Internet auction giant eBay has just acquired the popular iPhone app RedLaser. The application allows users to scan barcodes to uncover more information about products, and compare price points at nearby locations. With eBay backing the application, eBay results will now pop up in these search results, offering users another outlet to not only compare prices, and hopefully purchase their items from. eBay executives are embracing mobile e-commerce, a quickly growing area of retail – but can the acquisition of RedLaser put them at the top?
Steve Yankovich, eBay’s VP of mobile, says he wants to see more eBay apps produced at a rate of one every five weeks – to keep the company on the forefront of mobile commerce. Though mobile e-commerce is only a small percent of the market now, it’s projected to take in more than 10 billion dollars by 2015. The shift to mobile e-commerce could easily mimic the shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online retail. Brands that failed to innovate, or innovated too late – Blockbuster and New York City’s Virgin Megastore are examples – ended up taking a major hit. By jumping in early, eBay can reap the rewards now, establish itself as a leader in the market, and capitalize on future mobile commerce innovations.
“Mobile enables consumers to make impulse buys and convenient purchases wherever they are, and eBay is constantly innovating to make mobile shopping easy and reduce the friction in commerce,” said Mark Carges, chief technology officer of global products for eBay Marketplaces, in a statement issued after eBay’s announcement late Wednesday evening. Though eBay has it’s own iPhone app, it lacks the technology to help buyers find products without doing a specific search for the item. Now, eBay’s ownership of RedLaser allows the company to utilize its technology creatively in a way that should mutually benefit sellers and buyers. Sellers’ items will become more visible, and buyers will have an easy way to find the products they’re looking for – fulfilling eBay’s goal to innovate, make mobile shopping easy, and reduce friction.
Beyond just buying and selling, eBay now has the potential to use its acquisition of RedLaser to make the shopping experience social. In the future, it would be fun to see eBay merge its existing app with RedLaser, creating a hybrid of Yelp, Foursquare, eBay and RedLaser. Users could scan an item, check into a store, and leave tips and reviews of the product, the store, or suggestions of places to find better deals – including deals found on the eBay marketplace. As eBay is focused on innovation, a move like this would certainly make an impact and catch the attention of its users.
eBay’s jump on mobile shopping apps shows it’s ahead of the curve when it comes to this expanding market, and its access to RedLaser’s technology should help keep it there for a while. The brand is innovating in e-commerce with mobile apps, making it easier for customers to access their services whenever and wherever they are. With few competitors – Amazon is eBay’s biggest threat right now – eBay stands a solid chance of becoming a leader in this mobile e-commerce.