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eBay buys Milo to unite online, offline shopping

The auction site plans to integrate the services of Milo, a Web site that tries to help online shoppers find products and prices at their local stores.

eBay has bought a local-shopping service that it expects will help both buyers and sellers by uniting online and offline shopping.

The auction site said yesterday that it has acquired Milo, a Web site designed to help shoppers find products available at their local brick-and-mortar stores and compare prices with those from online retailers.

Though pointing buyers to products at local stores may seem at odds with eBay's online marketplace, the company believes the acquisition will open up new opportunities for buyers and sellers.

"Since eBay is an online marketplace and doesn't compete with brick-and-mortar stores, adding local store inventory to the eBay marketplace is a natural extension of what we've been doing for 15 years--bringing buyers and sellers together to access the largest selection available anywhere," Mark Carges, chief technology officer and senior vice president for global products at eBay Marketplaces, said in a statement.

Partnering with 140 different retail outlets, Milo offers prices for around 3 million products across 52,000 stores in the U.S. Its search results include more than 90 small and medium-sized businesses, according to eBay, helping the small fry compete with larger retailers. By integrating Milo, eBay said it plans to bring the inventories of small retailers into the online world and allow eBay sellers with physical storefronts to sell their goods locally.

"Local commerce companies like Milo are blurring the lines between in-store and online shopping," Carges said. "By making accurate, real-time, local store inventory and pricing available to online and mobile shoppers, we see a huge opportunity for local retailers, small businesses, and eBay sellers to reach more buyers, and for consumers to make more informed buying decisions."

eBay is looking to add Milo's local product engine to its online marketplace and mobile apps. eBay's RedLaser iPhone app, which scans product barcodes to compare prices, will also soon incorporate results from Milo.

Terms of the deal were not announced. However, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) said that several blogs reported a purchase price of $75 million.

eBay's once weakening auction business has staged a recovery this year, helping to deliver stronger earnings and sales over the past couple of quarters. But the company is still searching for new ways and new markets to drive profitability.