4. Using the loop logic set forth in FIG. 21a, the number 235164 would be broken up into 3 buckets: 64 (for the 2-digit bucket), 164 (for the 3-digit bucket), and 5164 (for the 4-digit bucket).

FIG. 21b provides a logic statement for an embodiment similar to the example set forth in FIG. 21a, except that sweepstakes entries are the whole number quotients resulting from dividing a number by a series of divisors. This is referred to in FIG. 21b as Mathematical Operation B. Referring to FIG. 21b, S is the numerical string of the incoming transaction. In one embodiment, this string is utilized regardless of the decimal point. Thus, for example, $2351.64 could be treated as the string 235164. In another embodiment, the numbers before or after the decimal point could be disregarded. Thus, for example, $2351.64 could be treated as the string 64 or 2351. N is the length of the numeric string. Thus $2351.64 has a length of 6. X is the counter for the processing loop for evaluating the mathematical operation. D is the divisor for the division operation. In one embodiment, the divisor can be expressed as an exponential function of a base unit B, which is set according to the program rules. For example, if D is equal to B raised to the power of the maximum of N minus X versus zero and if B is set to 10, the divisors of 100000, 10000, and 1000 would result for X=1 to 3. Those of ordinary skill in the art will see that other mathematical sub-routines can be used to achieve different or analogous outcomes. Y is the minimum number of digits in a qualifying transaction. Z is the maximum number of digits in a qualifying transaction. Y and Z are determined by program rules. Thus, if the program rules state that the minimum number of digits is 2 and the maximum number of digits that can be used is 4, Y is 2, and Z is 4. Using the loop logic set forth in FIG. 21a, the number 235164 would be broken up into 3 buckets: 23 (for the 2-digit bucket), 235 (for the 3-digit bucket), and 2351 (for the 4-digit bucket).

FIG. 21c provides a logic statement for an embodiment where a number and/or character transaction can be broken down and used as one or more entries. This is referred to in FIG. 21c as Text Operation A. Referring to FIG. 21c, S is the text string of the incoming transaction. In one embodiment, this string is utilized regardless of the decimal point. Thus, LISA35 is S. N is the length of the text string. Thus LISA35 has a length of 6. D is an array of numbers that specify the number of characters in each sweepstakes bucket, where d, is the first item in the array, and is set according to the program rules. B is the number of items in the array D. Thus, if three buckets are used in the sweepstakes, B would be 3. X is the counter for the processing loop used to determine which item in the array D is utilized and the stop point when all items in D have been evaluated. Y is the minimum number of characters in a qualifying transaction. Z is the maximum number of characters in a qualifying transaction. Y and Z are determined by program rules. Thus, if the program rules state that the minimum number of characters is 2 and the maximum number of characters that can be used is 4, Y is 2, and Z is 4. Using the loop logic set forth in FIG. 21c, LISA35 would be broken up into 3 buckets: 35 (for the 2-character bucket), A35 (for the 3-character bucket), and SA35 (for the 4-character bucket).

FIG. 21d provides a logic statement for an embodiment similar to the example set forth in FIG. 21c, except that the number and/or character string is split by starting with the digits on the left side of the string, rather than the right side of the string. This is referred to in FIG. 21d as Text Operation B. Referring to FIG. 21d, S is the string of the incoming transaction. Thus, if the string is LISA35, LISA35 is S. N is the length of the numeric string. Thus N is 6 because LISA35 has a length of 6. D is an array of numbers that specify the number of characters in each sweepstakes bucket, where d1 is the first item in the array, and is set according to the program rules. B is the number of items in the array D. Thus, if three buckets are used in the sweepstakes, B would be 3. X is the counter for the processing loop used to determine which item in the array D is utilized and the stop point when all items in D have been evaluated. Y is the minimum number of characters in a qualifying transaction. Z is the maximum number of characters in a qualifying transaction. Y and Z are determined by program rules. Thus, if the program rules state that the minimum number of characters is 2 and the maximum number of characters that can be used is 4, Y is 2, and Z is 4. Using the loop logic set forth in FIG. 21d, the string LISA35 would be broken up into 3 buckets: LI (for the 2-character bucket), LIS (for the 3-character bucket), and LISA (for the 4-character bucket).

