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EBay’s recent acquisitions drive ridiculous m-commerce numbers

Hard work and huge investments deliver “breathtaking” return on investment for eBay.

During the recent holiday weekend, the e-commerce giant posted huge mobile numbers. EBay saw a 516% increase in mobile payment volume on Black Friday and a 552% increase on Cyber Monday, compared with last year. The company’s mobile website generated 250% more traffic in 2011 than it did in 2010.

PayPal shopping specialist Claudia Lombana was modest in her assessment of the successful weekend, claiming consumer sophistication played the largest role in driving the company’s success.

“Consumers are becoming savvier and more comfortable with technology,” she said.

But an analysis of eBay’s 2011 acquisition spree presents a much more accurate picture of how the company prepared itself to dominate the most important weekend of the retail year.

The movement began in 2010 with the relatively humdrum acquisitions of local shopping search engine Milo.com and barcode scanning company RedLaser. The Milo acquisition was designed, among other things, to integrate local product feeds into eBay’s online marketplace and mobile applications, whereas RedLaser was purchased to develop barcode-scanning technology for the eBay Marketplace, eBay Selling, StubHub and Shopping.com iPhone applications.

The biggest move of the year came in March, when eBay acquired GSI Commerce, an acquisition that set the wheels in motion for the company to move its offerings beyond “sole proprietors [and] small businesses” to “large merchants and brands,” John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, at the time.

Several weeks later, eBay agreed to acquire location-based services company Where, a move that Kathy Chui, senior manager of corporate communications at PayPal, said would enable eBay to help retailers surface offers for consumers on their mobile phones when they are in or near bricks-and-mortar locations, at the time of the acquisition.

In June, eBay acquired e-commerce platform provider, Magento, whose product offering includes, among other things, a mobile product that enables retailers to integrate their m-commerce and e-commerce stores. And in July, eBay bought Zong, a mobile payments service provider, a move that eBay said would, in conjunction with PayPal, give consumers flexible and secure mobile payment options.

In November, eBay launched the “Watch with eBay” app for the iPad that is intended to serve product listings according to what a consumer is watching on TV.

I spoke with Steve Yankovich, VP of eBay Mobile, in April, and he offered a glimpse into the company’s upcoming mobile success. He said eBay’s mobile commerce site was “upgraded and relaunched constantly,” and he offered the following boast: The “number of unique visits, overall visits and page views [on the mobile site] would stun people,” he claimed. “People would think [these numbers] are for a regular website.”

Although Lombana is a bit more reserved in her evaluation of the company’s holiday weekend, she did say the company’s mobile numbers were “breathtaking” and she said eBay would continue to provide consumers with “an experience that allows them to make purchases anytime, anywhere, anyway and make secure purchases via PayPal.”

When asked what to expect in the near-future from eBay, Lombana said, “In the next six months, we will be rolling out new technology that continues changing the way people shop at point-of-sale.”

EBay’s acquisitions point to the company’s commitment to, and vision for, mobile commerce, a still-nascent industry. The company has already positioned itself at the head of the pack early on. I’d keep my eyes open for a few additional acquisitions and a successful 2012.

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