Billions Of Dollars In Acquisitions: A Breakdown Of eBay’s E-Commerce Strategy joins RedLaser, Milo, Brands4Friends, and GSI Commerce in eBay’s retail scheme.

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In the last year or so, eBay has spent billions acquiring a slew of companies to expand its role in the ever-growing ecommerce space. Yesterday, the online-shopping giant added one more startup to its mix: mobile ad firm, in a deal that one unconfirmed source said was worth $135 million.

A growing roster of acquisitions in all areas of ecommerce, what is eBay’s strategy going forward? Here, we present a breakdown of the online retailer’s purchases, along with likely plans for incorporating the products into eBay’s service.

RedLaser. In a strong sign that eBay is increasingly setting its sights on mobile, the San Jose-based company gobbled up RedLaser in June, a popular barcode-scanning app for the iPhone that garnered millions of downloads before the acquisition. With RedLaser, eBay hopes to incorporate the offering into its hundreds of millions of listings, making price comparison (even on-the-go) incredibly easy for consumers, who sold an estimated (not to mention colossal) $1.5 billion worth of global goods via smartphones and tablets in 2010.

Milo. Six months after the purchase of RedLaser, eBay reportedly dropped $75 million to snag Milo, a site that tracks the real-time inventory of more than 50,000 stores, including Best Buy and Target. Why would an online seller want to enter the offline market? Because of the nearly trillion-dollar market of consumers who research products online before purchasing them in-store. Roughly 97% of consumers make their purchasing decisions via the web but decide to buy the products instead at physical retail locations. Milo helps funnel those online commerce searches to specific retailers, and once integrated with eBay, will make the seller a destination for all products both online and off.


Brands4Friends. Fashion has increasingly become a focus of eBay, as we showed you in our December issue of Fast Company. They’ve made a serious investment in sleek mobile fashion app, which helped sales to triple in the past year, getting more than $5.4 billion from these sales. That’s partially why eBay agreed to buy Brands4Friends, Germany’s largest shopping club with about 3.5 million registered users. The deal, worth $200 million, will help boost fashion sales in Europe.

GSI Commerce. Last month, eBay made one of its biggest acquisitions ever with GSI Commerce. In a deal worth an estimated $2.4 billion, eBay snapped up the online services company, which some believe could help transform the used-goods seller into a formidable player in online eBay–that is, a competitor to the likes of Amazon.

“The boundary between offline and online commerce is coming down at a stunning rate,” CEO John Donahoe told the New York Times at the time. Donahoe added that he’s interested in building a “multichannel environment” for how eBay does business.

Now, with the purchase of, a location-based mobile ad startup that shows local listings and suggests deals to users, and with the acquisitions of RedLaser, Milo, Brands4Friends, GSI Commerce–not to mention past acquisitions like Bill Me Later, Skype, and StubHub–eBay is increasingly reaching into more and more of the retail industry.


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About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.