In the widely discussed “METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR ANTICIPATORY PACKAGE SHIPPING” patent, a method for anticipating customer demand from past behavior, and then starting the delivery of the order before the customer hit’s the “buy” button, the underlying question is  truly “how applicable could this really be?”.  In thinking through the practical implementation of this, predicting for a specific customer and starting the shipping of an order for a specific customer seems like a high risk and low potential scenario.  But it is not “one customer” that is being predicted.

The key to the applicability of this patent in shortening fulfillment times lies in two key factors.  First, is in customer density.  In dense enough population areas, where customer demand is sufficiently aggregated, the trick is that the shipping anticipation is not for one specific customer, but for any one of the customers with similar history and taste will order the item.

The second key is the partial address creation on the shipment.  In the patent, it is described that “… without completely specifying a delivery address at time of shipment” – partially, not completely filling in the delivery address allows for final customer information to put on the shipment during the delivery process.  This could happen at a forward depot delivery facility or even “on the fly” in the delivery vehicle by the driver.

The patent is not that the order is fully delivered prior to the customer order, just that the delivery process commences prior to a specific customer order.  When you put all of these factors together, the implementation of Amazon anticipatory shipping is more practical than, say, drones or other crazy ideas.

Here’s a link to the patent application:

http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/patog/week52/OG/html/1397-4/US08615473-20131224.html