eBay, the sleepy online auction giant andproud parent of PayPal, has shaken off its lethargy. On March 28,eBay acquired GSI Commerce for $2.4 billion, a provider ofwhite-label e-commerce and fulfillment services forbrick-and-mortar brands like Zales, iRobot, Timberland, AceHardware, RadioShack, and Toys “R” Us. No small acquisition that.With $1 billion in revenues, GSI Commerce brings eBay a line ofe-commerce business that’s at the opposite end of the spectrum fromeBay’s typical online merchants.
And now, eBay has acquired Where.Com for eBay and its PayPalsubsidiary to leverage. Where uses mobile geo-location to delivertargeted ads, coupons, and recommendations for dining, drinking,movies, and other services. Calling itself a “location based mediacompany”, Where makes couponing relevant and available when youmight actually want to use one. Want $10 of that oil change? CheckWhere to see which quick oil change shop is offering a coupon forthat. The Where app runs on multiple mobile devices so it’s therewhen you want it.
The potential magic for eBay, PayPal and Where is the connectionto payments. Where locates you and the merchant, provides theinformation and financial incentives needed to get you to visit themerchant, and (now with PayPal), you’ll have the means to paythrough your PayPal account. The system works because PayPal willbe compensated for not just the payment but the successful sale aswell. At least, that’s how Where’s CEO Walter Doyle sees it:
“Advertising of the future is reallyparticipating in the commercial event,” Doyle told me. “We makemoney when you make money. We want to participate in that on mobilebecause that is where commerce will occur.”
This is the model that most of the major players in the mobilecommerce ecosystem are pursuing. Isis, the mobile operator jointventure, is very careful to say that it is a mobile commercecompany, not just an NFC-based payments network. Google has madenoises that its interests are in the advertising and success-basedmarketing revenue and not so much in the payment revenues. Some arenot interested in the payments stream. The eBay+Where+PayPalcombination means that eBay gets to participate in all the mobilecommerce steps and the payment.