eBay Adds Chatbot Search Assistant For Facebook Messenger

eBay now has a chatbot for mobile powered by artificial intelligence. It debuted on Facebook Messenger earlier this week. ShopBot, as eBay calls it, aims to simplify the shopping process by searching for products across the marketplace.

Chatbots have become the consumer's next search assistant for mobile phones running the iOS and the Android operating system. Marketers will want to optimize copy and campaigns to support this shift.

Anyone can try ShopBot by texting, talking or snapping a picture to tell eBay ShopBot what product to look for. It asks the user questions to better understand search intent and make personalized recommendations. 

It will take time for ShopBot to learn consumer preferences, eBay acknowledges, but during the company's third-quarter earnings call Wednesday with investors and analysts, eBay President and CEO Devin Wenig said "our vision is to make shopping with eBay as easy as talking to a friend, whether you're looking for something specific or you're browsing for inspiration."

No doubt the company has put a stronger emphasis on search. Wenig admitted the majority of eBay's business comes from organic searches on sites like Google and Bing, but it also now comes from social channels.

During the earnings call, Robert Baird Equity Research Analyst Colin Sebastian asked Wenig when he expects to begin giving the exposure of the new product pages to the onsite search traffic or at least describe the remaining hurdles.

"It's already starting," Wenig said. "It’ll certainly continue this quarter, or even through the holiday. If you think about it, the least disruptive is exogenous through search channels, then category and browse pages, which we're sort of introducing right now, and you'll see us drive a number of holiday campaigns directly to those experiences for the first time."

In addition to ramping up search services for the marketplace, eBay will continue its branding spree through the holidays. The company plans to advertise on TV in the U.S. and Europe during this holiday season, which Wenig said the company has not done since 2014.

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