eBay Puts Milo To Work In Local Real-Time Shopping Site

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eBay unveiled the local shopping tool GiftsNearby Tuesday, allowing last-minute shoppers to search for products online and then pick them up in brick-and-mortar stores. The site shows consumers in real-time a list of categories, products, stores, prices and availability through technology it acquired for $75 million from the search engine Milo.com earlier this month.

GiftsNearby supports the top 25 national retailers such as Target, Sears and RadioShack. Best Buy inked a deeper integration with eBay, allowing consumers to reserve and purchase the gift online, and then skip the lines by picking the item up at their local store. Consumers also earn eBay Bucks, the company's rewards points.

The site, which lets consumers search on 70 popular retail brands, runs through the end of the year and will likely morph into something else. Engineers at eBay continue to integrate features like keyword search, but it's not clear how the next iteration will appear. "This is one of our first experimentations," says Christopher Payne, head of eBay North America. "The current iteration will not be available, but the concept will remain."

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So, the eBay team will work through 2011 to determine what the finished product will become. Most of the categories today center around consumer electronics such as video game consoles, digital cameras, power tools, video recorders, and televisions.

The Consumer Electronics subcategory drew 53.3 million visitors in November to Web sites -- up 30% compared with the prior month, according to comScore. BestBuy.com led the category with 27.4 million visitors during the month, up 84% versus October.

Buy.com rose 9% to rank second with 4.6 million visitors; followed by RadioShack with 4.6 million visitors, up 68%; eBay Electronics with 4.3 million, up 21%; Samsung Group with 3.5 million, up 74%; and Sony Electronics with 3.4 million, up 83%, according to comScore.

eBay also added the comparison shopping tool into its barcode scanning application RedLaser for iPhone and Android, Payne says. "Sometimes you just need to have the gift now and we want to meet that need," he says. "Local commerce is intersecting with ecommerce and it's creating a lot of opportunities to empower consumers."

Payne says success will come from eBay's ability to drive foot traffic into brick-and-mortar stores through sites like GiftsNearby and mobile phone apps. The company has long been known for "ubiquitous selection and choice."

Years ago, technologists thought this type of service required technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) or near field communication technologies (NFC), but the back-end infrastructure of the Web has come together to make it a reality sooner rather than later.

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