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eBay to Follow You Around, Guessing What You Want

eBay CEO Devin Wenig wants to use Artificial Intelligence to show people products when they aren’t even on the site, he recently revealed. He also said eBay is using technology to better understand what people like and don’t like and is using that information to customize the shopping experience for each customer.

The subject of Artificial Intelligence (AI) came up when CNBC’s Jon Fortt asked if eBay would consider partnering with IBM to use its Watson technology and referred to Facebook as working on AI in ecommerce.

“From where you sit, do you think you can be a leader in artificial intelligence around commerce, or Amazon with all of its data centers, with its cloud, are they destined to be bigger and better than you at that as applied to retail?” Fortt asked Wenig.

The CEO said eBay could absolutely be a leader in AI. “We have as good or better data as anyone because we have purchase intent data and actual purchase data.”

Wenig explained that eBay has been working on AI for a while and has a significant team that’s “beginning to apply sophisticated algorithms and sophisticated computing power to express consumer intent.”

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In fact, Wenig said eBay didn’t need help understanding the customer, it needs help with what he referred to as distribution. There’s a fabric that lives beyond eBay that will find you where you are, he said. In three to four years, eBay will find you. “You may be in a social network, you may be in a messaging application, you may be living in other digital properties,” he said.

“As long as you express intent, I’d like eBay to come to you and show you the perfect item rather than you have to go to it.”

Wenig was also interviewed by ReCode’s Walt Mossberg about AI and told the tech reporter that eBay is ramping up its “predictive modelling.” eBay will know if a shopper wants a seven-dollar scarf or a 70-dollar scarf, and will know if the shopper likes blue or red. “Later this year, it will start to feel different,” he said of eBay.

Wenig said a billion items is an amazing advantage, and “it can be a disadvantage because it can be overwhelming.” And that’s why eBay is building a catalog, he explained.

“Because things don’t get seen,” Walt Mossberg said. Wenig agreed.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.