Amazon Looks To Ship Stuff Before You Order It

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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Patent for ‘Anticipatory Shipping’ looks to deliver products to shoppers before they even know they want them

Amazon is looking to take shopping to the next level by delivering products to you before you’ve even ordered them, according to a recently granted patent.

Amazon wants to start delivering packages even before customers click ‘buy’, accurding to US patent 8,615,473, for a ‘Method and System for Anticipatory Package Shipping’, granted in December. Using information including sales trends, previous orders, product searches, wish lists, shopping-cart contents, and even how long an Internet user’s cursor hovers over an item, the company thinks it can predict what you might want to buy next.

According to the patent, the packages could wait at the shippers’ hubs or on trucks until the actual order arrives.  Amazon said the predictive shipping method might also work particularly well for a popular book or other items that customers want on the day they are released.

amazon patentJumping the gun

The aim of the new delivery technique is to cut delivery times and to discourage customers from actually visiting a physical shop, as Amazon believes that delays, “may dissuade customers from buying items from online merchants.” The company has recently invested in expanding its warehouse network to ensure customers get their goods speedily, and last month unveiled a prototype for package delivery via unmanned drone.

Under the new process, (pictured in a diagram from the patent application) Amazon would send out “speculatively shipped packages” – items it thinks will be in high demand – to various “hubs” in locations the company believes are close to customers likely to buy them . Once those customers make the order, a pre-generated package ID number is assigned to the buyer and it is delivered. 

Amazon may also partially fill out address details such as post codes in order to get items closer to these hubs, completing the label fully when the item is in transit. The company is even planning to target large apartment buildings, explaining that, “a package without addressee information may be speculatively shipped to a physical address … having a number of tenants.” The company believes that items such as bestselling books, which could be passed around neighbours or a friendship group, could be one such item that would work well in the new process.

Of course, the process may well backfire, with customers receiving products that they didn’t order, or didn’t want to receive – in which case Amazon says you can return them, or convert them to a gift.

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