Image Credits: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images
eBay is rolling out a new AI tool for marketplace sellers that can create product listings from a single photo.
Available in the eBay app to launch for iOS, with an Android app to follow in the coming weeks, the tool can automatically write a title and description based on a photo, as well as suggest information and category, including product release date, subcategory, list price and shipping cost.
The tool builds on eBay’s other efforts to inject AI into the sales process, including an AI-generated product catalog description and background removal tool for listing photos.
“The ‘photo-to-listing’ tool was built internally and the team will use the listing data generated to ‘train’ the model internally. eBay’s terms and conditions state that we have a license to use the listing data,” an eBay spokesperson told TechCrunch via email. “At eBay, we’re using AI to reduce friction on the platform and transform the listing process. With this tool, it makes the seller’s job incredibly painless, easy, and even fun.
In May, Adam Ireland, head of eBay’s US business, said in a blog post that eBay plans to roll out a plugin that will let sellers auto-generate item descriptions based on content already available on the web — powered by the OpenAI language model. In the same blog post, Ireland starred in the release of the tool, which will be launched today.
eBay says the tool aims to address the “cold start” problem experienced by first-time sellers on its platform. Not uncommonly, new sellers are overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to enter to create a competitive listing, eBay claims – so what better way to overcome that than to eliminate the need to enter information altogether?
“No need to work through a cold start with AI: As soon as you’re ready to sell, your listing is ready to post,” eBay writes in a blog post. “We’ve been hard at work on the next version of a new, magical listing experience, which uses AI to analyze, research and extrapolate information from small amounts of seller-provided data.”
But longtime sellers on eBay don’t seem happy with the platform’s AI direction.
Official eBay community forums and subreddits frequented by sellers have been pouring in complaints about the poor quality of eBay’s description generator, which is available in limited trials — with one user on the forum, vssoutlet, claiming eBay’s AI-generated text is misleading. And, in some cases, completely untrue. Vssoutlet points to a listing for a Pentax SLR camera, for which eBay’s AI generated a description that said the camera came with a lens kit – an obvious error.
On the subreddit /r/Flipping, a Reddit community dedicated to the art of flipping high-profile merch, an eBay seller who goes by the name IJustWondering writes that the eBay description generator frequently “repeats the item’s details and title” and just “adds some fluff.” Another user, hardcorelogic, reports a similar experience to vssoutlet, saying the AI-written descriptions “have errors” and “(() are too long.”
“I could have written it myself when I was done fixing (one of the descriptions) and shortening it,” writes HardcoreLogic.
This writer also worries about the photo-recognition component of eBay’s new generative feature. Given that some of the best computer vision algorithms today are so biased that they can’t reliably distinguish between gorillas and black people, I don’t hold out much hope for eBay’s decision.
That aside, eBay sellers appear to be taking issue not only with generative AI’s tendency to mislead and create illusions — eBay is well aware of this, as the new listing-creation tool includes a disclaimer warning that the text may not be entirely accurate — but what eBay envisions. including use cases.
Sellers point out that eBay’s AI-generated descriptions aren’t clear, concise or direct enough for most buyers. Description generators are iterative and verbose, they claim – even for the basics. And the generated text does not list the individual characteristics of the item, including their defects.
eBay isn’t the only marketplace to embrace AI as a way to solve the funnel problem (ie, convincing more sellers, who pay revenue-generating sales fees, to list items — and make their pages more searchable on search engines). Shopify recently introduced AI-generated product descriptions, while Amazon rolled out AI-generated review summaries.
The Information reports that Amazon is also piloting AI that will allow merchants to create titles, descriptions and bullet points for select products. Unlike eBay’s newly launched tool, Amazon will work from a list of keywords, not photos, and will “strictly regulate” the content allowed in the generated product listings.
But eBay’s roadmap is more aggressive. And marketers — rightly so, I’d argue — are beginning to question the wisdom of that strategy.