Who can get the goods to the customer the quickest? The answer to that question may well determine the future of online retailing. This past week, Google announced its first public test of Google Shopping Express, which promises same-day delivery of merchandise ordered through the search giant’s online store. Ebay, Wal-Mart, and other merchants are also testing same-day delivery services, as they look to gain an edge on the online retailing behemoth, Amazon.com.
But now Amazon is getting ready to launch a secret weapon that promises to shake up not only the Delivery Wars but the entire retailing industry and maybe even the world of commerce. By the end of this year, Amazon will begin testing what it calls SuperPrime Prior-Day Delivery in select markets, according to a top company executive who spoke to me, via email, on the condition that I not reveal his name. With SuperPrime, customers will receive their order a full 24 hours before they place it.
The Amazon executive, whom I’ll call J, describes prior-day delivery as a “massive disruption bomb.” In an exclusive interview with Rough Type, J answered a few questions about the game-changing new service.
Rough Type: Prior-day delivery? That’s mind-boggling. How are you pulling it off?
J: It’s funny, because we’ve already started testing SuperPrime with some of our own employees here in Seattle, and their immediate reaction was that we’d solved the problem of time travel. That’s not a problem we’ve solved. We’re still working on that one. SuperPrime is all about predictive algorithms. We’ve found that by combining the information we gather on a customer’s behavior with some basic neurological data, we can model their purchasing intentions so precisely that we can predict what they’re going to buy a full 48 hours before they actually make the purchase. So we ship the order overnight, and they receive it the day before they place it.
RT: So it’s Big Data.
J: This is way beyond Big Data. In house, we’re calling this Mammoth Data.
RT: You mentioned neurological data. How exactly does SuperPrime work?
J: As the name suggests, we’re introducing a new premium level to Amazon Prime. When a customer signs up — we haven’t set the pricing yet, but I can guarantee that it’ll be affordable for most households — we send them an Amazon SuperPrime Hoodie that’s outfitted with an array of sensors. We ask them to wear the hoodie for two hours, with the hood up, while they go about their business. They then plug the hoodie into their smartphone or their Kindle, and it automatically uploads some scans and other neurological readings to what we’re calling Amazon Brain Cloud, or ABC. We combine the brain data with the behavioral data we’ve collected on the customer, and that enables us to make the purchasing predictions with something like 99.99% accuracy.
J: We’re massively excited. One of my colleagues said this is Amazon’s moonshot, but a moonshot’s already been done, so I think of this as something more than a moonshot. To me, it’s a sun shot. It’s like landing a human being on the surface of the sun. It’s that big.
Photo by Rhys Asplundh.