Shopping.com parent eBay has reportedly acquired local product inventory site Milo.com for $75 million in cash. Milo was aspiring to become the “Google of local product data.” The acquisition is a bit of a surprise to me but problably came out of discussions about a strategic investment. I believe Milo and Shopping.com were in discussions to incorporate Milo data into results there.
eBay may have decided, since Google unveiled local product inventory just a couple weeks ago, that it needed a response and that it wanted to own one of the principals in the segment. Milo had started to syndicate its data to third parties.
As more local products information comes online pure online shopping engines such as PriceGrabber, Nextag, Shopzilla and others become reduced to “generic” providers of pricing and reviews information. In that category Amazon has them all beat by a mile. Speaking of which I suspect Amazon will similarly be compelled to get into the local products game now that eBay and Google are both committed to it.
Last week another of the early companies in the space NearbyNow was acquired by JiWire. The only other “mature” company out there, relatively speaking, is Krillion. Retailigence, Goodzer and LuckyLocal re new entrants in the space, as well as smaller player Clarinova which is working with small retailers (the hardest part of the market).
Google, for its part, is working directly with retailers and not through a middleman or data syndicators. ShopLocal offers local sales information but not real-time product inventory.
For years offline product inventory information has been an aspiration for search engines and shopping sites. But now with a number of startups chasing the segment and building the infrastructure, and with the advent of mobile and LBS, retailers see product data as a way to drive mobile and online customers into stores. According to estimates and surveys by the e-Tailing Group, roughly 15 to 20 percent of US retailers now have real-time inventory data online or otherwise available for online distribution.
The segment is now very real and we should continue to see it accelerate in the next 12-18 months. In the not-too-distant future it will be quite common to find out where a specific product can be purchased locally by looking online or consulting a smartphone app.