'Clairvoyant' Amazon wants to ship items before they're ordered

Online retail juggernaut obtains patent for ‘anticipatory package shipping’

Online retail giant Amazon  wants to start shipping items to customers before they have even ordered them.

Online retail giant Amazon wants to start shipping items to customers before they have even ordered them.

Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 12:55

If you thought Amazon’s plan for 30-minute drone delivery was ambitious, think again. The online retail giant now wants to start shipping items to customers before they have even ordered them.

Taking the buying process to the next level, Amazon has developed a system that pre-emptively delivers goods to customers based on their previous purchases.

The company believes it can predict shoppers’ needs so precisely, that it wants to have a package in transit to them, before they have placed the order.

The e-commerce juggernaut has obtained a patent for what it calls “anticipatory package shipping”, a system whereby the company anticipates buying habits and sends potential purchases to the closest delivery hub, waiting for the order to arrive, or, in some cases, even shipping directly to a customer’s door.

According to the patent filing, items would be moved from Amazon’s fulfilment centre to a shipping hub close to the customer in anticipation of an eventual purchase.

“In some instances, the package may be delivered to a potentially interested customer as a gift rather than incurring the cost of returning or redirecting the package,” the patent reads.

“For example, if a given customer is particularly valued (according to past ordering history, appealing demographic profile, etc), delivering the package to the given customer as a promotional gift may be used to build goodwill.”

Amazon says the system is designed to cut down on shipping delays, which “may dissuade customers from buying items from online merchants.”

In deciding what to ship, Amazon said it may consider previous orders, product searches, wish lists, shopping-cart contents, returns and even how long an Internet user’s cursor hovers over an item.

Last month, the company said it was considering using unmanned drone aircraft for deliveries in the US.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the idea, which would be known as Amazon Prime Air, on the American news programme 60 Minutes on Sunday night.

“The big idea is half-hour delivery,” he said. “You order something and within half an hour you can have a drone land on your front porch, drop off a little box and off it goes.”