eBay Explore Brings AI Discoverability To Fashion Shopping

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


eBay has launched a new feature called Explore, using AI and visual search to help fashion buyers create curated shopping feeds.

I first noticed it while browsing the eBay UK home page today, with a category navigation link to Explore.

Clicking the link engages a pop up where you can choose an interest to personalize your feed - for now only clothing categories are available, but eBay says new interests across Home Decor, Collectibles and more are coming soon.

Once you've selected an interest, eBay populates a page with items discovered using AI.

There are a few interesting things to note about this feed page - first of all, there are no titles or seller details shown, only a price and in some cases a brand name.

It's not entirely clear what would cause the brand name to appear for some items and not others, as all the examples I looked at had the brand name item specific filled in on the listing page.

None of the results shown during this testing were labeled as "sponsored" so it would seem eBay is not yet including Promoted Listings ads in the feature, or if they are, they are not properly designated as such as legally required.

Also interesting to note that if you click on an item, it does not take you directly to the item page - it displays a quick view pop up window instead.

Side note: one major difference between the Quick View display in the UK and the US is the UK version appears to only have a View Details button whereas in the US this module allows buyers to add to cart and go immediately to checkout without ever viewing the item page.

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All of the thumbnails displayed in eBay Explore also have the "search visually similar" icon in the lower left corner, and clicking that icon will display more results that also do not show any titles or seller details.

Here's what the whole experience looks like in action - note the periodic "oops, something went wrong, please refresh the page" error messages indicating either the tool is still very much in a beta phase or eBay's servers are occasionally struggling to keep up (as they have with so many other technical issues impacting the site this week.)


It makes sense for eBay to release this new feature in the UK first, as pre-loved fashion has been a major focus in that market over the last few years and eBay is looking to ramp up consumer to consumer fashion selling on the site by getting rid of selling and regulatory fees for private UK sellers in fashion categories.

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However, while there is no direct link posted on the main eBay US site, I thought I'd take a shot at seeing if the same link structure would work...and it did!

UK buyers can try this new feature out at: https://www.ebay.co.uk/explore

US buyers can visit: https://www.ebay.com/explore

Canada buyers can go to: https://www.ebay.ca/explore - and I would imagine any of the other country specific sites will likely work the same by adding /explore at the end of the URL.

This functionality in the web experience compliments the new Shop The Look feature eBay is rolling out in the app experience as well.

Introducing Shop the look: eBay curating personalized outfits with AI
As eBay continues to find ways to bring our huge selection of items to our customers, we’re creating features to both inspire and help shoppers find the items they love. This is why we are so excited about ‘shop the look’, our latest generative AI-powered enhancement. Shop the look is an immers…

As eBay continues to find ways to bring our huge selection of items to our customers, we’re creating features to both inspire and help shoppers find the items they love. This is why we are so excited about 'shop the look', our latest generative AI-powered enhancement.

Shop the look is an immersive carousel of looks, tailored to our customers’ shopping history, complete with interactive hotspots that reveal similar items and outfit inspirations. Imagine being greeted with a curation of outfits made of new and pre-owned apparel and luxury items that speak to your style preferences...

...Launch Timeline and Expansion
Shop the look is now available in iOS for our US and UK customers, with Android coming later this year. Shoppers who have viewed at least 10 fashion items in the past 180 days will find this feature both on the eBay homepage and fashion landing page. In addition to fashion, we are exploring potential expansions into other categories. Our goal is to continuously enhance the feature with new personalization elements over the next year.

eBay Explore in some ways seems very similar to Etsy's Gift Mode recommendation feature, which also uses AI to show curated product suggestions, but Etsy's tool provided a much wider variety of interests to choose from when it initially launched.

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Many of eBay's AI initiatives fit that same pattern - similar to what competitors are also working on or have already done, but slower to roll out or with more limited functionality, continuing eBay's history of unfulfilling or less than magical AI experiences.

eBay's initial attempts at offering an AI powered description generator did not go initially go smoothly, with both the app and desktop versions having to be temporarily taken down shortly after launch due to a bug which caused "unintended consequences that exposed a broken experience."

The image search functionality also continues to struggle with recognition and relevance.

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eBay has been promising a Magical AI listing tool that will create a listing from only an image since September 2023, and they claim to be doing limited testing with a select group of sellers now, but the tool has not been seen or widely discussed in the wild yet.

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Meanwhile, much smaller competitors like Poshmark and Mercari have beat them to the punch and already have beta versions of similar tools either in the works or already in sellers' hands.

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Amazon, Shopify, Mercari and others have also beat eBay to the punch on integrating AI into search and discovery via conversational shopping assistants.

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Shopify’s ChatGPT powered assistant brings conversational AI to the Shop app & web experiences.

In fact, just about the only AI use case eBay seems to have excelled in so far is replacing human reps with automated AI chatbots and decision making systems for critical support and trust and safety functionality.

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When asked to name things he thinks investors most underappreciate about the eBay story at a recent investor conference, CEO Jamie Iannone didn't hesitate to say he "feel[s] lucky to be CEO of this company right now with the generative AI technologies that are coming to fruition" and that no longer having to pay for human customer service reps to read detailed explanations about business impacting issues from sellers before responding to their requests for help is "fundamentally changing the pace of innovation."

eBay deals with a lot of customer support between buyers and sellers. And that customer agent sometimes had to read like a 12 paragraph e-mail where somebody explained it, we would hire someone to read that.

Now we have AI read that e-mail, write the initial response. So it's fundamentally changing our pace of how we work and the pace of innovation.

Many sellers would likely agree this increasing erosion of support is fundamentally changing things at eBay...but not for the better.

For my money, eBay should be devoting resources to making AI tools for buyers and sellers work seamlessly to actually enhance the user experience and leaving support and policy enforcement in the hands of highly trained and empowered humans to enhance that experience too.

eBay Explore is an interesting step in that direction, though many sellers will likely not be thrilled by they way it removes them from the equation with no title or seller details displayed in the feed.

What do you think of eBay Explore? Let us know in the comments!

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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!