Milo.com Positions Itself as Anchor for EBay Local

Inventory hasn’t yet emerged as a “must have” for merchants, but the strategic importance of tracking store inventory remains undiminished. Merchants will potentially use inventory levels to drive users to specific locations, build promotions to get rid of overage (or remove promotions when supplies are running low).

While far from universal, many national retailers are beginning to use various inventory services, including eBay’s Milo.com, Gannett’s ShopLocal, Local Corp’s KrillionWishpond Sale LocatorRetailigence and various other services.

eBay’s purchase of Milo.com in December, 2010 as an anchor for its eBay Local unit really caught our attention. We caught up with founder and eBay Local head Jack Abraham this week.

Abraham sees a world where Web product search and physical store visits converge. “You’ll make your decision on the Web to come into the store,” he says. Three key areas being targeted for inventory-based marketing include electronics, home & garden and apparel. Each of these areas not only relate to product sales, but possible service extensions as well, such as for contractors.

The move towards inventory-based marketing, however, is happening slower than Abraham would like. Nevertheless, he cites a growing number of relationships, and remains confident that it will happen, perhaps via media partnerships. A Milo deal with Find n Save, the shopping product from eight major newspaper companies, is a start in this direction.

Meanwhile, Abraham is seeking to leverage eBay’s role as a tech partner for both national and local merchants, comparing eBay favorably to Amazon, with which it has an increased rivalry. “Unlike Amazon, there is someone on their side that wants to help them,” and who “reaches them at the decision point,” says Abraham.

While Amazon Stores has a huge body of merchant customers, it has recently run afoul of some merchants with its price comparisons feature. Indeed, some merchants believe that working with Amazon is a Trojan Horse likely to end up driving customers to its own site. eBay doesn’t have warehouses” to sell goods against merchants, notes Abraham.