On Cyber Monday, eBay customers gave the company the biggest sales day in its 22-year history. The day after, the company gave them something in return — a new Google Home feature that lets people shop by voice.
Users can ask the device, “OK, Google: Ask eBay to find me a [product name],” and the Google Assistant searches products on the site and sends the best deal to their smartphones. According to its blog, the online marketplace was “inspired by the service in a traditional retail store” and its personalized experience.
“Our vision is to bring a personal, intelligent shopping assistant to every shopper, whenever, wherever and for whatever they may need,” said Jay Vasudevan, the blog post’s author and lead product manager at eBay. “We’re continuing to leverage eBay’s AI and a billion listings to create a shopping experience that’s as easy as talking to a friend.”
Ebay’s interest in artificial intelligence is nothing new. Last March the company unveiled an appraisal chatbot for Google Home, so current and would-be sellers could learn the value of items by just asking the device. Prior to that, the e-commerce company developed an AI shopping assistant for Facebook’s messaging app.
“Last year, we began testing on the Facebook Messenger platform and developed eBay ShopBot — a personalized shopping assistant in chat,” Vasudevan continued. “Over the year, we’ve enhanced our Natural Language Understanding capabilities and leveraged knowledge graphs to help train our AI.”
Those interests line up with Google’s priorities. AI was the primary focus of the Android maker’s Pixel event last month, while it’s been vying for the voice-tech market against Amazon. The latter’s Alexa technology is powering a growing horde of Echo appliances.
Amazon’s dominance in talkative home tech is only eclipsed by its retail powers, a fact that adds context to eBay’s long-standing partnership with Google. In addition to the appraisal bot earlier this year, the companies’ relationship covers an array of initiatives, from text ads in 2006 to accelerated mobile pages in 2016.