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Amazon's Predictive Delivery Prompt More Dismissal than Delight

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Whether it's delivery drones or drop-off at the nearest subway station, no-one can accuse Amazon of lacking imagination when it comes to getting your package to you.

A patent for predictive delivery, however, has supply chain analysts doubting the chance that the innovative retailer can deliver the goods this time, conceptually-speaking.

The focus is on predicting the needs of a specific end-customer, which should always be the goal of improved order fulfillment but in this case is probably a step too far down the supply chain. Forecasting is more of an odds game, playing the likelihood of the general need for a product in one area, rather than punting on a specific order to an exact town.

Amazon predictive delivery patent
Image via U.S. Patent & Trade Office

The real application is likely to be in the mid-to-late stages of the delivery chain. Using predictive delivery to anticipate a customer's needs and complete part of the delivery in advance cuts the time it takes to get products to our doorstep.

Given the obsession of major retailers with achieving same-day delivery, this patent from Amazon is likely to be aimed in that direction. The supply chain can be more flexible on standard or expedited shipping methods for the final leg of a delivery, as the plan filed with the U.S. Patent Office suggests.

Even with this adjusted use of predictive delivery techniques, the potential is clear. As we move from the mass gathering of the Big Data-era to understanding and using that data, predictive delivery applications will become more and more common. Predicting how they're applied is another game entirely.