FIG. 21e provides a logic statement for an embodiment where a number and/or character transaction can be broken down and permutated and used as one or more entries. This is referred to in FIG. 21e as Statistical Operation A. Referring to FIG. 21e, S is the character string. Thus, if the string were LA5, S would be LA5. N is the length of the character string. Thus N is 3 because LA5 has a length of 3. D is an array of numbers that specify the number of characters to be selected out of “S” for each sweepstakes bucket, where d1 is the first item in the array. B is the number of items in the array D. Thus, if three buckets are used in the sweepstakes, B would be 3. X is the counter for the processing loop used to determine which item in the array D is utilized and the stop point when all items in D have been evaluated. Y is the minimum number of characters in a qualifying transaction. Z is the maximum number of characters in a qualifying transaction. Y and Z are determined by program rules. Thus, if the program rules state that the minimum number of character is 2 and the maximum number of character that can be used is 4, Y is 2, and Z is 4. Using the loop logic set forth in FIG. 21e, LA5 would be broken up into multiple entries in the following buckets: LA, L5, A5, AL, 5L, 5A (for the 2-character bucket), LA5, 5AL, A5L, 5LA, AL5, and L5A (for the 3-character bucket), and no entries (for the 4-character bucket).

FIG. 21 f provides a logic statement for an embodiment where a number and/or character transaction can be broken down and combined and used as one or more entries. This is referred to in FIG. 21f as Statistical Operation B. Referring to FIG. 21f, S is the numerical string. Thus, if the string were LA5, S would be LA5. N is the length of the numeric string. Thus N is 3 because LA5 has a length of 3. D is an array of numbers that specify the number of characters to be selected out of “S” for each sweepstakes bucket, where d1 is the first item in the array. B is the number of items in the array D. Thus, if three buckets are used in the sweepstakes, B would be 3. X is the counter for the processing loop used to determine which item in the array D is utilized and the stop point when all items in D have been evaluated. Y is the minimum number of characters in a qualifying transaction. Z is the maximum number of characters in a qualifying transaction. Y and Z are determined by program rules. Thus, if the program rules state that the minimum number of characters is 2 and the maximum number of characters that can be used is 4, Y is 2, and Z is 4. Using the loop logic set forth in FIG. 21e, LA5 would be broken up into multiple entries in the following buckets: LA, L5, A5 (for the 2-character bucket), LA5 (for the 3-character bucket), and no entries (for the 4-character bucket).

The sweepstakes system 110 can comprise a user interface 197, a processing application 199, multiple databases 195, a reporting application 198, and an advertising application 196. The user interface 197 allows clients, customers (including potential customers), and the prize administration/indemnity partners to communicate with the sweepstakes system. The processing application 199 utilizes the multiple databases 195 in order to receive transaction data, determine entry creation methodologies, apply program rules to the transaction, translate this transaction data into sweepstakes entries, determine winning entries, and provide winning entry information to customers, client, and others. Note that, in one embodiment, another entity, such as, but not limited to, the prize administration/indemnity partner, can determine winning entries, and communicate those back to the sweepstakes system 110.

The multiple databases 195 in the sweepstakes system 110 can include a customer database 140, a transaction database 141, a bonus database 142, a client database 143, a coupon database 144, a program rules database 145, a winner's database 146, an advertiser's database 147, and an entry logic database 148. Those of ordinary skill in the art will see that any combination of these databases can be utilized, and that additional databases can also be used. The customer database 140 can contain customer information (e.g., name, address, account information). The transaction database 141 can contain information on the various transactions, such as the time, amount, date, type of transaction, and merchant name. The bonus database 142 can contain information about bonuses that are being offered (e.g., double entries for transactions in the month of August). The client database 143 can contain client information (e.g., name, address, account information). The coupon database 144 can contain information about coupons that are used to buy products. For example, when a user utilizes a coupon, one or more entries could be entered in the sweepstakes when the coupon's use is verified by the sweepstakes system. The program rules database 145 can contain information on each client's program parameters that are tied to the sweepstakes system. For example, a credit card issuer can have information about their product, a credit card, in this database. Sprint could have information about their phone usage program in this database. The winners database 146 can contain information regarding the winners and the winning amounts and dates. The advertiser's database 147 can contain information on the advertisers (name, address, account information). The entry logic database 148 can contain various methodologies to determine how the transaction string will be converted into sweepstakes entries to be tied with a client's program rules.

