Amazon Wants to Send You Stuff Before You’ve Even Decided to Buy It

The idea is called "anticipatory shipping"

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Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images

E-commerce juggernaut Amazon has a long legacy of fielding eyebrow-raising ideas — it recently told 60 Minutes it was experimenting with delivery by drone and, heck, even the Kindle e-reader was out-there at one point. Now the Seattle-based giant has patented a method of shipping products before customers even place an order.

In December, Amazon was granted U.S. Patent No. 8,615,473 B2 for what the company describes as “anticipatory shipping,” or a way of initiating the delivery process before a customer even clicks buy. The idea is to cut down delivery time and, possibly, make it even less necessary to visit brick-and-mortar stores.

The document describes a process for boxing and shipping items the company expects customers in a specific area will want — based on previous orders, product searches, wish lists or the contents of a shopping cart before checkout.

Once in transit, the packages would theoretically wait at the shippers’ hubs or on trucks until an order arrives. That is different from the current approach: today, the site receives an order and then labels packages with the final-destination addresses at its warehouses before loading them onto delivery trucks.

Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research analyst, told the Wall Street Journal: “It appears Amazon is taking advantage of their copious data. Based on all the things they know about their customers they could predict demand based on a variety of factors.”

[WSJ]

36 comments
jonaldholloway
jonaldholloway

The scariest part about this isn't that amazon is anticipating you'll buy from them, its that the govt issued them a patent to do so. Unfair advantages make big corps into monopolies. And amazon is making a bid to monopolize shipping.

joelazer27
joelazer27

Great to see Amazon leveraging technologies such as big data to improve their logistics and reduce operating cost, this will also definitely benefit their customers with reduced shipping times. I work for McGladrey and there's a very informative whitepaper on our website that readers of this article will be interested in. "Count, manage and move: Warehouse inventory control strategies" @ http://bit.ly/1kgYXWo

KarlKilian
KarlKilian

The title of the article makes it sound like Amazon has started doing something spooky, but all they're really doing is moving inventory closer to the markets where they expect it will be needed. They're just looking at customers' shopping patterns more closely than most businesses do, expanding their analysis to include not just actual purchases, but pre-purchase activities.


Now, if they actually DID initiate last-mile shipping on something BEFORE the customer buys it, that WOULD be creepy.

Mysteryman2014
Mysteryman2014

I got my own variations on some neat and cool patents. #1 "anticipatory mind F****". I will search and load up my wish lists with thousands of items I will never intend to purchase so Amazon will stock their hub centers. Then at the last minute check out with some item I never even searched for or put in my wish list. #2 "anticipatory load blow" let's see if Amazon can figure out which brand condom I will order next... Now last but not least #3 anticipatory mind read to avoid all this in the first place... Thanks Amazon love ya

TonyJackTony
TonyJackTony

Im just wondering how if the consumer not decide to buy even they have desire ? 

MiltonFindley
MiltonFindley

They regularly anticipate what I will buy and when I will buy it.  I won't see screws and nails and power tools again until the weather warms up.  Good for them, and my life is easier for their efforts.  

GeoffreyMcGillMcGowan
GeoffreyMcGillMcGowan

Very misleading article title, think the editor should maybe swap this for a nice tabloid where his talents are better suited.


This is basic logistics and mosts support companies use this same tactic for stocking replacement parts etc. Not sure how you can patent something like this. 

ZainabSandah
ZainabSandah

Title of article is misleading. There's a vast (and practical) difference between 'sending you stuff before you've even decided to buy it' and what's actually Amazon's intention (as described in the article), which is, to have stuff packaged, sitting at the nearest hub and waiting for you to place an order (for the stuff)...

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kitmoresby2014
kitmoresby2014

I think the comments on this article just prove that nobody actually READ articles. 

Whatanotion
Whatanotion

Vacuum tube infrastructure has got to be on one of these: Amazon or Google, giant's radar.  They could theoretically buy up the dead real estate in Michigan and  rebuild it with modernization in mind and have themselves a future city into which I would move just because they will screen for religious fanatics and those preoccupied with sharpening knives and marveling at firearms and other leanings towards unreasonable intolerance.  Plus there will be more bike lanes than car/truck lanes.  And the new pro-gravity vehicles will be fun to ride.


