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.”