eBay's mobile app strategy shared at CES

When I went to meet up with eBay at last week's CES conference, I went to a booth run not by that company, but by a company called RedLaser. Started by two U of Michigan grads, RedLaser is an eBay acquisition that has released a barcode scanning app for the iPhone that will scan your products and give you back consumer information about them. Rob Veres is the Senior Director of eBay Mobile and General Manager of RedLaser, and he kindly sat down to tell us about the trading site's current apps and future in the mobile space.

"We try new things all the time," Veres told me. "In the case of mobile, we had a pretty strong conviction early that mobile was going to be big." And indeed it is -- the eBay app has gone through a few changes and updates since it was released a while ago, but there have been 15 million total downloads of eBay's mobile apps so far. Last year, the company saw a whopping $2 billion in sales come through mobile devices alone. Back in November, the company merged what were two separate buying and selling apps, and that's when the RedLaser technology was added to the main app.

Click on to read more about what eBay's up to on the iPhone, as well as see a video of the "See it On" augmented reality feature seen above.

eBay still has a few different apps in the store for various sections (Classifieds and Fashion, for example), and the RedLaser app is staying as well. Part of the reason is that eBay is licensing RedLaser's scanning technology out to over 100 licensees so far, both because it's a little extra bit of revenue and because the company wants to contribute to the mobile development arena. "We want that eBay technology to be out there in the ecosystem," said Veres.

I asked what people were scanning with the barcode app, and Veres said that using the app at grocery stores was a common case -- people scanned items they picked up there to check prices and availability elsewhere. Another big use case was the most obvious one: Veres said that a lot of RedLaser's scans were just items picked up while people were testing the app for the first time. "So a lot of bottled water and things like that," he laughed. Tech trends also affect what's being scanned at any given time. "Back in November, [the video game] Call of Duty: Black Ops came out, and that product shot to the top of our list," said Veres.

So what's next? Some of RedLaser's licensees are coming up with a few interesting ideas, like tagging scanned content and attaching and tracking that data so that eBay has a better idea of what's getting bought and sold through the mobile app. eBay just recently acquired local shopping site Milo, so that information has just been integrated into the mobile apps as well.

Augmented reality is also being worked on at the company. The fashion app has already added special features to let users see what various clothes look like on still pictures, and there's even a system that uses the iPhone's and iPod touch's cameras to put virtual glasses on real-time video. eBay's mobile division is definitely keeping busy.