It looks like Amazon has found an interesting use for all the data they collect on customers.
Based on previous orders, product searches, wish lists, shopping cart contents and other online customer experiences, Amazon has received a patent for what it calls "anticipatory shipping" - shipping products that it expects customers in a specific area will want to purchase.
Flow charts abound in Amazon's patent filing that outlines the different ways how this shipping will work. Based on analysis of the vast data Amazon collects on customers and visitors to its website (and maybe via social media websites) it will send items to hubs or maybe even by-pass these hubs all together, without specific addresses on the packages, to regions in which it expects the item(s) to sale. These items maybe offered at a special price and, if sold, addresses will then be generated and delivered. The use of barcodes are utilized to monitor the packages and there are proposed processes to handle returns outlined in the patent application. For more specifics, read the patent filing in full here.
This new shipping process is what many are describing as a way for Amazon to further cut delivery costs and times- by moving goods closer to the customer ahead of time and then offer same-day or next-day delivery.
A whole host of possibilities exist for this patent. For example, this could probably come in useful with its Vendor Flex program. Amazon sets up shop in certain suppliers' (P&G for example) warehouses and Amazon employees package, label and ship the items directly to the people who order them. Meanwhile, suppliers such as P&G saves on the transportation costs that it would have incurred trucking products to Amazon's regional distribution centers. This "anticipatory shipping" could also save P&G additional transportation and fulfillment costs.
Amazon could also partner with brick & mortar retailers. This could give Amazon a physical presence and at the same time, like the Vendor Flex program, brick & mortar retailers could save on transportation costs and maybe even fulfillment and inventory costs.
Another possibility could be a B2B aspect. Launched in 2012, AmazonSupply offers maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) products and other industrial supply parts. It competes against such companies as Grainger's. Quicker delivery times to businesses could result with this new solution.
An important aspect of this service offering, however, is a strong, reliable partnership with its transportation providers. This was put to the test this past holiday season and according to Amazon, it is “reviewing the performance” of the delivery companies. How this might change, if at all, remains to be seen. It also leads many to wonder if now is the time for Amazon to launch its own fleet of delivery trucks.