E-commerce giant eBay struck a significant deal Thursday, purchasing startup local product inventory search engine Milo.com for a reported $75 million.
There has been a lot of recent attention given to the growing importance of local commerce – with rumors swirling about a possible deal between Google and Groupon, as well as Amazon's $175 million investment in LivingSocial – and Thursday’s acquisition affirms that eBay has been doing more than just listening.
Milo lists product inventory for more than 50,000 stores across the U.S., including major retailers such as Macy’s, Best Buy and Target. Overall, the site features more than 3 million products for which users can search and determine in real-time whether a local store is carrying that product and at what price.
The site is an indispensable tool for local merchants to attract online customers to their brick-and-mortar stores. With Forrester projecting the research-online, shop-offline market to reach $1 trillion in 2011, Milo’s mission was to take ownership of that bridge between online browsing and in-store buying.
The purchase by eBay will give Milo a larger platform to do exactly that, but there are some potential obstacles. Google recently rolled out a local product inventory feature of its own in anticipation of the 2010 holidays, and Amazon is not likely to let neither Google nor eBay get too comfortable in the local products space without making a move.
And Google’s aforementioned interest in local deals provider Groupon, paired with Amazon’s new stake in Groupon competitor LivingSocial, hints that the entire local commerce space is not only heating up but could also become fiercely competitive in 2011.