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eBay is rolling out a new AI tool for marketplace sellers that can generate product listings from a single photo.
It will be available first on the eBay app for iOS, with an Android app coming in the coming weeks. The tool automatically creates titles and descriptions, product release dates, and other information based on photos, and suggests categories. Subcategories, list prices, shipping costs.
This tool builds on eBay’s other efforts to bring AI into the selling process, including AI-generated product catalog descriptions and listing photo background removal tools.
“The ‘Photos to Lists’ tool is built internally, and the team uses the generated list data to ‘train’ the model internally. eBay’s terms of service state that we have a license to use listing data,” an eBay spokesperson told TechCrunch in an email. “At eBay, he uses AI to reduce friction across the platform and transform the listing process. It makes it even more fun.”
Adam Ireland, eBay’s head of U.S. operations, said in a blog post in May that eBay is using OpenAI language models to automatically generate product descriptions for sellers based on content already available on the web. He said he plans to roll out a plug-in that can . In the same blog post, Ireland telegraphed the release of the tool starting today.
eBay says the tool is intended to address the “cold start” problem often experienced by first-time sellers on its platform. According to eBay, it’s not uncommon for new sellers to be overwhelmed by the amount of information they need to enter to create a competitive listing. So, is there a better way to overcome this problem than avoiding having to enter the information completely?
“You don’t have to work on a cold start with AI. As soon as you’re ready to sell, your items will be ready to list,” eBay wrote in a blog post. “We have been hard at work developing the next version of our new magical listing experience that uses AI to analyze, explore and extrapolate information from small amounts of data provided by sellers. “
However, eBay’s long-time seller doesn’t seem happy with the platform’s AI direction.
eBay’s official community forums and frequent seller subreddits are filled with complaints about the poor quality of eBay’s description generator, which was only available in limited testing. One of her forum users, vssoutlet, claims that eBay’s AI-generated text is misleading and, in some cases, outright false. Vssoutlet points to a Pentax SLR camera listing, but eBay’s AI generated a description that said the camera comes with a lens kit, which is clearly incorrect.
In the subreddit /r/Flipping, a Reddit community devoted to the art of flipping high-profile items, eBay sellers go by the name IJustWondering, eBay’s description generator frequently says “item details Another user, Hardcorelogic, recounted a similar experience with vssoutlet, noting that the AI-written description “contains mistakes” and simply “adds fluff.” too long.”
“By the time I finished fixing and shortening[one of the descriptions]I could have written it myself,” wrote Hardcore Logic.
I’m also concerned about the photo recognition component of eBay’s new generation feature. Given that some of the best current computer vision algorithms are plagued with bias and cannot reliably distinguish between blacks and gorillas, I don’t have high hopes for his eBay take.
That aside, eBay sellers don’t seem to take issue only with the generative AI’s tendency to spew untruths or hallucinate — the new listing-generating tool may not have the text completely accurate. eBay is well aware of this, as there is a disclaimer warning that it’s possible to do so — I’ll also explain the use cases eBay envisions.
Sellers point out that eBay’s AI-generated descriptions aren’t clear, concise, or direct enough for most buyers. They argue that description generators tend to be repetitive and verbose, even for basic items. Also, the generated text does not list individual characteristics of items containing defects.
eBay embraces AI as a way to solve its funnel problem (i.e. convince more sellers who pay a revenue-generating sales commission to list their products and make their pages more discoverable in search engines) It’s not the only market that does. Shopify recently introduced AI-generated product descriptions, and Amazon rolled out AI-generated review summaries.
The Information reports that Amazon is also piloting AI that will allow sellers to generate titles, descriptions and bullet points for selected products. Unlike eBay’s newly launched tool, Amazon’s works from a list of keywords, not photos, and “hard-controls” what content is allowed in the product listings it generates.
But eBay’s roadmap is probably one of the more aggressive. And sellers, understandably, are beginning to question the wisdom of that strategy.