eBay is the latest tech company to jump on the Facebook Messenger bot bandwagon with the launch of ShopBot, a “smart personal shopping assistant” that helps consumers dig out the best deals on eBay.
Available in beta, for now, ShopBot can be accessed through this landing page or by searching for “eBay ShopBot” within the Facebook Messenger app. Once you’re in, you can use natural language to say such things as: “I’m looking for a pair of black suede shoes.” The bot will then ask questions and serve up category options to help narrow the search down. You can also submit a photo of an object, and eBay will try to find similar items on the site.
“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,” explained eBay’s chief product officer, RJ Pittman.
The launch represents one of a number of investments eBay has recently made in the artificial intelligence realm. Earlier this month, the company announced it was buying Israeli computer-vision company Corrigon, a move that should help it automate the process of classifying and organizing product photos, rather than relying on human accuracy. And, earlier in the year, eBay snapped up machine learning startup ExpertMaker, as well as predictive analytics company SalesPredict.
“The science of A.I. provides contextual understanding, predictive modeling, and machine learning abilities,” continued Pittman. “Combining A.I. with eBay’s breadth of inventory and unique selection will enable us to create a radically better and more personal shopping experience for virtually anyone that owns a mobile phone.”
ShopBot joins a growing throng of bots to emerge on Facebook Messenger since its launch of a bot platform back in April, with the likes of Domino’s serving up pizza through the messaging app and Skyscanner helping you find cheap flights. Though eBay’s incarnation is making its inaugural appearance on Facebook Messenger, the company says that the longer-term vision is to also integrate the service with other “popular messaging platforms.”
As is the case with most bots that have made it to market, eBay’s ShopBot won’t be 100 percent ready for prime time right out of the gate. This is why the company is quick to point out that it is a beta product — and, as is the nature of A.I., should improve over time. “It will learn every day from shoppers and about the rich inventory in our catalog,” added Pittman. “The more that people use it, the smarter eBay ShopBot will get.”