Find a need and fill it

That is the ubiquitous advice given to business people and marketers alike since the beginning of … well, marketing. Amazon.com appears to believe they have found a potential need, and have patented a way to fill it. On November 6 of this year Amazon was granted a patent on a novel way to handle unwanted gifts that might otherwise be returned. You return it before you even get it!

While Amazon is not commenting on their patent, the AP reports many of its claims. The basic patent allows an Amazon.com customer to flag any gift as unwanted before it even arrives and have it converted to an Amazon.com gift card. This saves the recipient from having to repack and send back the gift, and Amazon.com from dealing with costly returns.

Side benefits of the patent cover the ability for a charity to ask for “x” number of items and once that request has been met, convert the request to another item. Thus allowing the contributor to give precisely what the charity needs. (Sort of like an online gift registry does for weddings and other events.)

Is there really a need for this service? As our Principal Neil Reckon says, “Don’t know, can’t say, hard to tell.” However, according to the American Research Group, only about 13% of gift items are returned and less for those gifts bought online. So what is Amazon.com up to? Other than eliminating the white elephant party, I suspect it is more than just a gift return convenience process.

Mitch

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