The reporting application 198 in the sweepstakes system 110 can generate multiple types of reports. For example, a management report 125 can detail information on the transactions, the types of transaction, the winners, how many clients are using the sweepstakes system, how many customers are using the sweepstakes system, etc. A compliance report 130 can detail information regarding legal requirements, fulfillment of prize obligations, and other prize administration/indemnity partner information. The client report 135 can detail information regarding customers that used the client's product, winning customers, etc.

The advertising application 196 in the sweepstakes system 110 can utilize the databases 195 in order to find information regarding a customer and his or her purchase information, and utilize this information to create customized advertising. The customized advertising can be shown, for example, on the customer user interface 115, or it can be sent to the customer.

The system 100 can also include a prize administration/indemnity partner user interface 120 which can allow the prize administration/indemnity partner to access and communicate information in the sweepstakes system 110. (Note that, in one embodiment, the prize administration/indemnity partner role can done by the sweepstakes system 110. In addition, note that, in one embodiment, a prize administration/indemnity partner application can be used to process information and communicate with the sweepstakes system 110.) The prize administration/indemnity partner user interface 120 can communicate with the sweepstakes system 110 in order to receive the drawing entries, administer the sweepstakes, and return the winning numbers. The winning numbers can be randomly selected or selected on any other basis permitted by applicable law. The prize administration/indemnity partner can also communicate with the customers to process claimed winnings for the sweepstakes system 110. In one embodiment, the prize administration/indemnity partner can also provide or utilize prize insurance. If there are multiple winners, either prize insurance can cover the multiple winners, or the winnings can be divided equally, and insurance may not be necessary.

FIG. 4 illustrates possible interception points in system 101, according to one embodiment of the invention using credit card transaction data. The interception points are points where transaction information is collected. Intercept 1 is the point where a customer uses a card to buy something from a merchant (e.g., Home Depot). Intercept 2 is the merchant's acquiring bank (or acquirer) (e.g., the financial institution with whom Home Depot settles to obtain funds against credit card receipts). Intercept 3 is the acquirer's data processor (e.g., companies that process merchant credit card originated transactions). Intercept 4 is the sponsoring card association (e.g., MasterCard, Visa) that generally obtains data on all credit card transactions originating from the use of a credit card bearing the sponsoring card association's mark. Intercept 6 is the card issuing bank (e.g., the bank that issues the MasterCard). Intercept 5 is the issuer's data processor (e.g., company that processes incoming credit card transactions and generates statements for the issuer). Intercept 7 is the customer or cardholder that generated the transaction. In one embodiment, the cardholder may have the option to upload their own transactions from their personal financial software or allow the sweepstakes system to pull the transactions on an automated basis. They will set this feature on the system's user interface on the “My Account Profile” page (FIG. 12). In one embodiment, the customer may choose to use their Quicken software to collect transactions from their MasterCard account. The Lucky Numbers system would be configured to pull the transactions when the activity is initiated by the customer, thus making the point of intercept direct to the customer versus the card association, the data processor or any of the other possible intercepts. The transactions would be pulled based on a defined start and end date for the next drawing. Upon winning with one of these transactions, the validation process would take place based on the program rules and the prize administration/indemnity partner validation process. All of these entities can be clients, or can work with clients to get transaction information to the sweepstakes system.

