Amazon could ship items people want even before they’re purchased. A fresh patent filed by the online retailer, dubbed “anticipatory shipping,” details a project that would see Amazon send items it believes would be popular in a particular area to shipping hubs nearby; the company would use its anticipatory system through collected customer data. So, for example, say folks in New York buy a lot of winter gear. That stuff would be shipped to nearby areas even before items are ordered, cutting down on overall shipping times. And, even further, potentially create a system where items are shipping faster than someone can get in their car, drive to the store, purchase that item, and then drive home.
The data used by Amazon would be drawn from previous customer purchases, searches, wish lists, etc., and could even be “speculatively shipped to a physical address” in an effort to “build goodwill.” It’s unlikely Amazon’s most faithful customers will begin receiving shipments for no apparent reason, though the patent does account for such scenarios—all in an attempt to get people the stuff they want faster. Amazon has worked tirelessly to ship items to customers in a timely fashion, and this new anticipatory method could cut times down even further; the patent even describes products that haven’t been ordered being driven around in trucks, with addressee information being filled out in transit.
The patent was awarded to Amazon back in December, so it could be a little while before the technique is put into practice. But Amazon is well aware how important shipping times are—to the point where it believe delays will turn people off from online merchants—so it’s no surprise to see the company potentially trying something so bold. In the future, not only might Amazon ship items to you with a drone, but it might also ship something to you before you even knew you wanted it. You might not never have to—or want to—leave your house again.