When eBay snapped up speedy delivery specialist Shutl it was the final confirmation of the latest online battleground.

When eBay snapped up speedy delivery specialist Shutl it was the final confirmation of the latest online battleground.

The global online marketplace and retailer wanted Shutl as part of its strategy to extend eBay Now, its one hour delivery service launched last year in San Francisco and New York and set to come to London in 2014. Shutl will continue to partner with its US and UK retailers, including Oasis and Argos – which just this week launched its own omnichannel store format - and Maplin, while the delivery specialist will also be accelerating expansion with new investment.

The Shutl acquisition is the latest in a string of delivery collaborations this year and tells two stories. The first is the ongoing migration by eBay away from being an auction house and towards being a fixed price ecommerce provider; the second that competition to perfect the final mile in the online delivery journey is hotting up fast.

While pure players previously held a significant cost advantage by being able to centralise inventory in mega sheds, often in low cost locations, for traditional retailers the impetus around super-fast delivery hands them an important weapon. Store-based retailers can use their existing infrastructure and inventory is already likely to be close to the customer rather than needing to be shipped from a remote distribution centre.

No doubt with that in mind, eBay is also launching a click-and-collect service with Argos – a retailer which despite its new multichannel approach has also pledged its commitment to its store estate - enabling eBay shoppers to pick up purchases from Argos branches. In the US, the same service has already been introduced with Toys R Us and Best Buy.

We have also heard rumblings that Amazon might put its lockers in the place of vacated London Underground ticket offices should they be closed and of Asda signing a deal to run click-and-collect from ten London Underground car parks.

 All of these initiatives – and there are plenty more we could discuss – put the onus back on location and very often locations really close to the customer’s work, commute or home.

 However, click-and-collect is hardly out of the traps. There is still huge work to do around the grocery offer and also a mindset change from viewing click-and-collect as purely functional and starting to think of what it might offer in the way of service and theatre. It’s an area where I would also expect to see some bold initiatives from shopping centre landlords and perhaps town management teams.

Paying for product in-store has often been the least satisfactory element of the customer journey. How ironic if click-and-collect – a concept designed around technology – could be the catalyst to make it what it should be, the best part of browsing, trying and buying.