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Online retailer jumps into conversational commerce—just in time for the holidays

11/29/2017
eBay’s new service is making it easier for holiday shoppers to search for merchandise and deals.

Through a new partnership with Google, eBay now lets customers use Google Assistant to shop on its marketplace. Called the eBay Shopping Assistant, the tool enables customers to use their Google Home devices to shop and place orders.

Here’s how it works: Customers initiate their shopping trip by saying, “Ask eBay...”. From here, shoppers can explore available merchandise, ask about deals, as well as find out the value of personal items they may want to sell on eBay, according to eBay’s blog.

The shopping assistant pairs natural language with artificial intelligence (AI). When paired with the science of understanding language, deep learning and predictive modeling, “we can begin to harness the power of human intent, enabling us to create a radically better and more personalized shopping experience for everyone,” Jay Vasudevan, lead product manager, eBay, said in the blog.

As customers continue to use — and share more information about their preferences — with the eBay Shopping Assistant, their experiences will become more tailored.

“Using AI, we are able to create a truly personalized shopping experience inspired by the service you’d expect in a traditional retail setting,” Vasudevan said in the blog.

“By combining eBay’s breadth of inventory and unique selection, the eBay Shopping Assistant can create a shopping experience for virtually everyone,” he added. “This is the inspiration behind some of the exciting work we are doing at the intersection of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and a new commerce service that’s available wherever shoppers are.”

While eBay is just dipping its toe in the conversational commerce waters, the retailer is already evaluating how to expand the service. For example, eBay is already taking advantage of the device’s multi-surface switching capability, an option that lets users carry a voice conversation on Google Home over to their smartphone, seamlessly.

The e-retailer is among the first companies to take advantage of the multi-surface switching capability, according to the blog.

The shopping assistant is only one AI program that eBay is introducing this holiday season. The online marketplace also launched a new website that organizes and curates merchandise by category.

The service, called “Grouped Listings,” condenses listings by product, not seller. It also tags items through a combination of technology and human input, a move that enables the company to categorize items by theme, as well as similarity.

The AI-based site will also help eBay more accurately monitor what shoppers are buying, instead of directly asking them for their preferences.
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