eBay has been testing a new mobile app called eBay Now that allows shoppers to order from local stores and have their packages delivered to their door in as little as an hour.

Through this new app, shoppers in San Francisco and New York City (Manhattan up to 125th street and select parts of Brooklyn) can purchase items from more than 200 participating stores, including Macy’s, Home Depot, Target, Toys R Us, RadioShack, Walgreens, and Office Depot.

Lina Shustarovich of eBay answered a few questions about the app for us:

Where did the idea for eBay Now come from?

eBay has blurred the line between online and offline commerce. eBay Now was created from a combination of our insight into our customers’ desire for convenience and our mobile technology – helping to make local shopping easier and more convenient.

What has been the outcome of this experiment? Do you deem it a success?

A closed beta pilot was limited to a small group of invite-only users to give us a foundation from which to inform product enhancements and gauge user interest.  Our polling showed that almost 100% of users who used the app would use it again. Because of this strong interest, we decided to bring the app out of private beta and make it publicly available for download in the app store for both SF and NYC shoppers.   

We have already seen usage by a wide range of consumers who’ve ordered items for delivery to houses, workplaces, bars, and parks, and anticipate strong user adoption in the coming weeks and months. The past week has been our most successful and busy yet. 

Will eBay continue this service after the holidays?

While eBay offered a special service until Saturday, Dec. 22, called Holiday Express (which waives the delivery fee, offers extended hours and provides free gift wrap from designer Jonathan Adler), eBay Now will continue to be available after the holidays in both San Francisco and New York. Regular delivery costs $5 and new users receive $20 off their first purchase through the end of the year. 

But how does it work?

The system is pretty straight forward. Users download the app and search for the item in a local store. You can only purchase it during shopping hours so 9-9 Monday through Saturday and 9 to 6 on Sunday.

Here are a few screenshots of the process:

  

Selected items and ratings:

  

Your cart and checkout process:

  

What’s cool, is that when you place your order, a shopping valet will go to the store to pick up the goods and bring them to your door. You either pay with PayPal or you can swipe your credit card with PayPal Here. Aparna Mukharjee tried out the service after seeing her friend post about it on Facebook and she ordered a new trashcan from Bed Bath & Beyond, and an Estee Lauder gift set from Bloomingdale’s.

She took a few pictures of the transaction for me:

  

  

As most online transactions end with a grumpy UPS driver who could come anywhere within a 8 hour window and is just as likely to throw your packages on your balcony and call it delivered, than hand it straight to you, this service was perfect for those who want a guarenteed delivery (especially those last minute shoppers!). Mukharjee commented that:

I’ve become a non-consumer of “stuff” the last several years so rarely end up going shopping for anything apart from food and wine — and I absolutely hate crowds so the idea of going shopping in person to stores this time of year is horrifying. If you know what you want and it happens to be from the establishments that are part of the pilot (mostly large, chain stores), it’s fantastic. 

It was very simple with a good interface though the confirmation via a phone call from your valet is a bit puzzling…why not offer a text option? As for the service, I’ve already used it twice over two days! And considering the weather and my lack of any desire to hit stores this time of year, I would definitely use it again. Makes me nostalgic for the days of UrbanFetch and Kozmo during Internet boom I!

As there are rumours of Amazon moving toward same day service, this was a smart move by eBay especially as they move PayPal as a payment option more and more accepted in large retail stores.

It will be interesting to watch the retail space in 2013 as online retailers look to capitalise on on out offline purchasing habits. Will eBay Now be able to move out of the big city and across America? We’ll see what the new year brings.