The following is an Op-Ed by Jeremy Geiger, CEO of Retailigence – a company that provides tools for mobile, location-based shopping such as mobile apps and websites with retailers’ product-specific information by location.
As a powerhouse in the ecommerce space, eBay is to be applauded for making a strategic move in acquiring Milo.com. Through this acquisition, eBay has now gained access to a wide range of reference sales and product data from “brick and mortar” stores who had chosen to partner with Milo.com prior to the acquisition.
Given eBay’s mission to enable and empower online sellers, the goal of the acquisition was likely to persuade retail consumers searching local inventory that there may be better prices found online as opposed to locally in-store. While the brick and mortar sale could be generated on eBay, it is equally likely that another vendor will capture the sale based on a fractional price difference. This would certainly be the use case where shipping costs plus a potentially lower price offered by eBay sellers is less than the price of the identical product in a physical outlet. Moreover, the retail branding of the store suffers when eBay becomes the primary user experience instead of the hard-fought branding of the store itself.
Brick and mortar stores rely on foot traffic for their sales, and have relied on $60B in combined aggregate advertising to generate these sales. While effective, today’s mobile consumers are inclined to view print ads as only the beginning of retail outreach and, more importantly, they want to serendipitously purchase on-the-go and for immediate use. An out-of-stock item means no immediate sale and a probable lost customer – forever. Using services such as Retailigence gives retailers a brand new way to reach these consumers and bring them into the store, with full confidence that the item they are looking for is in stock.
While Milo.com is an excellent value-add for eBay sellers, Retailigence believes that local brick and mortar stores are critical to enhancing the consumer’s experience through convenience and the health of local communities. Beyond the economic factors, local shopping affords the simple convenience of avoiding, for example, waiting several days to save a few dollars on jeans bought online only to find they don’t fit and having to return them via mail. After all, time is money.
There is no doubt that local stores add to the health of a community — a sizable percentage of the US workforce is employed by local brick and mortar stores. While local retailers may not have the resources to analyze and implement sophisticated mobile and local commerce marketing strategies, independent service providers working in this sector such as Retailigence can provide the needed technology and expertise. Through partnerships with local businesses and a policy to operate with neutrality, we are ensuring that local retail stores can remain relevant and visible through any and all of the 350,000 mobile apps related to local, LBS or shopping.
Eric Charles Hager, General Manager of Palo Alto Sport Shop said “Retailigence is awesome. It puts our merchandise info in the hands of local customers through cell phone shopping apps.” Eric Hassett, General Manager of Palo Alto Ace Hardware and three other Ace Hardware stores also noted that “the ability to publish local results for the brands and products we stock will enable us to better reach our customers, and in turn help our customers shop more locally and efficiently, knowing exactly what we have in stock in real time.”
eBay found a very strategic acquisition in Milo.com – a purchase that will add great value to their existing clientele. Retailigence can now claim sole ownership in leading the market for independent, mobile-enabled location-based shopping for local businesses. The differences are clear: eBay is for online price saving and non-immediate purchases – Retailigence is mobile-enabled local buying when and where you want it. Both models work in their proper contexts, and Retailigence is confident that many Milo.com partners will now turn to Retailigence as the independent provider of services that has no interest in undercutting their in-store revenues.