Deputy Editor Sift Media
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Anticipatory shipping: Amazon’s presumptuous patent

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22nd Jan 2014
Deputy Editor Sift Media
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Amazon is a powerful presence in the ecommerce sphere, but it apparently considers its capabilities to extend into the supernatural – we’re talking mind reading.

In a patent gained last month, the great and powerful etailer outlined a concept which it named ‘anticipatory shipping’. This basically involves Amazon connecting with the consumer’s psyche – via their browser history – in order to find out what they’re consciously or unconsciously planning to buy. Presupposed purchases will then be picked, packed and pushed through the recipient’s letter box within mere moments of their final click of confirmation – all in attempt to cut delivery times and indulge the modern consumer’s need for instant gratification.

The patent reveals Amazon will use all the data available to it – including transaction history, wish lists, basket contents and even cursor activity – to work out as best it can what individuals are going to buy next. Once a potential purchase has been identified, the item will begin its journey to the respective door right away. One proposed method includes providing delivery drivers with partial addresses in the first instance, firming up the package’s destination during transit once the order has actually been placed. For popular new releases, this may work rather well – with delivery men practically poised at customers’ letter boxes with a brand new book or DVD on the very day it goes on sale.

Of course, there will be the rejected items; the items whose fate was sadly misread. But Amazon doesn’t seem to be fazed by this; if the temptation of having an item of interest ready and waiting at your door isn’t enough to buy it, Amazon will consider just giving it to you for free anyway, in order to spread the love and build goodwill (not to mention avoid the cost and hassle of processing the return). How generous.

Having retained its place at the top of the customer experience table in 2013, there is no doubt that Amazon knows its customers well, but does it know them better than they know themselves? Well, in time, it perhaps could. This is the latest, and perhaps most sophisticated, example of how predictive analytics are shaping the future of retail, and the more data that’s collected, the more accurately these anticipated behaviours can be forecasted. This means that over time, Amazon could well come to know you better than anyone else.   

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