December 2, 2010, 3:37 PM

eBay buys local product search service Milo.com

The online marketplace will integrate Milo’s technology into mobile offerings.

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EBay Inc. today said it had bought Milo.com Inc., a company that enables consumers to search for products from local bricks-and-mortar retailers on the web and through mobile devices. EBay says it will integrate Milo.com’s technology into the online marketplace’s platforms, including mobile offerings, giving consumers access to real-time inventory data for some 3 million products in about 50,000 stores.

EBay did not say how much it paid for Milo.com.

“Local commerce companies like Milo are blurring the lines between in‐store and online shopping,” says Mark Carges, chief technology officer and senior vice president, global products, for eBay Marketplaces. “By making accurate, real‐time, local store inventory and pricing available to online and mobile shoppers, we see a huge opportunity for local retailers, small businesses and eBay sellers to reach more buyers, and for consumers to make more informed buying decisions.”

Through Milo, eBay says it will bring online the inventories of more small local retailers. The online marketplace says Milo works with 140 retailers, 90 of which are considered small- or medium-sized.

Skater supply store Black Diamond Sports, based in California, is a retailer that works with Milo. “Reaching potential customers wherever they may be, whether it's online or right outside the door, is imperative in order to stay competitive and continue bringing foot traffic into our store,” says Konstantin Shostakovich, the store’s manager. 

Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps retailers sell through online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, search engines and comparison shopping sites, says that Milo can help eBay in one of e-commerce’s hottest areas: local product availability. And he says the acquisition appears likely to boost eBay’s recent thrusts into mobile, which include apps for iPhone and Android-backed mobile devices, and the online marketplace’s purchase last summer of RedLaser, a mobile app for scanning bar codes for online price comparisons.

Eric Best, CEO of Mercent Corp., which provides similar services, says the acquisition could help eBay gain on Amazon.com, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. “EBay stands to gain if it can insert itself into the bricks-and-mortar transaction process,” he says, adding that such a task can be more difficult for Amazon, which would run the risk of eating into its own sales.

He also notes that Google’s courtship of local daily-deal provider Groupon also can position the search engine company to compete more fiercely on the local front. “Google and eBay are pursuing local advertising and local shopping as a strategic counter to Amazon’s strength in the marketplace,” he says.

Whatever happens, the last few days have brought more evidence of what will emerge as one of the main e-commerce themes in the new year, says Sucharita Mulpuru, an e-retail analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “I think that we can safely say that between this and the Groupon rumors, the biggest trend of 2011 will be local, local, local,” she says.

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