EBay Buys Milo, Moves Into Online-to-Offline Shopping

EBay’s e-commerce prowess is well-established. Now, it is making inroads into the nearly $1 trillion online-search-for-offline-purchase market with the acquisition of Milo, a shopping search engine that catalogs and categorizes real-time inventory at more than 50,000 stores (national retailers such as Best Buy, Nordstrom and Advance Auto Parts participate).

Terms of the deal were not officially disclosed, but reports put the number at $75 million. The acquisition marks just the latest of many recent turns in online product search. Google recently revamped its Blue Dots platform with the full-scale rollout of Product Search, then Wi-Fi mobile ad network JiWire purchased NearbyNow, another Milo competitor.

The move raises several intriguing possibilities for eBay, which stated in the official release that it will implement Milo’s technology into its own Web and mobile offerings. Whether that means the dissolution of Milo.com is yet to be seen. Deep integration with eBay’s Shopping.com is logical. Bringing Milo to ProStores (eBay’s online storefront software company) could enable local shopping search to move down market to smaller businesses, a scale challenge that Milo CEO Jack Abraham recently conveyed to BIA/Kelsey.

Then there is the mobile opportunity. Milo’s product and price comparisons could be stitched into eBay’s Red Laser mobile application, which allows for bar code and QR code scanning.

Projections for the research online, buy offline market are robust, with $917 billion in retail sales pegged for 2010 and nearly half of all in-store purchases being informed and/or motivated by online search.

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