Artificial Intelligence

10 Ways eBay is Creating a More Personalized Shopping Experience

Bradford Shellhammer, VP of Buyer Experience, eBay & GM, eBay New York

AI and Machine Learning help create a seamless shopping experience, tailored to customers.

Over the past year, eBay worked to enhance the shopping experience for customers by applying personalization and artificial intelligence to reimagine several features for buyers. These technologies helped remove friction, creating an inspirational shopping experience that helps customers find exactly what they’re looking for. Whether it’s vintage, trendy or one-of-a-kind, you can find it on eBay.

The new experiences we’ve built are about inspiration and discovery, value and selection, simplicity and ease. When I shop on eBay, these technology tools work like my personal shopper. Image Search helps me find something from my favorite fashion icons or a throwback look to something from the ’80s; Interests personalizes my experience making a “Store of Bradford” filled with mid-century modern furniture, vintage posters and fashion collectibles that you can’t find in stores; and with more than 50 saved searches and sellers, I know that I will see the inventory that I care about as soon as it’s posted.

Here are 10 ways the tools we’ve built around personalization, machine learning and AI are transforming the shopping experience on eBay:

1. Personalized Content for Guests

We continue to improve our guest user experiences, which allows us to reach new buyers. As a guest shopper —someone who has not made an eBay account — we’re recommending items based on Recently Viewed Items and shopping behavior. We are also simplifying this process by allowing users to sign in via Facebook and Google. This allows easy access, bookmarking and recommendations for customers who have not created an eBay account...yet. 

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2. Trending in Your Interests

Things trend on eBay because as the world talks about it, they shop for it on eBay. We understand customer interests, from sneakers to fashion, and are beginning to merge the two with an upcoming “Trending in Your Interests” feature. Finding trends within the world of what matters to you keeps recommendations fresh and timely.

For example, if we know that you’re a sneakerhead, we might recommend the popular Adidas Ultra Boost from time to time. Last month, during the Game Of Thrones final week, the GOT version of the Adidas Ultra Boost shoes were trending on eBay. Rather than just recommending Adidas Ultra Boost as we normally would, now we’d recommend the GOT Ultra Boost in the “Trending in Your Interests” module. We would highlight to you what enthusiast sneakerheads are coveting that week.

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3. Buy Again with One Click

Want to buy it again? Through your Purchase History, the Buy Again button allows you to repurchase your favorite finds on eBay instead of searching for the same product from the same seller. If the same item is no longer available from the original seller, no problem! You’ll have the option to Buy Similar. Through this feature, eBay’s search algorithms will surface similar inventory, often the same product sold by a different seller, the same product in a different variant (think of the same sneaker in different colors), or a similar product (like a different running sneaker from the same brand). As we learn more about your buying patterns for your favorite products, we will remind you to Buy Again when the time and price are right for you.

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4.  A Picture’s Worth a 1,000 Words

Can’t describe what you are looking for? With Image Search shoppers can use pictures to search eBay’s catalog of 1.2 billion items. Take a photo or upload an existing photo into the Search bar. eBay will surface listings that are a close match or visually similar. Image Search is enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning, and allows shoppers to quickly find the things they love, making the entire internet shoppable on a mobile device.  

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5. Pivot to find more of what you love

Our latest visual shopping feature lets you use words and pictures to shop, discover and explore eBay. If you see a sneaker, chair or dress that piques your interest while shopping through eBay’s inventory, just tap on the three dots on the top right corner of the listing and start exploring similar items — more sneakers, chairs or dresses with similar features that you might love even more. Advances in machine learning are strengthening these features, allowing our AI to better recognize objects and deliver better results. Pivoting off image is perhaps the most fun! While exploring eBay, you might find a treasure, say the perfect red polka-dotted dress. Click “Looks Like This” and eBay’s Image Search will find more things just like it within our catalog, allowing you to shop the products you find and love without ever having to describe them with words.

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6. The Right Offer at the Right Time

We want to send you offers when the time is right. Using machine learning, we surface coupons and deals that make sense for how you interact with eBay. This may be a customized coupon experience with an incentive for downloading the app, an item that’s on your watch list, or discounts to our best or new customers. Many retailers simply run sales. We’re moving toward a world of smart-sales giving dollars to customers who need it, earn it, and deserve it.

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7. Personalized Promoted Listings

eBay sellers use promoted listings to elevate items that they feel are relevant and valuable. For shoppers, these come to life through sponsored recommendations on eBay. The “Similar to your Recent Views” module, on the View Item page, uses machine learning to better understand your preferences and help you find the most relevant similar items to complete your shopping mission, often elevating sponsored content to meet your needs. 

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8. Personal Shopping on eBay

You know that awesome salesperson who lets you know when new inventory is in stock or when the item you covet is on sale? We’ve brought that to eBay. 

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Our Save and Watch buttons are an easy way to stay informed about new inventory and changes in price. Saves will let you know when something you’re looking for comes into (or back into) stock or when new things you love hit the marketplace — whether you just want to see the new Warhol prints that arrived or you’re looking for a sold out pair of shoes that you must have the minute they land! Similarly, Watching allows you to bookmark items to compare prices and set alerts to know when an item drops in price.

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We are experimenting with new ways to Save that will further personalize the shopping experience. For example, we’re recommending via email that shoppers save sellers who they’ve bought from in the past to be the first to see their favorite sellers’ new listings and special offers.

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We’re also improving the experiences once you’ve watched items. We’ve updated the Watch List on mWeb so it’s easier to filter and sift through your watched items. And we’re using Saves and Watches to recommend related items inspired by the things you save or watch. 

9. Evolving Personalized Homepage

Our Homepage is the hub that brings together so much of our personalized content for our customers. Last year we launched the storefront of you: unique for all 180 million of us shopping eBay. The goal of our homepage recommendations are to inspire and show our users the value and unique selection that eBay has among our 1.2 billion listings! New this summer and into the fall: we’re leveraging regional shopping variations and user demographics for more robust recommendations and we’ll begin personalizing more traditionally human-curated content and offers, things like our Deals, Editor’s Picks, and branded sales and events, to further blur human touch and machine learning.

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10. Segmentation in Search for New Customers

We know that buyers who are visiting eBay for the first time have distinctly different shopping preferences as compared to our existing, tenured buyers. In Search, we are actively working on delivering a tailored customer experience for our new buyers by leveraging machine learning and training our algorithms on new buyer preferences and choices. We’ve seen that most new buyers want to see ‘new’ inventory with the ‘buy it now’ option. As more new buyers interact with eBay, we continue to customize the experience for their shopping needs. 

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