March 21, 2011, 3:41 PM

eBay defends its local inventory search

It wants to be the first place consumers go when they begin shopping.

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In a sign of its commitment to mobile commerce, eBay made two significant acquisitions last year, buying bar code scanning app provider RedLaser for an undisclosed sum and paying $75 million for, whose technology enables consumers to search for products from local bricks-and-mortar retailers on the web and through mobile devices. EBay has combined the two services so that a consumer in a physical store could scan the bar code of a product with her smartphone and see where else it’s available locally and on the web, including at It’s also added Milo local inventory search to and launched, which leverages Milo to show eBay shoppers where they can find products such as popular toys at major retailers near their locations.

Showing shoppers on eBay inventory and prices in local stores may sound like a bad idea to eBay sellers, as it might make consumers more likely to buy in stores, not at eBay.  But eBay says it wants to be the first place consumers go when they begin shopping online.

If consumers always visit eBay first, it will benefit sellers in the end—even if shoppers don’t purchase on eBay every time, eBay executives say. “We want to give them the most choice,” says Steve Yankovich, vice president of mobile for eBay.  “We want shoppers to always start with us.”

Todd Lutwak, vice president of seller experience for eBay, says eBay’s goal is to give consumers what they want. “We’re listening to our customers and striving to meet their needs,” he says. “E-commerce needs to evolve with their needs and we want to get sellers to move along at their same rate.”

EBay has not announced how it plans to generate revenue from consumers who find a local product through Milo and then buy in a store. It does collect fees from some larger online retailers when consumers click through or buy on an e-commerce site a product they found through Milo. It says it does not charge small retailers to be a part of the Milo local search feature.

J.J. McCarthy, eBay’s senior manager of Internet marketing, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition 2011 in a session entitled “How eBay built a top-producing affiliate program in-house—and how you can too."

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