The partnership, announced today (September 24), will trial with 50 eBay merchants and allow shoppers to order goods online and pick them up from 150 Argos stores. Later this year, any of eBay’s 100 British retail partners that have click-and-collect capability will also be able to offer this service via eBay.
Tanya Lawler, eBay’s VP of UK trading, speaking to Marketing Week after an event to announce the deal in London today, said the partnership is aimed at making e-commerce more personal.
“We want to bring back the personal aspect of shopping. The great thing about high street stores is the person-to-person interaction. We are marrying the convenience of online shopping with the personal nature of in store.”
Lawler said the deal highlights how the distinction between online and offline commerce is blurring. But while many commentators are doom and gloom about the state of the high street, she said eBay wants physical shops to succeed. The firm has taken a number of previous steps to drive up in-store footfall, including bringing its online payment service, PayPal, to physical locations.
Click-and-collect is increasingly popular, with an Econsultancy online shopping survey finding that 40 per cent of shoppers used it over Christmas last year. This means a number of online players are looking into ways to improve fulfilment, with both Amazon and Google trialling their own services.
Currently, the vast majority of retailers without a high street presence have to use couriers. But John Walden, managing director at Argos, speaking at the launch, said this makes fulfilment a subsidised cost, which is why firms are testing new ideas such as independent networks and lockers where people can pick up goods.
He said: “There is a uniform belief that fulfilment must be more local and more personal. Competition is moving towards the basis of fulfilment, getting products to customers faster and cheaper.”
The deal is part of wider moves by eBay to improve perception of its customer service and the brand. Many still see it as a place to auction off unwanted goods, but Lawler highlighted that “a lot” of what is bought on eBay is new.
This involves the addition of new services such as click-and-collect, as well as expanding current offerings. The firm is now bringing its one-hour delivery service, eBay Now, to London some time next year. Plus is stepping up its communications with customers, both on the site and in wider marketing, to talk about features such as its 14-day return guarantee.
“We want to change the view of eBay and shift perception of our service. We are changing rapidly, but we need to talk to customers and clearly communicate this,” according to Lawler.
Ebay is also set to redesign its UK website before the end of the year. It has already updated the homepage to show users personalised recommendations and will now build on this, as well as adding in curation and social media.
Devin Wenig, president of eBay, speaking at the event, said: “Ebay is becoming a destination, a place shoppers go to be inspired. Later this year we will roll out social interaction, personalisation and curation. We want to bring passion, inspiration and discovery back to eBay.”