FIG. 5 illustrates a method for entering a customer in a sweepstakes as a reward for a particular behavior, according to one embodiment. In FIG. 5, the activity that is being rewarded is the use of a MasterCard credit card. In 505, the customer makes a purchase of ABC jewelry at Dillard's with the MasterCard credit card. The transaction amount is $643.99. In 510, the transaction data is sent to the sweepstakes system 110. In 515, the sweepstakes system creates entries based on the purchase amount of $643.99. Thus, in 520, the 2-digit entry is 99, the 3 digit entry is 399, the 4-digit entry is 4399, and the 5-digit entry is 64399. In 540, the entries are posted to the customer account on the sweepstakes system. In optional 545, the customer can log on to the sweepstakes system (using the customer user interface 115) to check to see if any of their entries won. (Alternatively, or in addition, the sweepstakes system can notify the customer when they have won, or send them a list of their entries, and the winning numbers.) In optional 555, the sweepstakes system creates customized advertising to show to the customer when he or she logs in. The customized advertising (e.g., banner ads) can be based on, for example, the merchants the customer uses, categories of transactions, type of entry triggers (e.g., was the entry a result of a transaction from a credit card, a bonus, a coupon, etc.), Standard Industrialization Codes (SICs), and/or purchase history from the advertiser. In optional 560, the sweepstakes system displays the sweepstakes information for the customer, along with the customized advertising. For the above example, the sweepstakes system could display advertising from Dillard's, ABC Jewelry Store, and Mastercard. In optional 570, the customer logs off.

FIG. 6 illustrates a method for entering a customer in a sweepstakes as a reward for a particular behavior, according to another embodiment. In FIG. 6, the activity that is being rewarded is the use of cell phone minutes. In 605, the customer utilizes 757 Sprint cell phone minutes during a particular billing cycle. In 610, the transaction data is sent to the sweepstakes system using the client user interface 105. In 615, the sweepstakes system creates entries based on the 757 used cell phone minutes. Thus, in 620, the 1-digit entry is 7, the 2-digit entry is 57, and the 3-digit entry is 757. In 635, the entries are posted to the customer account on the sweepstakes system. In optional 640, the customer can log on to the sweepstakes system to check to see if any of his or her entries won. In optional 650, the sweepstakes system creates customized advertising to show to the customer when he or she logs on. The customized advertising (e.g., banner ads) can be based on, for example, the merchants the customer uses, SIC codes, and/or purchase history from the advertiser. In optional 655, the sweepstakes system displays the sweepstakes information for the customer, along with the customized advertising. For the above example, the sweepstakes system could display advertising from Sprint, Circuit City, and local advertising based on the area code of the cell phone. In optional 665, the customer logs off.

FIG. 7 illustrates a method for entering a customer in a sweepstakes as a reward for a particular behavior, according to another embodiment. In FIG. 7, the activity that is being rewarded is the use of an intermediary's web site (e.g., the sweepstake system's website) for shopping. In 705, the customer logs onto the sweepstake system's website. In 710, the customer clicks a shop link on the website. In 715, the sweepstakes system reviews the customer's shopping history to determine how links to other stores should be displayed. In 720, the customer clicks on a particular store link, such as OneStepAhead.com. In 725, the customer purchases a stroller for $325.76 (using any type of payment—credit card, PayPal, etc.). In 730, the client, OneStepAhead, sends the transaction data to the sweepstakes system. (Note that the sweepstakes system may receive the transaction information based on an agreement which rewards referring parties with commissions on consummated sale transactions. Thus, for example, the sweepstakes system could receive a commission for the sale at OneStepAhead.) In 735, the sweepstakes system creates entries based on the purchase amount of $325.76. Thus, in 740, the 2-digit entry is 76, the 3-digit entry is 576, the 4-digit entry is 2576, and the 5-digit entry is 32576. In 760, the entries are posted to the customer account on the sweepstakes system. In optional 765, the customer can log on to the sweepstakes system to check to see if any of his or her entries won. In optional 775, the sweepstakes system creates customized advertising to show to the customer when he or she logs on. The customized advertising (e.g., banner ads) can be based on, for example, the merchants the customer uses, SIC codes, and/or purchase history from the advertiser. In optional 780, the sweepstakes system displays the sweepstakes information for the customer, along with the customized advertising. For the above example, the sweepstakes system could display advertising from Babies R Us, Family Fun Magazine, Prenatal Yoga Video, etc. In optional 790, the customer logs off.

