EBay Inc. saw the potential generative AI could have on its marketplace of more than one billion SKUs to help address two key challenges: helping shoppers find items faster and more easily, and helping sellers list items faster with fewer obstacles, says Xiaodi Zhang, vice president of seller experience at eBay.
Early in 2023, the marketplace built a tool based on Open AI’s ChatGPT that creates a product description based on data that sellers provide about a product’s category, condition, color, brand and more. It took about a month to develop the feature, Zhang says.
EBay calls this its magical listing tool, and it rolled it out for all of its marketplaces sellers listing items in its app in August.
EBay marketplace sellers give AI product description generator positive feedback
The marketplace has been “pleasantly surprised” by the overwhelmingly positive seller feedback, Zhang says. As of late July, sellers have given the tool a customer satisfaction score of 80%, which is among eBay’s highest CSAT scores for recent, new feature launches, according to the marketplace.
“We are so excited about what generative AI can ultimately unlock for our customers,” Zhang says.
Zhang says roughly 30% of sellers shown the generative AI tool use it, and of those, 95% accept at least part of the description. Sellers can tweak the description, edit and delete as they like, Zhang says.
The AI bot tends to add adjectives and can be “a little flowery in the way it describes things,” Zhang says. It’s up to the seller to edit the wording and ensure it’s accurate.
EBay does not label AI descriptions as such
Because the marketplace seller edits and approves the listing, eBay does not label to shoppers which reviews the artificial intelligence wrote. Although, eBay does notify sellers when the tools they use are generative AI.
Kassi Socha, director analyst, retail, at research firm Gartner, cautions brands to be transparent to shoppers when they are using generative artificial intelligence. According to Gartner’s recent surveys, many consumers distrust generative AI, so retailers should be upfront and label content that uses the technology, Socha says.
In a July 2023 Gartner survey of 303 consumers, 34% of consumers rated their comfort level with generative AI in retail as “very or somewhat troubled,” 53% said they think it will strongly or somewhat negatively impact society, and 66% said they are concerned about discrimination or bias in generative AI.
“I applaud retailers that are adopting the technology with confidence and testing the use of generative AI, but the continued guidance at Gartner would be to approach with caution and be prepared to adapt quickly if a weakness is exposed,” Socha says.
EBay piloted the tool internally before slowly rolling it out to a randomized group, representing 5% of sellers in May 2023.
“What’s amazing with generative AI is how quickly it works. We had a proof of concept in a matter of weeks,” Zhang says.
The tool’s goal is to address “the cold start problem” that eBay marketplace sellers face when trying to describe products, Zhang says.
“When you find something to sell at home, and you are going through the listing, and you are asked to describe the item, a lot of people face writer’s block of, ‘How do I describe this dress I bought last year that I never wore?’” Zhang says.
Further generative AI tools
To further help sellers list items faster, eBay is developing more generative AI tools. One tool allows a marketplace seller to upload an image in the iOS app, and the generative AI will write in the details, such as category, subcategory, product title and a description.
EBay also is piloting an AI tool that will remove the background of a seller’s image and replace it with a white image so the product stands out. While a number of eBay sellers have a professional setup to merchandise their product and have robust images, many do not, Zhang says. The tool’s goal is to remove clutter from a home seller’s photo, and help those sellers have a clean photo listing, Zhang says.
“Sellers tell us the background removal tool can make a huge impact on conversion by creating a clearer image of their product,” eBay wrote in a release announcing this tool.
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