Channah
Channah

I buy 95% of all purchases (except grocery items) thru Amazon.  That gives a very wide list of items.  They'd never know what I'd want next.  Besides, delivery in 3-5 days?  That is plenty fast for me.

socialtalker
socialtalker

no doubt they will have my case of coconut water on the dock as soon as i press the 1 click button.

JoeyBaloney
JoeyBaloney

Me thinks Bezos is struggling to obtain a sustainable competitive advantage for which the customer will pay a premium.  The notion of stocking stuff close customers who are likely to buy is done already as a matter of course by everyone.  The idea of keeping inventory on a truck is also done in some circumstances.  The idea that any of this is patentable is ludicrous, almost as ludicrous as delivery by drones.  None of this nonsense (patents for smart distribution and packages delivered by drones) will create value.  Amazon must be coming up short.

fred90210fred
fred90210fred

If they send something you didn't order yet, by law you can keep it, use it and not have to pay for it.

Tiredashell
Tiredashell

Now the brick and mortar stores will start using software robots that peruse Amazon, fill up shopping carts, and then log out.

allison.aa
allison.aa

A typically mindless "report". Anybody who has been paying attention to what Amazon is doing is, or should be, aware that the company is establishing local warehouses in order to expedite delivery. Amazon is obviously using the information it has about its customers to tailor the local inventory, just as supermarkets have been doing for years.

jburt56
jburt56

Omniscience down.  Omnipotence next?

Cabaedium
Cabaedium

@Channah They're not predicting what *you* will want, but rather what people in your area will want. That way, when you decide to buy your next [random item] from them, it's already sitting in the nearest delivery hub. They don't know who will buy it, just that someone likely will.

Greisha
Greisha

@JoeyBaloneyThey were granted the patent therefore it is patentable as any other original method. 

They probably have some statistics that shows high enough percentage of users eventually order and calculated that this method may work.  It is called mathematical modeling.

Cabaedium
Cabaedium

@SillyPlanet1 They don't send you the item, they simply stock it nearby so that when someone in your area orders it, the delivery time is practically zero.

Polymath3
Polymath3

@Cabaedium @Channah Actually, they ARE predicting what YOU want based on what you browse, put on your wish lists, and in your cart. Read the article; that's what it says.

KennethGallaher
KennethGallaher

@Cabaedium @Channah and they already have  a good idea.  Look at their suggestions - they know you!

JoeyBaloney
JoeyBaloney

@Greisha@JoeyBaloney Not so fast.  The likelihood of sustaining a patent for an "algorithm" is slight and is even more problematic if it is indeed mathematical modeling.  Amazon is grasping for straws.

Greisha
Greisha

@JoeyBaloney@GreishaMethod is method is method whatever in manufacturing or distribution.  If method is so obvious, it would be mentioned in at least one publication and patent wouldn't be granted.

JoeyBaloney
JoeyBaloney

@Greisha@JoeyBaloney Really, you think a manufacturing process is the same thing as this nonsense from Amazon?  People who try to patent obvious algorithms (such as carrying inventory close to proven demand) do so in an attempt to erect artificial barriers to competition.  And at the end of the day, the patent process is all about providing incentives for value-added R&D not the erecting of barriers to competition no matter what any management consultant may argue in their Power Point presentation.

Greisha
Greisha

@JoeyBaloney@Greisha   Granting patent for a method is a very old practice, for example converting iron to steel by blowing air though that (19 century).  

I (with co-authors) have one granted in Europe in the late1980s for method of switching direction of air in heat recuperation.  It was used in iron and steel industry and helped to reduce amount of fuel used to produce iron.

JoeyBaloney
JoeyBaloney

@Polymath3@JoeyBaloney@Greisha Yes and Bezos needs to watch his ass as erecting artificial barriers to competition as a means of gaining monopoly power never did sit well with can-do Americans.

Polymath3
Polymath3

@JoeyBaloney @Greisha They have had a patent on "Buy With One Click" for several years. It is actually a patent violation for other companies to let you purchase an item with a single computer click. Some of the things the patent office approves just should not be.