FIG. 8 illustrates a method for claiming a winning entry, according to another embodiment. In optional 805, the customer logs on to the sweepstakes system using the customer user interface and checks his or her entry. In optional 810, the processing application of the sweepstakes system creates customized advertising based on the customer's history and information. In optional 820, the customer user interface displays the sweepstakes information (e.g., entries for each drawing, and a reveal icon) and the customized advertising. In optional 825, the customer clicks the reveal icon using the customer user interface. In optional 830, the processing application makes the numbers spin on the screen and the winning numbers (which, in one embodiment, can be pre-selected by either the sweepstakes system or the prize administration/indemnity partner) appear. In optional 835, the customer clicks the show my matches icon using the customer user interface. In optional 840, the processing application makes all matching digits appear in red and winning entries flash and a clover appears next to the entries. In optional 845, the customer clicks on the clover using the customer user interface to claim the winnings. In optional 850, the customer uses the customer user interface to verify the purchase and identity information and clicks the verify my prize icon. In 855, an email or other notification is sent by the processing application (or accessed by the customer user interface) to indicate the customer won, the validation process, the prize amount, when and how the customer will receive winnings, and other required information. In optional 860, the sweepstakes system sends all winning and claimed transaction data to a prize administration/indemnity partner for validation and fulfillment. In optional 865, the prize administration/indemnity partner validates and fulfills the prizes. The prize administration/indemnity partner can validate the conduction of the random drawing and ensure that it conforms with the official rules written for the program in accordance with federal, state and local laws. All major prize winners can have extensive background checks to ensure the entries are their own. After all winners have been certified an official list of winners can be provided at the conclusion of each drawing for state certification. In optional 870, the prize administration/indemnity partner sends confirmation data back to the sweepstakes system. This confirmation data is proof that the transaction was validated and can include the fulfillment details, including who will fulfill the prizes and, when the prizes will be fulfilled. In optional 875, the sweepstakes system sends final confirmation regarding winnings to a winners page that the customers can access using the customer user interface to download pictures and their winning story. In optional 880, the sweepstakes system posts winnings to a customer winnings page that the customers can access using the customer user interface. In one embodiment, the winnings can be required to be claimed within a certain time period, or the winnings are forfeited. In addition, in one embodiment, prizewinners (or at least major prizewinners) will have extensive background checks to ensure the entries are their own.

FIGS. 9-19 are example screen shots illustrating a system for entering a customer in a sweepstakes as a reward for a particular behavior, according to one embodiment. FIG. 9 illustrates a home page for the sweepstakes system. This home page can be accessed by the customer using the customer user interface. The home page includes a tab (and icon) to a shop 905, and also a “My Lucky Numbers” tab (and icon) 910 which displays the customers sweepstakes entries. Sign in information 901 is requested for winnings. In addition, options to view winners 925, coupons 930, customer's winning record 935, account profile 940, and program rules 945 are provided. Advertising 915 and bonus opportunities 920 are also displayed. Bonus opportunities 920 can inform customers about opportunities for earning additional entries. For example, a customer could earn double entries if the customer purchases certain products through the merchant links on the system. Information on the next drawing is also provided. The “My Lucky Numbers” view option 910 of FIG. 9 takes the customer to the example screen shot illustrated in FIG. 10a, which shows the entries 1005 for a particular customer, the reveal icon 1010, and customized advertising space 1015. If the customer chooses the reveal icon 1010 of FIG. 10a, the winning numbers could be revealed. As explained above in FIG. 8, in one embodiment, the reveal icon could make the numbers spin on the screen and display the winning numbers (which, in one embodiment, can be pre-selected by either the sweepstakes system or the prize administration/indemnity partner). Once the winning numbers are revealed a “Show My Matches” button appears as displayed in FIG. 10b. When the customer clicks this button, in one embodiment the entry numbers that match the winning numbers are changed to red and a green clover appears next to a winning bucket. When the customer views his or her winning numbers (if any), the customer will be able to click on an icon or tab such as a green clover, and will be taken to the example screen shot of FIG. 16, which will allow winners to verify their profile and purchase information. The program rules option 945 of FIG. 9 takes the customer to the example screen shot illustrated in FIG. 11, which can display program rules, and can outline the program description and legal disclosures related to the program in various states and countries. The account profile option 940 of FIG. 9 takes the customer to the example screen shot illustrated in FIG. 12, which can display account profile information, such as name, address, phone, email address, and date of birth. The customer can edit his or her information. In addition, the customer can follow a “see my winning history” link to view the customer's winning history and upload pictures, videos and stories about the winning experience. The account profile page is also the place in the system that allows the customer to set up the cardholder intercept as shown in FIG. 4, Intercept 7.

