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eBay's Same-Day Delivery Experiment Is Essentially Dead

Would ya put it out of its misery already, eBay?

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

EBay won’t say it outright, so I’ll say it for the company: Its same-day delivery experiment is pretty much dead.

On yesterday’s earnings call with analysts, eBay’s CEO John Donahoe was asked for an update on the eBay Now service, which lets shoppers order goods from local big-box stores via an app and get the goods delivered to them that very day.

“There is an enormous amount of money that’s going to be spent in same-day delivery, and I don’t think that’s going to be — that’s not essential to our core, target consumer,” Donahoe said.

The logical follow-up question would have been: Sounds like you are killing the service, huh? But the analyst didn’t ask it, so I did during a short interview I conducted with Donahoe on Wednesday night. Donahoe paused, and then gave a response that started off as a denial, but quickly morphed into something closer to the opposite.

“There’s no active plan to close it down,” he began.

“But,” he added, “I think what you’re seeing is the shoppers that want same-day delivery tend to want it for consumables … groceries. That’s not really the sweet spot for eBay. Buy online and pick up in store — those are the kinds of things relevant to the eBay shopper.”

At another point in the call, Donahoe referred to the service in the past tense as an “experiment” and pointed out that the company hasn’t expanded from four to 25 markets as it originally said it would by year’s end. He also noted that eBay customers seem to care more about being able to pick up an order for free than pay to have it delivered super quickly. Donahoe said the company’s partnership with United Kingdom retail chain Argos, which lets eBay shoppers order stuff online and pick it up at an Argos near them, will serve as a model for how eBay continues to try to help its shoppers get their orders quickly at no extra cost.

So why keep denying a shutdown, like it has since Venturebeat first reported eBay Now’s impending death in June? For one, eBay may be waiting to make sure that the app doesn’t bounce back in a huge way during the upcoming holiday season. Such a rebound seems unlikely, considering its putrid standings in app store rankings.

Secondly, killing the service raises big questions about the acquisition of Shutl, whose software and team was supposed to help determine which courier, from which courier company, would be dispatched for any given eBay Now order.

An eBay spokeswoman declined to comment beyond pointing me to remarks Donahoe made to me in our interview.

Still, killing off eBay Now seems like the right move as more experienced, focused or deep-pocketed companies like Amazon and Google battle a host of venture-backed startups for what could only be a niche market opportunity. Even if eBay won’t say it.

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