Can AI Humanize the Shopping Experience?

By: Scott Cutler, eBay Senior Vice President, Americas

Technology can help put a human face on shopping, connect us to individualized and personal experiences, help us discover things that are connected to our passions.

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Scott Cutler on stage Wednesday at Shoptalk 2018 in Las Vegas, where he discusses how artificial intelligence will change the way we shop and sell.

 

Marketplaces have always been about connecting buyers with sellers in meaningful ways. As the role technology plays in those connections has increased, the shopping experience feels more advanced, but also less human. Innovation has enabled, even encouraged, retailers to make decisions for their customers, driving specific products to a mass audience. We’re moving toward a world where the products arriving on your doorstep have been pre-selected from a warehouse nearby. Technology has changed the focus of commerce to delivery and logistics. At the same time, retailers are chasing customers that prefer to shop on devices, not in person, creating technological challenges to understand trends and personal preferences.

There is no question ecommerce has evolved, mostly for the better. But through this evolution, we believe the personal element of shopping has been lost. The strong sense of connection with the customers has also been diluted. In short, we have lost sight of the human element.

Technology can, and should, help put a human face on shopping, connect us to individualized and personal experiences, help us discovers things that are connected to our passions. And this is where artificial intelligence comes in.Instead of creating a singular experience for all shoppers, AI can help create an experience where people have variety in what they explore and discover – not just faster availability of the items that everyone is buying.

THE HUMAN BEHIND THE MACHINE

It may sound counterintuitive, but I believe AI can humanize the shopping experience. We can use this technology to connect people with something that is truly meaningful in ways that are natural and offer a spectrum of choice and the delight of discovery.

AI is helping us organize the billions of listings, inventory and options into meaningful experiences, in how we connect buyers and sellers, what we offer, and how we interact.  Advancements in machine learning, computer vision and natural language processing are helping create a shopping journey as individual as each customer.

This is how AI gets personal. At eBay, it touches every aspect of our business, and we’re using it to customize an experience for each and every person using our platform. Our focus is on enabling an inspiring interaction, not a simple transaction.

ONE EXPERIENCE, 170 MILLION WAYS

As a thriving global marketplace, our AI challenge is distinct. We have 170 million active users, tens of millions of sellers, over one billion items. Our network is made up of entrepreneurs and businesses small and large, and it is growing and moving and living constantly.

We are applying predictive analytics and machine learning to over 20 years of data about buying and selling to make each experience unique.

Our challenge is not mass distribution, but rather bespoke personalization at scale. We’re working to foster relationships across borders and cultures while simultaneously thinking through what that experience looks and feels like to each of our individual customers. We are applying predictive analytics and machine learning to over 20 years of data about buying and selling to make each experience unique.

We will continue to evolve so that we can create more joy for our customers. And we’re already using AI to do it. With Image Search, you can take a photo of an outfit you see on the streets and find it on the eBay app. With Google Assistant, you can talk to eBay and buy a handbag within minutes. We recently launched an augmented reality shipping tool that lets sellers find the right sized box for an item using their phone’s camera. 

This year, we’ll be releasing new features that will make each experience you have with eBay unique and inherently you -- that won’t just make your life easier, but colored by your interests. We want you to find your version of perfect, and we sure hope you’ll be smiling along the way.

Editor's Note:  This article originally appeared on Scott Cutler's Linkedin page.  You can also follow Scott on Instagram and Twitter