eBay Now, the same-day shipping service that first debuted for San Francisco residents nearly a year ago before further expansions into San Jose and New York, is preparing to broaden its service yet again, with added support for the Bay Area Peninsula, plus Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Chicago and Dallas later this summer, as previously reported. In addition, the company is today launching a PC version of eBay Now for the desktop.
According to Dane Glasgow, eBay’s VP of Mobile & Local, the company chose to bring the previously mobile-focused eBay Now delivery service to the desktop, because those who visit eBay from both web and mobile are some of the company’s most valuable customers. In a given week, he says, 21 percent of eBay’s visitors come from multiple devices — a PC and a mobile device — but they make up 44 percent of eBay’s gross merchandise volume.
With eBay Now on the desktop, what before felt like something of a niche utility takes on more of the appearance of a fully fledged e-commerce site. On the dedicated homepage, users can browse and search for products available at neighborhood stores, as well as view product information including descriptions, pricing, ratings and reviews — just as they would if shopping a retailer’s website directly.
eBay Now is supported by “hundreds” of merchants, Glasgow tells us, but the company declines to provide exact numbers at this time. However, it does have relationships with several well-known retailers, including The Home Depot, Target, Macy’s, GNC, Walgreens, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Office Depot, Urban Outfitters, RadioShack and AutoZone, for example.
These and other merchants make their inventory available to eBay shoppers in the supported delivery areas, who can then take delivery of that item (minimum order is $25) in less than an hour for a $5 delivery fee. To date, Glasgow says that while there has been some usage of the service for last-minute or emergency needs — like parts to fix a broken-down bike, or something needed quickly for a meeting — users have also been ordering a variety of items you may not expect to see on a one-hour delivery service, like air-conditioning units for hot New York apartments, iPads, TVs, consumables, home and garden items, and apparel.
After placing their orders on the new desktop site, eBay Now users will also be able to see who their courier is and how to reach them, in case there’s information they need to share after purchase. They can checkout on the site using credit or debit cards, or eBay-owned PayPal. And the service keeps customers’ last few delivery addresses on file, so they don’t have to fill in the form again each time they shop.
Currently, eBay Now works well as a complement to eBay.com’s option, which allows online shoppers to pick up items at local stores when they don’t need something immediately. However, Glasgow says the plan is to soon introduce a level of service in between the one-hour delivery and the in-store visit. Later this summer, eBay Now will introduce a new capability that lets shoppers choose their delivery window. “This is one of the top customer-requested features,” Glasgow notes. “This will be great for the working professionals, who can choose to have their orders delivered to them at the end of the day at the office or even at home,” he explains.
The feature is also an indication that eBay has begun to work out some of the logistics behind how a service like this needs to work, though it will still be some time before the company has perfected this at scale — or before it can make the service profitable. eBay doesn’t discuss what sort of revenue-sharing agreement it may have in place with participating merchants at this time, saying that the program is still in a pilot phase and the focus on profitability is still to come.
However, adds Glasgow, “our existing [business] models in our marketplace for connecting buyers and sellers are relevant, whether delivery is a part of the equation or not.”
Today, eBay is one of many e-commerce sites focusing on same-day deliveries. Others including Walmart, Google and Amazon have also been running experiments in this area – the latter most recently with the expansion of AmazonFresh, the company’s online grocery service. Startups like TaskRabbit, Postmates, and others are also catering to the on-demand trend.
Where eBay sees itself fitting in this new market is serving as a partner — not a competitor — to the retailers who sign on to eBay Now. But that doesn’t mean that it will be the exclusive home for these businesses’ same-day efforts. In addition to supporting eBay Now, many of its merchants, including Target, Walgreens, Toys R Us and Office Depot, to name a few, are hedging their bets by joining Google’s Shopping Express service, too.
For eBay, that means it has to do more to make the entire experience of using the service something that brings shoppers back time and again. Scheduled deliveries, cross-platform support, and expanded service areas are features that could help with that. But at the end of the day, it’s Amazon that has the advantage here, even if it’s been so far relatively quiet, or even downplaying its efforts in this area. There’s a feeling that somewhere, there’s a shoe that’s about to drop, which is why businesses like eBay are making sure to drum up interest for early programs like eBay Now — before it’s too late.
Post updated to reflect that eBay has now switched on the expansions in the Bay Area and NY earlier than previously expected – meaning, today, 7/22/13