It looks like Facebook is stepping back onto the ecommerce ballroom floor. But this time, they brought a dancing partner.
We’ve discussed Facebook’s previous attempts to merge shopping with its platform. Early this year, we went in-depth to figure out why the buy button hasn’t taken off for them and other online outlets, yet. We’ve also discussed their recent Marketplace feature, which attempts to create a 24/7 yard sale. Facebook clearly wants to build an online shopping juggernaut. It hasn’t found the right combination just yet, but they continue to experiment. Their latest foray could be a winner, and they won’t be doing it alone. In fact, they seem pretty hands off with it. Enter eBay.
eBay, that titan of online shopping, has joined Facebook to create a new service: ShopBot. It recently entered the beta mode on Facebook Messenger. At the core, it combines artificial intelligence with CRM to present users with swaths of eBay content. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts.
You pop onto Facebook Messenger and fire up ShopBot. You tell it you’re looking for a jacket under $60. It’s AI gives you a short list of options of where it should look for your jacket. You pick one and ChatBot shows you a range of jackets to click on. It studies your preferences to give you the products you want to buy. In the broad strokes, that’s how ShopBot works.
ShopBot could be a pretty useful tool. We’ve long advocated for the incorporation of customers’ interests into the shopping experience and eBay has done just that. Once it’s fully operational, it could be an excellent guide for online customers. It could increase eBay traffic while improving customer online shopping. Unfortunately, Facebook seems to have been left out of the equation.
In its current iteration, ShopBot doesn’t really incorporate Facebook. Messenger appears to be a hosting platform for the service, nothing more. ShopBot lives on Facebook, but doesn’t use the company’s social powers. Based on what we know, ShopBot isn’t a social tool. It doesn’t incorporate the interests and opinions of your friend circle into its decision making process. It doesn’t keep you informed as to what your colleagues are buying. It’s an isolated platform. Facebook, the social media kingpin, didn’t seem to consider social media when it partnered with eBay. ShopBot, despite its powerful AI, isn’t a fully social shopping experience.
Facebook is a company to watch for ecommerce curious. Their constant experimentation shows a desire to build a dominant online retail platform. With ShopBot, they, along with eBay, have constructed a smart, AI-driven service with lacklustre social features. They’ve also built Marketplace, a strong social tool without much in the way of AI. If they could combine these two properties, they might finally crack the social shopping code.