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Can Technology Help eBay Appeal to Younger Shoppers?

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eBay ShopBot
EBay wants to change its brand perception from online flea-market to upscale e-commerce destination.

The San Jose, California-based company, boasting an active buyer base of more than 165 million people worldwide, revealed third-quarter revenue of $2.2 billion Wednesday, up 6 percent compared to last year or by 5 percent on a currency-neutral basis.

“In Q3 we delivered good top- and bottom-line financial results, led by consistent performance across our business,” stated Devin Wenig, president and chief executive. “We continued to transform the shopping experience on eBay, delivered more personalization capabilities and began to activate our updated brand messaging.”

In an effort to increase its appeal to younger shoppers, eBay unveiled ShopBot on Monday. Powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), the personalized shopping assistant debuted in beta on Facebook Messenger but eBay plans to integrate the bot into other messaging platforms soon.

“Our vision is to make shopping with eBay as easy as talking to a friend, whether you are looking for something specific or just browsing for inspiration,” the company explained in a press release.

Here’s how it works: users tell the bot what they’re looking for, either by texting, speaking or sending a photo, and it will then ask a series of questions in order to narrow down choices and make personalized recommendations, texting a selection of current eBay listings that match the description.

“While many shopping journeys with ShopBot will be delightful, many of them will also stump the bot and won’t work perfectly at first; that’s the nature of AI. It will learn every day from shoppers and about the rich inventory in our catalog,” eBay said. “The more that people use it, the smarter eBay ShopBot will get. We’re excited to continue iterating, while inviting our customers to help us shape the future of commerce.”

EBay is using AI in more ways than one. The company integrated “Shop the Look” capabilities in its new marketplace dedicated to art and interior design, eBay Collective, which also launched Monday. Image recognition technology allows shoppers to hover over an image and the tool searches listings to find inventory that matches or is a close match.

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