Amazon patents “anticipatory shipping” process to speed up delivery.
These Are the DVDs You’ve Been Looking For. Like a Jedi, Amazon to Ship Your Package Before You Even…
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Jan. 20 2014 11:40 AM

These Are the DVDs You’ve Been Looking For. Like a Jedi, Amazon to Ship Your Package Before You Even Know You Want It.

Knock knock, here's the package you were going to order.

Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

Amazon, like a Jedi, knows what you’re looking for. The company is, in fact, so confident of its use of the force (read: data) that last month it patented a system called “anticipatory shipping,” which ships packages before you’ve even realized you want them yet. It’s all part of Amazon’s attempt to utilize its vast stores of consumer data to slash delivery times that it fears are keeping you from buying online. That doesn’t mean that the company is necessarily going to send you a copy of the Captain Phillips DVD when its released on Tuesday, but in a perfect Amazon world, you know, they might. Here’s how it works.

Instead of keeping those items that the company knows you really want, but haven’t quite been able to pull the trigger on yet, in far off storage hubs, using its new data-powers it will direct predictive purchases closer to consumers that it expects to want them. “In deciding what to ship, Amazon said it may consider previous orders, product searches, wish lists, shopping-cart contents, returns and even how long an Internet user’s cursor hovers over an item,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Here’s more on the process from the Journal:

According to the patent, Amazon may fill out partial street addresses or zip codes to get items closer to where customers need them, and later complete the label in transit, the company said. For large apartment buildings, “a package without addressee information may be speculatively shipped to a physical address … having a number of tenants,” Amazon said in the patent. Amazon said the predictive shipping method might work particularly well for a popular book or other items that customers want on the day they are released. As well, Amazon might suggest items already in transit to customers using its website to ensure they are delivered, according to the patent.

But what happens if you’re really not that in to Tom Hanks flicks and one showed up at your doorstep? To avoid expensive returns and, presumably, the customer annoyance of having to return unwanted items, Amazon may just let you keep it as a gift, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Delivering the package to the given customer as a promotional gift may be used to build goodwill,” the patent said.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.

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