eBay – You might want to check this out!

eBay bot – A suggestion of a simple, fast and effective shopping experience for eBay, that might attract new audiences to their website.

Here’s an idea for eBay – it’s on the house!

In this article, we will try to suggest eBay an introductory idea as to how should they construct their bot. Yes – me, little botguy is going to convey to the massive cooperation eBay an idea that is not only innovative, but doable.

When interviewed in the media, Devin Wenig – eBay’s CEO, discusses artificial intelligence and the fact that eBay encourages technological innovation. Indeed, eBay invests many financial resources to stay in the technological front. However, when tested, eBay bot was not quite up to the mark.  eBay bot falls into the same traps as other bots do at present day. It has a low ability of comprehension, questionable communication abilities.It is one dimensional and above all – ineffective.

It seems as if eBay fell short of providing, and just ended up following the popular trend as “if everyone has it – I want it too”. Bringing some real technological upgrades is what will give them the boost they require. With the exposure that eBay has, and with all the resources that are available to them, introducing a new and proficient bot shouldn’t be a tough job.

Bots are a highly complex and sensitive machine, which is why while developing one, some things need to be paid special attention, such as: why do we construct it in the first place? Is the bot capable of providing a new service? Can the bot reach new audiences? Can the bot offer something that an internet website can’t? What are the relative advantages of the bot? and so on…

What does eBay offers at present on its webpage? It is not just a standard online store, but a vast website that brings together a large number of online sellers and offers endless number of products. Nowadays, everything can be found on eBay; from a chewing gum once chewed by Britney Spears to a fighter aircraft. Let’s face it, the bot cannot compete with the website. How do I know that? Because a human advisor wouldn’t be able to compete with the extensive eBay website. And if a human couldn’t do it, how are we to vouch for a bot?

Recommendation and prospective solutions

The bots are supposed to enable humans to communicate with them, in a flowing and natural conversation – in the same way that they would have with a human advisor. Let’s raise the question: is a human representor valuable during the sale process? Of course they are. Nowadays, in order to make a purchase on eBay, the consumers read reviews and compare several webpages and products. This takes time and eventually causes a headache. Many feel helpless when facing the endless amount of information.

So how do we survive this process? Say we would like to buy a guitar, and we contact a musician friend or a family member who can recommend one. This musician will ask: who is the guitar for (the 7 year-old buy, his father, or the teenager who is 16 years old)? What is the aim of the purchase (social, serious training, classical)? What is the available budget? Only after we answer these questions, they are able to recommend 2 or 3 brands and models of guitars that will be suitable for us. This is the same with almost all products. When you go into an electronics shop that has one hundred models of TVs, the seller would usually try to narrow your choice to 2 or 3 options.

A new niche of bots

Insofar, we discovered a niche that does not exist on eBay and perfectly suits the bot. The bot can act as our personal advisor. If we rely on it (ways to create credibility will be discussed shortly), it can provide us with a simple, fast and effective shopping experience. Many users will prefer this method and will find this service to be a refreshing take. In addition, the bot might attract new audiences –  those who usually wouldn’t visit eBay due to the disorientation created by the endless possibilities and information.

How will the new eBay bot function?

In order to demonstrate this, I will look at sports’ headphones, reason being that during the last few years I bought dozens of headphones from an array of brands and in different models. So, what do I do when I look for a new set of sports’ headphones? As a somewhat sophisticated buyer of sound products, I check at least a few dozen models, then read some articles and comparison charts on Google. Perhaps watch a few videos created by sound experts and compare prices until I reach a decision. This is a lengthy and complex process that requires thought and concentration.

If is there a bot that can carry out this work for me, that would be amazing! A bot that recommends the right headphones for me, in accordance with my needs, would be of a great service. I would definitely use such a bot, If I am convinced that it can suggest reliable and reasonably priced products.

Which parameters (indexes) will the new eBay bot use?

The (imaginary) eBay bot will be equipped with the following information:

  1. Product’s quality – according to reviews by costumers that have purchased the product, categorized by different attributes (sound quality, comfort, ease of use, operating interface etc.)
  2. The scores the specific seller received.
  3. The seller’s geographical location that has a tremendous effect on the shipment duration.

When I use the bot and ask for a pair of sports’ headphones, the bot should ask me some essential questions such as – are you a male or a female? How old are you? What activity do you use the headphones for (jogging, swimming, etc.), how important is the sound quality for you? Are you interested in bluetooth or cables earphones? What is your estimated budget? Etc. after the questions stage the bot should offer options to choose from as follows:

  • Two lower-mid range priced options within the budget
  • Two mid-high range priced options within the budget
  • Two higher than the budget priced options

This new eBay bot will emphasise that these products are highly recommended by eBay in accordance to algorithms that are constructed by the experience of the buyers. As opposed to the human sellers at the shopping mall, who most likely have some hidden agendas, eBay’s recommendations will be objective and reliable, since they rely on real reviews.

Those who are not interested in the recommendation system and prefer to compare products on their own, would still be able to use the main (and excellent) eBay website. This is the difference between the branding for both services: the website – for those who enjoy the comparisons and have spare time to invest in the process, or the bot – for those who do not have the time or the patience, providing that the recommendations are personally tailored and reliable.

A complexed process

Do not assume this is a simple project. First of all, eBay must focus on specific products, as during the initial stages it will not be possible to buy everything using the bot. Let’s take guitars for example, there’s a need to collect information from experts, interview guitar shops salesmen and catalogue all the guitars according to the new parameters that were assembled. It makes sense for eBay’s bot to be developed step by step, and at the beginning at least to concentrate on a narrow array of products on which it can be an expert.

During the initial stage, conversation structuring experts (scriptwriters), will get involved. They will be able to analyse the information and create as many scenarios as possible that will have to do with the needs and the issues of costumers, who are looking for guitars. However, this is just the beginning, as with the trial launch of the bot, more scenarios and sub-scenarios will be added. Immediately thereafter, there will be a need to create flow charts that describe different conversation options, so that the process is shaped as a flowing and natural conversation.

This is the basic idea, I hope that I was able to explain it clearly. This idea is just one of many creative and complexed ideas that I have for eBay bot. But hey, I do not work for them and in addition to giving advice to one of the largest electronic trade companies in the world, there are still many things that I want to do with my life, like go on a run with my brand new sports headphones that I received by post via eBay.

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