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EBay could make mobile primary tool for selling auto mechanics’ services

EBay would be smart to borrow a page from the playbooks of Uber and Airbnb and make mobile the primary tool in its upcoming test of selling auto mechanic services.

EBay is likely eyeing the boom in online service sales via sharing mobile applications such as Uber and Airbnb and wondering if a similar approach could help the online auction site extend its ecommerce and mobile commerce might beyond hard goods and into services. EBay already has a strong mobile business selling auto parts through its Motors marketplace app.

“Mobile will be significant; it will probably play a bigger role in Auto Mechanic services than it does it eBay’s overall business,” said Jason Goldberg, Chicago-based vice president of the commerce practice at Razorfish.

“Sometimes hiring a mechanic is a planned activity, and in those cases we’ll probably see a similar mobile/desktop split, but a significant portion of auto mechanic hires are emergencies or unplanned events, and in those occasions mobile is going to be the primary tool,” he said.

“Your smartphone is the go-to device when the check-engine light comes on in your car, and especially when your car breaks down on the side of the road.”

The moment of need
EBay is planning to start a small test in the fall selling auto mechanics’ services in a couple of U.S. cities, the online retailer told Bloomberg recently.

While there are not a lot of details currently available about what the test will entail, the news follows the significant success of Uber, which leverages mobile to connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire, and Airbnb, which pairs travelers with private apartments and homes for rent in numerous locations.

Part of the reason of the significant success of Uber is that it transforms the consumer experience by enabling users to fulfill their need for transportation in their moment of need, based on their location and pay for it seamlessly.

The eBay Motors iPhone app

The primary driver?
Airbnb’s success is based on a similar formula and eBay’s strategy is likely to borrow some of these elements.

“Uber is almost exclusively mobile, Yelp is just about to pass the threshold where the majority of its users are mobile,” Mr. Goldberg said. “But Angie’s List or AirBnB probably have a more traditional mix of mobile and desktop users.

“There aren’t that many services that consumers purchase frequently enough that a mobile app becomes the primary driver, especially for unplanned services like an emergency auto repair,” he said. “In those cases, the mobile Web is more likely to be the right fit.”

Real-world opportunities?
EBay’s desire to translate its significant success with its Motors app into the ability to sell auto mechanics services is the latest example of how the online retailer could leverage mobile to insert itself into shoppers’ real-world experiences.

For example, recently said it would extend the Click & Collect services offered via Argos stores in Britain to approximately 650 locations from the 150 trial locations announced last year. To use the free service, shoppers choose “Click and Collect at Argos” as the delivery option and then receive a message when their item is available for pick up at a dedicated collection point in their selected store.

However, the retailer’s eBay Now same-day delivery service – while growing – is not picking up as quickly (see story).

EBay will face competition in trying to sell services to consumers, with Yelp and Angie’s List also testing these waters.

“EBay is going to face a set of serious competitors that already have a relationship with their service providers,” Mr. Goldberg said. “Yelp and Angie’s List have both started to test selling services directly from their listings.

“These competitors already have a large amount of ratings and reviews for the providers that eBay is going to have to build,” he said. “And Social proof – ratings and reviews – is often the most important consideration for purchasing services.

“It’s also going to be a challenge for eBay to get consumers to pay up front for services that you typically wouldn’t pay for until the work is completed.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York