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Inventive idea of the day: Amazon's anticipatory buying patent

Posting in Finance
Every day, amid the flurry of product launches and announcements about the next big thing, a few items make us sit up, turn to our cubicle neighbor and say 'hey, this is kinda cool.'

In this daily series we'll highlight one inventive idea, business plan, approach to design, architecture or city planning. Sometimes they'll be wow items and other times they'll be a small effort that if implemented on a national, regional or even worldwide scale could make a big difference. 

Today, it's about Amazon's plans to stay one step ahead of its customers' needs. 

Imagine opening your door to find a package sitting on the stoop with exactly what you wanted—and it was shipped before you even ordered it. Amazon calls it anticipatory shipping. And the e-commerce giant has just gained a patent for it.

In its patent filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (and first reported by the WSJ), Amazon describes the method and system for anticipatory package shipping:
A method may include packaging one or more items as a package for eventual shipment to a delivery address, selecting a destination geographical area to which to ship the package, shipping the package to the destination geographical area without completely specifying the delivery address at time of ship and while the package is in transit, completely specifying the delivery address for the package. 
This means, Amazon would anticipate purchases and ship packages to a shipping hub or to a truck, where they'd sit until an order arrives. The idea is that anticipatory shipping will reduce delivery times, which should, in theory, encourage customers to shop with online merchants as opposed to physical stores.

Thumbnail photo: Flickr user Silus Grok

— By on January 23, 2014, 9:38 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure