eBay Testing New AI Search & Discovery Features To Curate Personalized Search Experience

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


eBay is testing adding AI more overtly into search and discovery with generated search results and query prompting to curate a more personalized search experience.

An eagle-eyed seller in the eBay community noticed the new AI search results today, remarking how poorly the feature performed on relevance for a specific search of "vintage uranium glass candlesticks."

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When looking up comps, I am getting AI-generated results showing items not related in the slightest bit of what I’m looking for. The items showing look to be cheap Temu or Amazon type of items. I searched “Vintage Uranium Glass Candlesticks” and I’m getting results with cheap notebooks, watches, etc…

When looking up comps, I am getting AI-generated results showing items not related in the slightest bit of what I'm looking for. The items showing look to be cheap Temu or Amazon type of items. I searched "Vintage Uranium Glass Candlesticks" and I'm getting results with cheap notebooks, watches, etc.

There is a small link to change back to classic search, when I switch back it gives me the normal results. Most people shopping on eBay may not even see the link. Please see the screenshots. This is horrible. My sales have come to a complete halt this weekend, and this may be the culprit.

I was able to replicate this experience and can confirm - at least for this specific search, the feature does not appear to be ready for prime time, as indicated with the warning, "search with eBay.ai is an experiment and may return results that are irrelevant or inaccurate."


Digging further into the functionality shows that not only is eBay using AI to determine which items to show for a given query, they're also suggesting more generic, conversational questions in some searches, with AI then curating items based on the user's intent to enhance discovery of products they may not have thought to search for explicitly.

For example, searching the word "sneakers" provides the usual list of suggested keywords but then at the bottom has three AI recommendations - "suggest some cool and trendy sneakers for teenage boys", "what are some sneakers suitable for long-distance running?" and "what are some popular and stylish sneakers for this season?"

The results here were at least more relevant than the uranium glass search, though it does still appear to have trouble finding an answer to the specific question and differentiating between other items that are somewhat related but not actually the item the question was asking about.

In this case, the question was asking for shoe recommendations but the search also contained many hydration packs that, while possibly also useful for long distance running, don't match the specific intent of looking to buy shoes.

Alarmingly, eBay's experimental AI search shows troubling results for "toys to help a 3-year-old develop fine motor skills" - clearly ignoring age guidance in item specifics & suggesting items with small parts & magnetic pieces that could be dangerous for toddlers.

eBay is woefully behind competitors with this type of conversational generative AI approach to product discovery - Amazon, Mercari, and Shopify beat them to the punch by a year+ with experiences that are more engaging and provide more relevant results.

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Other searches brought up suggested questions around gifting, clearly meant to counter Etsy's recent moves with Gift Mode AI powered recommendations.

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For example, a search for "fishing" suggests "find me anniversary gifts for my husband who loves fishing", "help me find anniversary gifts for my husband who loves fishing" and "find me a retirement gift for my uncle who loves fishing."

Those who worry about how bias can easily get baked into AI tools based on training models and prompting may raise an eyebrow at the obvious gender role assumptions being made here, especially as this search was done in an incognito browser while not logged in to a specific account, so there would not have been past search or account information for it to draw on to make assumptions or inferences about the user.

I wonder how that fits in with the inclusivity, equity, and fairness principles espoused in eBay's commitment to Responsible AI?

eBay has been slowly testing and rolling out other AI features as well with the image background enhancer released this week and Shop The Look and eBay Explore for fashion in the UK.

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

However, the Magical Listing tool CEO Jamie Iannone has been promising will allow sellers to create a listing using only a picture has still not been seen in the wild - will it soon join the list of eBay's unfulfilled AI promises?

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What do you think of eBay's newest AI search test? Let us know in the comments below!

eBayAISeller Updates

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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