|Sun Mar 17 2013 15:06:08|
eBay Flexes Muscle with Flexible Shipping Delivery
By: Brian Cohen
eBay recently filed a patent application for "Flexible Shipping Delivery" with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Not quite a "virtual receptionist," bidders/buyers would not have to be physically present but would be able to sign for items from a remote location (e.g. from their cell phone) for shipments requiring signature confirmation.
eBay describes the conundrum in its patent:
The user will typically have to specify the destination address where the user would like the item to be shipped. The destination address may be, for example, a residence address or a business address of the user. However, the user may be required to be physically present at the destination address for items requiring a signature confirmation. When the user misses the delivery, the user typically would have to pick up the item at a predetermined location causing much frustration and wasted time.
and of course their solution:
"...(The invention is) sending notifications of shipment statuses and opportunities to adjust delivery options to a customer. The shipping delivery application can store the user's preset delivery preferences and electronic signatures (or any other types of encrypted identity/confirmation mechanisms, such as fingerprints, Personal Identification Number (PIN) codes, etc.) to transmit to the shipping carriers when needed. "
"...For example, when the shipping carrier is at the customer's door and no one is there to receive the package, the user's electronic signature can be sent to shipping carrier to literally sign for the package, so as to save another trip for the carrier or the customer. In addition to storing the users preset delivery preferences and the electronic signatures, the flexible shipping delivery application can facilitate in real-time the statuses of the shipment to the user and the communication of the user's preferences to the shipping carrier. These notifications can be sent to and from various platforms, such as mobile devices."
There is a funny quote usually attributed to the movie Bukaroo Bonzai and it goes like this, "No matter where you go, there you are." The Flexible Shipping Delivery embodies the spirit of this passage. Although there are still hurdles in shipping logistics yet to be overcome, we are coming closer to the reality of wherever you are, your item can be delivered.
While sellers should applaud this patent as it removes barriers to deliver your item, it opens up the door to questions of liability in case of an insurance claim. I was reminded of Google's driverless car and lawmakers recently asking the question, "Who is to blame if a driverless car gets in a wreck?"
As we delegate responsibilities to automated processes and those processes malfunction or do not provide the desired outcome, it starts to become confusing as to who is liable. There will also be resistance from sellers who believe the physical presence of the buyer for delivery confirmation to be sacrosanct, and without further review of patents of major shipping companies, I would guess they believe the same.
In addition to "Flexible Shipping Delivery," eBay also recently filed for the clever "Third Party Token System for Anonymous Shipping" (a.k.a. anonymous shipping).
eBay has also rolled out eBay Now: "From your phone to your door in about an hour" where eBay's "valet" "will pick up and deliver the item to you...We go to a local store, pick up the item, and hand deliver it wherever you happen to be."
With eBay's recent adventures in shipping, one has to wonder if eBay will ever make a major move in shipping sector. eBay is making the eBay experience a closed circuit from point of purchase to delivery if it cuts out the middle men. Some have even speculated that eBay's anonymous shipping patent is one way to shift towards a "Fulfilled by Amazon" type experience where Items are offered by a third-party sellers, but shipped from an eBay fulfillment center.
One only needs to look back at the acquisitions of Billpoint and PayPal and to find the eBay experience becoming a self contained ecosystem.
UPS has a market capitalization that rivals that of eBay. However eBay's market capitalization is twice that of FedEx. Make no mistake, this is highly speculative in nature. While PayPal was purchased for a mere $1.5 billion over ten years ago, FedEx is about a $35 billion company today.
As eBay removes the number of functions outsourced to others, the only middleman left will be you the seller.
What do you think about eBay's Flexible Shipping Delivery? Let us know below!
About the Author
Brian Cohen has been an active member of the eBay community since May 1998. He currently trades under the member name Bidofthis.com. His first AuctionBytes article was published in May 2002. Brian can be contacted through his website at BidofThis.com where he always has a "little Bid of This and little Bid of That."