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Amazon Could Ship Your Next Purchase Before You Even Order It The online retailer patents 'anticipatory shipping' technology, which uses your order history to predict what you'll buy next.

By Laura Entis

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Amazon is singlehandedly accelerating our transition into a sci-fi future. First came news of the drones, and now, there's a real possibility that the retail company may start shipping your purchases before you click "buy."

The Wall Street Journal reported that in December, Amazon received a patent for "anticipatory shipping," a system whereby the company forecasts your next order and sends it to a warehouse near you before you actually hit that purchase button. The idea is that the goods will get to you sooner when you do formally place your order.

While the retail company has simply gained a patent -- there is no guarantee that Amazon will actually use it -- the idea that Amazon knows us well enough to accurately guess what we'll buy next doesn't seem that outlandish.

Related: Not Science Fiction: Amazon Is Working on a Drone-Powered Delivery System

Amazon, after all, has a wealth of data on customers and their buying habits. In choosing what to ship, Amazon can consider your previous orders and searches, what's in your shopping cart and even how long your cursor hovers over a particular item. (Amazon's current predictions about what I'll be interested in are already eerily accurate).

In the patent, the retail company outlined potential plans to partially fill in addresses with zip codes to get items closer to customers, completing the labels in transit as the purchases are confirmed. "Anticipatory shipping" could work well for popular items like newly released best sellers (allowing the retail company to provide the book the day it is released, discouraging customers from going to a brick-and-mortar store instead).

And while some predictions would inevitably misfire, Amazon said it could use tactics such as suggesting shipped items to customers, offering discounts and turning unwanted orders into "goodwill" gifts in order to prevent costly returns.

Related: What Shoppers Still Won't Buy on Amazon (Infographic)

Laura Entis is a reporter for Fortune.com's Venture section.

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