The winners option 925 of FIG. 9 takes the customer to the example screen shot illustrated in FIG. 13, which can show pictures, videos, and stories about previous winners. The coupon option 930 of FIG. 9 takes the customer to the example screen shot illustrated in FIG. 14, which can provide links to printable coupons or coupon codes to be used on the Internet. Coupons can be made available on the website prioritized by the customer's shopping history. When the customer uses the coupon a transaction can be sent to the sweepstakes system from the merchant or coupon partner indicating use. The coupon will then be listed on the website. This coupon information can provide a link which will display entries entered as a result of coupons the customer utilized (See FIG. 17). In one embodiment the customer can select how they would like to create their 3-digit entry. The system will then determine the 2-digit entry based on the 3-digit entry. The products option 915 of FIG. 9 takes users to the screen shot of FIG. 15, which illustrates links to information about other products (e.g., Mastercard credit card, Sprint phone usage) that are tied to the sweepstakes system. The my coupon entries icon of FIG. 14 takes the customer to the example screen shot of FIG. 17, which illustrates coupon entries in the sweepstakes system. The shop option 905 of FIG. 9 takes customers to the example screen shot of FIG. 18, which provides links to other stores' web sites so the customers can shop on the sweepstakes system's website. When the customer's purchase originates from the sweepstake system's shop view, the purchase transaction can be sent to the sweepstakes system from the merchant. The purchase transaction will then be listed on the system (See FIG. 19). In one embodiment the customer can select how they would like to create their 3-digit entry for the purchase. The system will then determine the 2-digit entry based on the 3-digit entry.

FIG. 20 is a screen shot illustrating key probability information, according to one embodiment of the invention. FIG. 20 also presents the examples of expected payout costs per transaction given the fact that some transaction amounts will generate multiple entries across the 2-digit, 3-digit, etc. sweepstakes pools and the expected dollar value of the transaction amount based upon consumer spending patterns. For example, transactions valued between $10.00 and $99.99 will generate three distinct sweepstakes entries in the 2-digit, 3-digit and 4-digit sweepstakes pools. Furthermore, typical credit card usage patterns would suggest that the average dollar amount of a transaction in that range is likely to be near $46.75. Given the expected cost per entry determined in FIG. 20, the expected payout cost per dollar of transaction amount for a transaction in the $10.00 and $99.99 range would be $0.25÷$46.75=0.53

While various embodiments have been described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way of example, and not limitation. It will be apparent to persons skilled in the relevant art(s) that various changes in form and detail can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. In fact, after reading the above description, it will be apparent to one skilled in the relevant art(s) how to implement the invention in alternative embodiments. Thus, the present invention should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments.

In addition, it should be understood that the figures, which highlight the functionality and advantages of the present invention, are presented for example purposes only. The architecture of the present invention is sufficiently flexible and configurable, such that it may be utilized in ways other than that shown in the accompanying figures. For example, the steps listed in any flowchart may be re-ordered or only optionally used in some embodiments.

Further, the purpose of the Abstract of the Disclosure is to enable the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally, and especially the scientists, engineers and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology, to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. The Abstract of the Disclosure is not intended to be limiting as to the scope of the present invention in any way. Finally, it is the applicant's intent that only claims that include the express language “means for” or “step for” be interpreted under 35 U.S.C. 112, paragraph 6. Claims that do not expressly include the phrase “means for” or “step for” are not to be interpreted under 35 U.S.C. 112, paragraph 6.