eBay Wins "Best Generative AI Solution" Award - Well Deserved Honor Or Marketing Hype?

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


UPDATE 7-9-24

It looks like eBay finally decided to pay that licensing fee after all, publishing a very short and vague press release about the win on July 8th.

eBay’s Magical Listing Tool Wins AI Breakthrough Award for ‘Best Overall Generative AI Solution’
eBay’s magical listing experience uses generative AI to save sellers time and effort.

eBay’s magical listing tool has been named “Best Overall Generative AI Solution” in the 2024 AI Breakthrough Awards, an annual program that celebrates innovative use of technology from companies and products around the world.

eBay’s magical listing experience leverages generative AI to simplify the product listing experience for sellers, sparing them time and effort.

The first phase of the experience uses AI to create item descriptions within the eBay listing flow based on known product attributes. It was released to 100 percent of sellers in the company’s top 5 markets by the end of 2023, and saw high rates of customer satisfaction and adoption.

Phase 2 of the experience is currently in beta with a subset of eBay’s users, and adds the ability to pre-populate additional listing item details by extrapolating them from a seller-uploaded image.

Is eBay's Magical Listing tool the "Best Overall Generative Al Solution" currently on the market? According to Tech Breakthrough LLC, it's at least the best one submitted to their 7th annual AI Breakthrough Awards, with eBay being announced the overall gen AI winner last week.

eBay execs including CTO Mazen Rawashdeh, Chief AI Officer Nitzan Mekel-Bobrov, and Chief Product Officer Eddie Garcia were quick to announce the win on their LinkedIn profiles, but strangely there have been no corporate press releases, announcements or further media promotion around what would appear to be a significant honor.

Source: LinkedIn
Source: LinkedIn

It's ironic that Garcia would mention this "tech breakthrough" award in the same post as the recent Elton John Aids Foundation charity auction, considering the embarrassing disaster of technical misexecution on display with that livestream event.

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But the irony doesn't stop there - eBay is currently hiring for a Technology Communications role, specifically to leverage media connections and PR to promote Rawashdeh and "position eBay as a top-tier technology company."

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Given the clear desire to flood the media landscape with positive coverage of eBay's supposed tech prowess, why have we seen no press releases or promotion about eBay having the "Best Overall Generative Al Solution?"

Tech Breakthrough says nominees for the AI Breakthrough Awards do not pay for consideration and are selected based on objective criteria, but user agreement and content usage guidelines show winning isn't exactly free as companies who wish to promote their awards must pay a licensing fee in order to use logos or other content on their websites or press releases.

Tech Breakthrough disclaimer

Tech Breakthrough LLC award winners are selected based on evaluation that includes six objective criteria, including product functionality, ease-of-use, technological innovation and impact.

Companies do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the list of Tech Breakthrough LLC Breakthrough Award winners. Once awarded, companies may opt to purchase additional award promotional products.

The Tech Breakthrough LLC awards do not evaluate the quality of services provided to their clients or customers and is not indicative of the Company’s future performance. Ratings do not guarantee future success or results. Fee paid to publisher for licensing use of materials after ranking announced.

Conveniently, simply sharing links on social media pages is exempted from the licensing requirements, which might explain why any mention of this award has been limited to eBay execs' LinkedIn posts rather than official press releases or content on the corporate blog.

A deeper look into Tech Breakthrough shows it's basically a marketing and research firm trying to sell "industry recognition programs" to Fortune 500 companies - not exactly an unbiased source of information.

Tech Breakthrough is an internationally recognized market intelligence company specializing in emerging B2B and B2C technology products and services.

Founded in 2014, Tech Breakthrough creates market intelligence and industry recognition programs for companies ranging from Fortune 500 to early-stage startups in today’s most competitive technology sectors.

In light of that, it's fair to say this "best overall generative AI solution" designation carries about as much weight as the "best ecommerce experience" award eBay received from Digiday in 2021 for the relatively mundane and not particularly innovative introduction of Dark Mode to the app.

Average users who aren't running a for-profit marketing company have been less impressed with how eBay's AI initiatives are performing in real word use compared to the magical stories being spun by CEO Jamie Iannone on earnings calls and investor conferences.

The AI description generator that won this award had a rough start, with both the app and desktop versions being pulled from production just days after launch due to bugs that, in eBay's own words, "created a broken user experience."

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Iannone has been teasing the next iteration of the Magical Listing experience where users will supposedly be able to simply take a picture and let eBay's AI do the rest to create an entire listing since last September.

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However, ~10 months later the feature has still not been seen in the wild and is currently only accessible to employees and a select handful of NDA-bound seller partner beta testers.

Other AI tools like the Background Remover and Image Enhancer, Shop The Look and eBay Explore have suffered from similar launch difficulties with glitchiness and lag time a common occurrence.

And attempts to integrate AI into search and discovery continue to deliver a poor buyer experience with increasingly irrelevant and inaccurate results.

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In the current AI arms race, eBay lags woefully behind competitors like AmazonMercari, Etsy and Shopify who have beat them to the punch with experiences that are far more innovative and provide more relevant and engaging results.

Mekel-Bobrov say he believes AI will bring a paradigm shift that will "completely transform ecommerce" in the next 3-5 years, but that's a tune eBay has been singing for almost a decade with very little to actually show for it.

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"Industry recognition program" participation trophies and calculated media manipulation strategies may have gotten eBay this far, but it will take a real tech-led reimagination of the company to survive increasing scrutiny of AI-hype claims.

Do you think eBay deserves an award for "Best Overall Generative AI Solution"? Let us know in the comments below!


Liz Morton Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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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