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Amazon has been capturing a lot of headlines recently, and many of them have had to do with logistics: new fulfilment centres, Sunday deliveries, an 'anticipatory shipping' patent, and the tantalizingly silly 'drone delivery' story that some around the web have claimed was actually more a clever piece of viral marketing than a reality, as it was so conveniently timed just before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. One of the other original online retail behemoths has been noticeably quiet, lately - eBay, the brainchild of superstar entrepreneur Elon Musk. Paypal, which is a sibling of eBay, has been making some headlines, but eBay has mostly just been staying the course.
Early in January, eBay made an announcement that shed some light on a couple of acquisitions from the previous year, notably the open source e-commerce platform Magento, which is one of the most widely used e-commerce content management/shopping cart systems. eBay unveiled a new service they have dubbed (perhaps a bit boringly) 'eBay Enterprise Ship-from-Store', which will allow retailers to use eBay and Magento to list their inventory online, but integrate their brick and mortar inventories. Additionally, customers will have the option to pick up their e-commerce purchases in-store to save on shipping costs and time.
As eBay said in their release, "Effective omnichannel capabilities significantly boost sales, enhance the consumer experience and improve customer retention rates. With 77% of consumers expecting retailers to provide a consistent, integrated experience between their in-store and online channels, ship-from-store and in-store pickup will empower retailers to continue to compete in an omnichannel landscape and meet their customers' evolving needs."
Intended as a means of counterbalancing Amazon's sudden and rather dramatic purchases of warehouse space all across North America, eBay hopes to attract a number of mid-size retailers who together can outweigh the impact of the retail juggernaut that Amazon has become.
All of this back and forth between these two retail giants only serves to highlight a couple of things that are likely to be the hallmarks of the 2014 retail year. Primarily, the sort of logistics issues that we saw over the course of the holiday season will have to become a thing of the past, and secondly, we're going to see a great deal more focus on omni-channel integration as the walls between the digital world and the brick and mortar world begin to blur, becoming more and more irrelevant.