eBay’s Latest Feature Aims to Inspire with a Store Just for You
By: Evan Thomas, Sr. Product Manager, Shopping Experience
Hear from the product manager who created our newest personalization experience.
I’ve found the perfect store for me. It’s filled with Marvel superheroes, NBA superstars, 80s bands, 90s cartoons, smart home electronics, dragons, luxury watches, retro kicks, Portuguese coffee, and Scandinavian furniture. No other store like this exists in the world. This is my store—the “Store of Evan”—and it’s open 24 hours a day. I am literally the only customer, and it’s not on any city block, it’s on every city block in existence, because it’s in my front pocket.
This is the new experience on eBay’s mobile homepage: Interests. eBay’s Interests takes personalization to the next level—nowhere else can you visit a store filled with basketball gear, Herman Miller furniture and even indie board games. But on eBay, you can select the Portland Trail Blazers, Mid-Century Modern and Tabletop Gaming as Interests, and we’ll surface relevant listings on your customized homepage.
With more than 1 billion listings in our global marketplace, we are the only company who can actually support the hundreds of constructs of Interests simultaneously.
What makes the work that we’re doing with Interests unique is how we’re personalizing based on the things you love in life, not just what you’ve shopped for recently. Interests allows shortcuts into eBay worlds of Heavy Metal, Hiking, Scrapbooking or Nintendo—allowing you to cut through a billion listings and surface items just for you. We’ve constructed an ecosystem of things, more than a category, and centered on the lifestyle of activities, passions and styles. In this new eBay, yoga isn’t just about fitness mats and leggings—it’s about woven blankets, meditation and aromatherapy—things that wouldn’t conventionally fall into the category of “Sports & Fitness.”
When my team and I started out, we embodied a philosophy of creating human-centric structures based on simple questions that frame each individual’s shopping experience and will ultimately lead you to find your version of perfect. What do you like to do after work? What do you obsess about? What is your style? Who do you cheer for at concerts or sports games? This is a radically different way of thinking about our taxonomy when compared to products or categories—but it is actually reflective of how real people shop. You don’t want to go into a mall in which every store is “Sweater Store,” “Shoe Store” and “Chair Store.”
Instead, you walk into a boho chic clothing store because you’re dressing for Coachella, or you walk into an outdoor store because you love camping. Our aim with Interests is to match the experience of those stores that tap into narrowly focused passions.
Creating these human-centric structures out of eBay’s diverse marketplace is quite difficult. We had to consider that each Interest has unique brands, styles, characters and materials that make it distinct, and that only its specific customers know about. Real high-end audiophiles don’t care about Skullcandy. They care about Klipsch speakers and Sennheiser headphones. Knowing this, we built the foundation of Interests with a team focused on curating and researching these attributes. We had to start at the foundation: bring in the people who know, or can research, what those attributes are.
Once we identified each Interest based on demand (on and off eBay), and each of its most important attributes, we use or create that metadata in eBay’s Structured Data platform, so we can stitch together thousands of pages and items into our new Interest Taxonomy. eBay already has pre-structured pages with a single brand and single category (like: Wolverine Boots), but we had to build a capability to attach hundreds of these individual pages’ metadata together, then generate a new SEO rich page at that intersection. In many cases, we had to do that two or three levels deep to adequately create the shopping pathway we aspired to achieve. Doing that for every Interest identified was just the first step.
Then, we made the pages diverse and displayed the best of our selection within each concept. Hiking included Wolverine Boots, but it also included Coleman tents, Yeti canteens, Arc'teryx daypacks and more. We spent a long time trying to problem solve how to distill eBay’s massive selection down to singular pages. To keep the pages diverse and fresh, we added a presentation layer on top of our new SEO rich pages that would strategically cycle through inventory to optimize per individual, per Interest, per week. We can control the frequency of how often the pages update, and the inventory selected within each Interest on the fly. If we leave them alone, the weighting of inventory, the SEO traffic and the confidence we have in the inventory can drive the ship all on their own. We sprinkled in some graphic design and imagery, and we now have a page that can have hundreds of millions of permutations and inventory cycling, to keep the hikers of eBay coming back for more.
Creating pages is one thing, but to get you to organically find the pages that belong to an Interest during your shopping journey, is a whole different challenge. We want our taxonomy to be the simpler way to dive into eBay for our customers—several hundred that are incredibly distinct, rather than thousands of categories with some so similar in nature that customers don’t know where to begin browsing. That’s where we turned to our data science algorithms. Based on your prior shopping funnel behavior, the types of items you look at, and purchases, we could effectively develop a confidence score that maps you, as a shopper, to Browse pages.
Take it one level of data extraction further, and if we see that you are mapped to numerous Browse pages within an Interest construct, then we can implicitly associate you with that Interest at another confidence score. Deeper still, we started looking at the attributes within an Interest that you look at most and recommending other attributes within the same Interest that you’ve never looked at before. We want to do more than just help you find what you’re looking for, but also help you find what you didn’t know you were looking for.
This is just the beginning. The Store of You is the eBay of tomorrow. eBay Interests is now live on the eBay app.