Amazon has filed a patent
with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for “a method and system for anticipatory package shipping.”
The new shipping system would work, according to the patent’s abstract, by “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 the time of shipment.” The abstract goes on to explain that the address would be specified “while the package is in transit.”
The trucking operation hinges on historical tracking data and the ability to plug that information in to a “predictive shipping model,” according to the document. What Amazon is trying to do, officials explained, is add another dimension to e-commerce in which customers will be able to receive orders immediately instead of waiting for the shipping process to commence. Officials allowed that expedited carriers can get items to consumers quickly, but “often at a substantial additional cost that may rival the price paid for the merchandise.”
In the patent application, they wrote, “In many instances, the lowest-cost, surface-based shipping options may take a week or longer from a customer’s order date. Such delays may dissuade customers from buying items from online merchants, particularly if those items are more readily available locally.”
This anticipatory delivery system seems to be the next step in the quest to shorten the waiting period between the time a customer orders a product and when it arrives at his door. Same-day shipping and instant shipping companies like the British-based Shutl have been expanding in the U.S. market, offering deliveries in under 15 minutes in some cities, and eBay and Amazon have both toyed with the new delivery model. In fact, eBay acquired Shutl in October for an undisclosed amount. At the time, eBay President Devin Weing said, “Traditional retail isn’t going away. But it is transforming, and that creates enormous opportunity within the $10 trillion total commerce market.” eBay wants to bring its eBay Now service to 25 cities this year.
Amazon also made headlines recently when it announced it was looking into drone technology as the next wave in package delivery. Calling the service Amazon Prime Air, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos alleged the technology would allow Amazon to ship out goods within 30 minutes. Bezos wants to get the service up and running by 2015, but the Federal Aviation Administration has just now started testing the viability of commercial drones. The FAA is concerned about drones reducing airspace capacity, impacting current commercial air operations, and the increased risk drones bring to people on the ground.
During the SMC3 Jump Start 2014 conference this week in Atlanta, Josh Dolan, senior director of logistics at Dick’s Sporting Goods, addressed Amazon Prime Air, saying, “Drones are one of the things we chuckle about a little bit, but in reality, it's probably not that far out."