Is eBay Leading The Next Age Of AI Powered Ecommerce?

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


eBay's Chief AI officer Nitzan Mekel-Bobrov and (now ex) Senior Director of Risk and Trust Science Stephanie Moyerman stopped by VentureBeat recently to discuss how eBay is ramping up AI use in ecommerce.

How eBay is ramping up AI use in ecommerce behind the scenes
eBay is doubling down on AI-led visual experiences and further incorporating it into visual understanding and content understanding.

Stephanie actually left eBay earlier this month and is now Director of Data Science, Wellness at Instagram, forcing a change in title on the caption cards for this video which was pre-recorded and uploaded to Vimeo 3 weeks ago.

The interview presented eBay as "heralding the next age of ecommerce" with their low-code/no-code AI innovation.

Low-code and no-code artificial intelligence (AI) tools and immersive 3D visualization are heralding the next age of ecommerce.

eBay is taking a lead in this area with increased investment in AI-led experiences, including 3D product renderings to enhance shopping experiences and automated listing capabilities to simplify seller duties.

But are the 3D product rendering and automated listing capabilities they talk about really that innovative?

eBay’s Chief AI Officer Looks To The Future
eBay’s Chief AI officer Nitzan Mekel-Bobrov has big plans to help the marketplace achieve CEO Jamie Iannone’s tech led reimagination.

As I've noted previously, the 3D experience is not an in-house developed initiative. eBay simply partnered with Rest-AR (which was acquired by Unity in 2020) to power the experience.

eBay Introduces 3D Images For Sneakers
Get a first look at eBay’s 3D image experience starting with a limited test on select products in the sneakers category.

3D view of sneakers is a neat gimmick, but it's hardly groundbreaking technology. Plus, in the 10 months since it was originally introduced, eBay has failed to expand it to any other categories or even to all sneaker sellers on the platform - it's still exclusively available to select sneaker sellers by invitation only.

The other example Nitzan and Stephanie provided was using AI to speed up the listing process or what eBay calls Scan To List.

Meanwhile, AI is also being used to enable high-speed and automated listing capabilities. Sellers can snap photos of items and automatically populate listings, ultimately reducing — or altogether eliminating — the need for manual input.

This capability has been launched initially in the trading card category.

As Mekel-Bobrov explained, these next-generation ecommerce tools are enabled via the use of computer vision, image recognition, convolutional neural networks and fine grain image analysis.

Scan To List capability was launched in April 2021 for trading cards, but was limited to only Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Magic the Gathering cards, with the promise of expansion to sports trading cards, non-sports cards and other collectible card games.

eBay Scan To List - Magic The Gathering Cards
eBay officially announces support for Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards as well as Magic the Gathering with the Scan To List tool.

Over a year later, eBay is just finally getting around to enable Scan To List outside the US - but it's still limited exclusively to Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Magic the Gathering cards.

eBay Expands Scan To List For Non-Sports Trading Cards To Canada
eBay announces Scan To List for Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, & Pokémon cards is now available to sellers in Canada.

Meanwhile, scrappy startup CollX just hit the 200,000 user mark for their competing sports card scanning app while eBay appears to be no closer to enabling Scan To List for sports cards any time soon.

CollX Aims To Take A Bite Out of eBay’s Trading Card Business
Heads up sports card collectors, there’s a new app in town to help you value, track, and trade your collection.

Going forward, eBay’s efforts in AI and low-code and no-code will become “more tactical, more tangible,” he said. This will include doubling down on AI-led visual experiences and further incorporating it into visual understanding and content understanding. Similarly, eBay will continue investing in tools — such as more advanced 3D and augmented reality (AR) — and developing cross-platform compatibility...

...Ultimately, he said, “I love talking about the future because you can dream big.”

Big dreams are a great place to start, but given the pace at which competitors are innovating and bringing new experiences to market, eBay needs to get serious about the present, not the future, and bring those dreams into reality if they truly want to accomplish CEO Jamie Iannone's tech-led reimagination of the platform.


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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!

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