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Get it before you buy it: Amazon patents 'anticipatory package shipping'

Published time: January 19, 2014 01:01
A parcel moves on the conveyor belt at Amazon's logistics centre (Reuters / Michaela Rehle)

A parcel moves on the conveyor belt at Amazon's logistics centre (Reuters / Michaela Rehle)

Retail giant Amazon is revolutionizing the way online purchases are made, with a new patent scheme that would see items shipped out, before the customer buys them.

On Christmas eve, Amazon patented the “anticipatory package shipping” process which is expected to expedite shipments through sending specific items to distribution centers near those customers who the company expects to buy them in the near future. The destination will be based on a number of “business variables”, including customer’s purchase history, wish lists, saved searches, and general search data.

The patent anticipates the new delivery system in the following way:

Firstly one or more items will be packed as a “package for eventual shipment to a delivery address” without specifying the delivery address but only the “destination geographical area.” And then while the package is in transit the system will specify the exact delivery address, when the customer purchases the item.

The patent also describes “speculatively shipping” scenarios for the delivery destinations as well as how to re-route parcels based on proximity of potential buyers, claiming that packages could remain in continuous transit on trucks until a customer decides to make a purchase.

Work is carried out at Amazon's new fulfilment centre (Reuters / Russell Cheyne)


“Speculative shipping of packages may enable more sophisticated and timely management of inventory items, for example by allowing packages to begin flowing towards potential customers in advance of actual orders,” the patent says.

If the behavior purchasing pattern fails, Amazon could deliver the package anyway to build customer loyalty as a gift to someone who might like it.

It’s not the first time the retail giant has tried to revolutionize its delivery system. In December the company announced plans to use ‘octocopter’ mini-drones to deliver goods to US customers in just 30 minutes. The company said drones will be able to deliver packages that weigh up to 5lbs (2.3kg), which represents roughly 86 percent of packages that Amazon delivers.