eBay made some big moves Tuesday, expanding its same-day delivery service to 25 cities by the end of 2014 and making its shopping experience more personalized.
“The world is changing, with the lines between online and offline commerce blurring and the expectations of buyers and sellers rising rapidly,” Devin Wenig, president of eBay Marketplaces, said in a press release. “With eBay’s latest steps, we are bringing together the best of what people need from a shopping experience – speed and convenience – with things people love about shopping, like discovery and inspiration.”
eBay Now, the company’s delivery service, is already available in New York and San Francisco. Now, though, it’s live in Chicago and in Dallas later this year. Other markets, including London, will have access to the service some time in 2014.
eBay also announced the acquisition of Shutl, a UK-based delivery service that uses a network of couriers to delivery local goods in just a few hours. In addition, the online company just enabled in-store pickup at Toys ‘R’ Us and Best Buy, with more retailers coming soon. eBay also will soon debut scheduled delivery, allowing people to buy something and then set a drop-off time that fits their schedule.
So, yes, eBay is expanding its delivery arm.
There are hundreds of stores to shop from on eBay Now. eBay’s courier service can deliver any product that will fit inside of a car, but cannot chofer items like alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, major appliances, TVs bigger than 42 inches and items requiring a service contract like cell phones.
Many online startups have tried to crack the delivery business over the years, but tech giants such as eBay, Amazon and Google may have the best shot of making it work. Amazon has already expanded its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery business to California, while Google continues to test out its same-day service in the Bay Area.
It’s a very tough business, as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made clear in his comments about Amazon Fresh in 2011.
“The reason it’s a test is because we’re still tinkering with the business to try to make the economics acceptable,” Bezos said. “It’s an expensive service to provide. We’re basically working on it here in Seattle, seeing if we can get it to work. It’s a similar kind of operation to what HomeGrocer did 10 years ago, what Webvan did 10 years ago. We like the idea of it, but we have a high bar on what we expect in terms of the business economics for something like Amazon Fresh in terms of profitability and return on investment capital.”
That said, owning the local delivery market could be a key strategic advantage for any company, with Wal-Mart reportedly considering having its own customers deliver items to online buyers in their markets.
Circling back to eBay, the e-commerce company also introduced a “Collections” feature today in hopes of personalizing the shopping experience for its 124 million active users. “Collections” are groups of products that are curated by eBay’s expert curators. It’s similar to a Pinterest collection, but eBay gives shoppers the opportunity to also purchase those items straight from its site.
eBay is adding in social features as well, with customers now able to follow different collections, curators, eBay users and interests. Profile pages can also be set up by both buyers and sellers to show off interests, collections and other information.
Finally, there is a new page called eBay Today which features new items curated daily, sort of like a digital shopping magazine.