01/28/2014 01:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

eBay Now in a Race to Beat Amazon to Your Doorstep

[this is part 2, part one of this article can be found HERE, titled: "Life After The 'Everything' Store]

So, when we last encountered our intrepid shopper, an online foray into decorative lighting had resulted in a trip to the Bowery, and then the discovery of a perfect light (only to be purchased on Amazon later).

Exhausted from the journey, I was in need of some cured meats. So, Katz's Deli called my name.

On line, waiting for the best corned-beef sandwich in the known universe, I struck up conversation with a gentleman who couldn't understand Katz's Rube Goldberg styled ticket system. He was confused, which I suspect is part of the idea behind the Katz system of lines and paper stubs.

Turns out, he's from San Fransisco -- in town for a meeting with others from his company, eBay. I tell him my story of Amazon and Lighting By Gregory, and he seems delighted.

Amazon is out to kill local LOCM +0.55 percent retail. eBay is out to save it. The enemy of my enemy is friend -- or so eBay hopes. eBay began life as a rather drab online auction site that peddles Pez dispensers and the like. But auctions have transformed into 'buy it now' storefronts... and now they're emerging in the fast moving space of same-day deliveries and home deliveries. eBay's Marketplaces are gaining market share, giving Amazon a real competitor in some sectors.


As my Katz Deli table-mate explains it, local retail is ready to form new strong partnerships with eBay to fight off the coming Amazon tide. It's a big play.

Here's the eBay plan. A series of eBay Marketplace platforms such including and provide sellers with an alternative to the Amazon system. is designed to compete with Amazon Prime, a massive hit which accounts for a reported 10 percent of Amazon's $61 billion 2012 sales revenue.

This year, eBay launches eBay Now in 25 US cities. Think of eBay Now as the anti-Amazon. The service employs 'valets' who take your order from the eBay Now app, drive or bike to the store you shopped from, call you (really!) to tell you what's out of stock or not in your color, and then get your goods to your front door in an hour or less. Or you can schedule delivery for when your home. Sound like a bargain for $5? It is. But eBay knows that Amazon has been forgoing profits for market share. To beat them, you have to be willing to work at, or below, profit margins on emerging businesses.

As we finish our pickles and corned beef, my eBay now-friend seems comfortable in the assumption that embracing local merchants, with their depth of product and unique brands of curation and selection will make eBay now a long term winner. "Can I order corned-beef sandwich from eBay now," I think out loud. Turns out you need Seamless for that. But pretty much anything you want picked up from more than 35 retailers including Bed Bath & Beyond BBBY +1.12%, Best Buy BBY +0.98%, Bloomingdale's, Crate and Barrel, Home Depot HD -0.96%, Macy's, Pier 1 Imports, RadioShack Target TGT +0.66%,Toys R Us and Urban Outfitters are all part of the eBay Now delivery program.

This isn't the first time there's been a war over local delivery. Webvan, UrbanFetch and Kozmo all tried and failed. Now Fresh Direct is winning in local grocery, but Amazon is building local grocery with Amazon Fresh, now in LA, San Francisco, and Seattle. Rumors of Amazon Fresh entering the NY Market in 2014 should keep Fresh Direct on its toes.

And while eBay has amassed a large number of brand-name partners, it isn't clear what makes them immediately different than, for example, Task Rabbit. Getting a local person with a car or a bike to shop for you may not be the killer app that eBay needs. And Amazon isn't sitting still, testing services like Amazon Locker for local delivery and even shaking up retail with a pre-christmas announcement of an Amazon Drone Delivery program under development.

Drones vs. valets? Game on. Let the race to my doorstep begin. Meanwhile back to the Dr. Brown's Black Cherry at Katz's.