The e-commerce powerhouse eBay announced today that it had acquired the U.K.-based same-day delivery startup Shutl, which over the past year had been expanding further into major U.S. markets. EBay's purchase would likely give the company the infrastructure it needs to expand and fortify its oft-criticized same-day delivery initiative eBay Now, which currently involves drivers who shop for customer orders at retail stores with the promise of delivering those items within an hour.
As of now, the financial details of the deal are undisclosed.
In essence, Shutl is a web platform and marketplace for point-to-point delivery companies. Couriers specify the type of vehicle they operate—from bicycles to trucks—as well as the vehicle's freight capacity, the locations they deliver to, and the times and days of the week they operate. Retailers pay Shutl to integrate its API into their websites, and customers can choose Shutl as a delivery option.
Ebay also announced today the expansion of its eBay Now delivery service in Chicago, which is the first city to launch with the Shutl courier network. "We’re excited that Shutl will enable us to launch even more quickly in new cities," says Deb Sharkey, VP of Local at eBay, who also laid out the company’s aggressive plan to be in 25 U.S. cities and select international markets—including London—by the end of next year.
The company has also launched a new option for eBay customers to pick up their online orders in retail stores, with Toys R Us and Best Buy as the first partners in the initiative. "Our vision is to be the most convenient way to shop locally," Sharkey says. " We want to get smart about connecting consumers with the inventory that’s sitting around them in local retailers."
The move could also give eBay a delivery network to compete with Amazon's, which has also been expanding its same-day delivery offering in the form of AmazonFresh. "Amazon has set the expectation among retailers and consumers … Once they're providing cost-effective same-day in key markets, normal delivery is just going to be so passe," Shutl founder and CEO Tom Allason said in an interview with Fast Company several months ago. "But our proposition blows theirs away. They can't use point-to-point couriers to do their delivery. They've got a warehouse in Jersey to serve Manhattan, but there are stores on every street."
Some in the e-commerce space see a battle emerging that is strikingly similar to that of the Google and Apple, with eBay aiming to provide a physical and digital platform for stores, and Amazon taking its closed, walled-garden approach to retail and delivery.
[Image: Flickr user Naval Surface Warriors | Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenan O’Connor]