We appear to have entered a whole new era for eBay. One that will go more head-to-head with Amazon, and one that will place a new added focus on local.
eBay has new local availability search results, powered by Milo, which show shoppers which local stores in their neighborhood currently have a desired item in-stock, as well as the price at each location. That should go over pretty well with users.
Of course eBay faces the task of getting consumers to see eBay as this new expanded shopping entity, as opposed to its old incarnation of just online shopping/auction site. This makes eBay more of an all around product search site.
There are also consolidated product pages, which include tabs to find products by new, refurbished or used options. A local tab, powered by Milo, also displays in-stock results from nearby stores.
"In the new retail environment, eBay is uniquely positioned to help retailers, large and small, compete globally in new ways and to help consumers shop for whatever they want – anytime, anywhere," said Dane Glasgow, VP, global product management at eBay. "Our customers tell us they want eBay to make it even easier and more convenient to find great deals, whether they're shopping online or around the corner. We are enabling a new kind of commerce, connecting eBay shoppers to local merchants."
The Milo results are integrated into the iPhone and Android versions of eBay's RedLaser barcode-scanning app, as well. This isn't the only cool thing eBay has been doing in the mobile app department. We recently looked at the augmented reality-based fashion app they offer.
For local stores and sellers, Milo has a new offline-to-online software product. "Through a one-time, three-step installation, independent retailers will be able to upload their local inventory and automatically share the real-time availability of their products with millions of shoppers nationwide," eBay explains. "It's an easy, low-maintenance way for small business owners to drive foot traffic into their brick and mortar locations—and it works with a popular point-of-sale system many retailers already use."
eBay is clearly making many moves to re-invent itself, despite coming off an impressive fourth quarter. This week, eBay announced plans to acquire GSI Commerce, which should put it in even more direct competition through Amazon. This is a company that hosts e-commerce sites for many very big brands, including: Polo, Adidas, Toys R Us, etc. See the full list here. Combined with eBay Marketplaces and PayPal, eBay says it believes GSI will "enhance its position" as a commerce partner for retailers and brands.
Other recent acquisitions include Brand4friends, an online fashion shopping club, and Critical Path, a mobile app developer, which had already helped eBay create iPhone apps for eBay, StubHub, eBay Classifieds, and Shopping.com.
eBay said last month it expects $13 billion in revenues in 2013 (compared to $9 billion in 2010).
"New rules of retail are being written today," said President and CEO John Donahoe. "Online and offline commerce are changing and converging, and technology is dramatically influencing how consumers connect, shop and pay." The new local stuff certainly plays into that.
A couple weeks ago, eBay announced it would make it free to list up to 50 items per month in auctions at any start price, starting April 19.
Is eBay on the right path? Tell us what you think.