Amazon.com filed a patent late last year for a “Method and system for anticipatory package shipping.” In short, the company plans to develop a system that ships items to customers before they have actually ordered them.
The system is intended to work by first doing a deep analysis of customers. Amazon plans to look at things such as
- Browsing behavior
- Purchase history
- Survey data
- Wish lists
- Returned purchases
With these user statistics, Amazon hopes to predict what items users will likely buy in the near future. From there, Amazon has a number of shipping options that can go into effect. Items that customers are predicted to buy can be shipped to the nearest warehouse to wait until the customer completes the order. Or, Amazon may fill out partial street addresses (e.g. omitting the apartment number) and complete the addresses in mid-transit in order to get the item as close to the customer as possible. In some cases, Amazon may just ship the package directly to the customer. If a package is delivered in error, the customer may not be charged for the item. This would help build customer goodwill while reducing return-shipping costs.
The main goal of the system is to reduce delivery times and reduce the advantage of instant gratification that brick-and-mortar stores hold. When it comes to the ecommerce industry, the ambitiousness of the patent drives home the importance of understanding user data and perfecting your shipping and fulfillment systems.