Lately, Amazon seems like that family member of yours that just turned 21. She’s still the same person you’ve always known and loved, and you will continue to love her, but she’s trying out some crazy things lately that’s making you question whether it’s going to change her permanently and fundamentally from the person you've always known.
First, there was the whole drone thing via Amazon Prime Air. Then, there was the shipping packages on Sundays development. Now, Amazon has filed a patent for what they refer to as “anticipatory shipping.” In layman’s terms, they want to be able to ship you things that they think you’ll like before you even agree to buy them.
Two thoughts are running through your head right now. The first is “It’s not free, is it? What’s the catch?” and the second is, “But we’ll get the chance to return the things we don’t want, right? I refuse to be charged for something I never bought in the first place!”
Fret not, dear consumer - Amazon seems to be far more interested in increasing their positive rapport with you, their existing clients, rather than irritating you by sending you stuff that you don’t need or want and then charging you for it. That would be a douche move, after all. Amazon’s chief goal here is to “build goodwill” by giving their customers “promotional gifts,” as The Verge pointed out from Amazon’s patent.
That's right - free stuff. But how do they know that we’re they’re sending us is something that we'll like? If they’re so willing to take the hit on first paying to ship us something and then paying to have it sent back when we return it, they must be pretty sure that we’re going to like it enough to keep it in the first place, right? And just how will they go about doing that?
Simple. Do you have a wish list where you keep things you’re interested in buying down the road (or secretly hoping someone else buys you so you don’t have to spend the money)? Amazon might check out your lists and send you some booty. Have you ever bought a Stephen King book, someone whose work you wouldn’t mind reading again? Have you bought several Lego-themed video games in the past, or even Chris Hemsworth movies? Amazon can track your past purchases through their website for an idea of what kind of items to send you that, chances are, wouldn't get sent back.
Another way in which Amazon will determine your interests: remember how Facebook admitted to testing out tracking software that judges what your interests are by how long your mouse lingers on the page? Amazon will be using a similar software to determine your interests in a similar fashion.
To take a step back from this Big Brother-y situation for a moment, “anticipatory shipping” can actually make a big difference in the time it takes for you to receive an order after it has been placed (though, if you’re a Prime member, you have already tasted the succulent juice of having something delivered to you either two days later or, in the case of music and film, seeing it on your doorstep on its release date).
"Anticipatory shipping" can make Amazon even more of a leader than it already is, in terms of its delivery times compared to those offered by individual retailers. Who wouldn't choose to spend their money with a company that cares enough about their business to send them free gifts?