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eBay teams up with Facebook Messenger to launch shopping bot

This little assistant makes it easier to find products and spend money on eBay. How convenient!

eBay teams up with Facebook Messenger to launch shopping bot
Nathan Ingraham
Nathan Ingraham|October 19, 2016 3:39 PM
Bots are one of the big buzzwords of 2016; Google, Microsoft and Facebook have all made them major parts of their strategy this year. Yes, they might not all be panning out quite as planned, but that doesn't mean bots are out of style yet. Take eBay: the company just launched a shopping bot for Facebook Messenger in beta appropriately called Shopbot.

Once you set it up (go to Facebook Messenger and search for eBay Shopbot), you just tell the bot what you want to buy and it'll start serving up suggestions and asking you additional questions to refine your search. I searched for the Apple Watch and it showed me appropriate suggestions and also prompted me with different options for band color, case material, size and so forth to make the suggestions more accurate.

You can even upload photos and the bot will analyze and search for the items contained within, but just don't expect to get exact matches every time. A picture of my iPhone 6S brought up a whole range of iPhones from the 4 through the latest model, and an image of the Pixel C tablet brought up a host of no-name convertible devices that I wouldn't want to drop any cash on.

Photos might be hit or miss, but overall the bot's search functionality seems to be pretty good. Where the experience seems to fail is in its clunky buying process. When you tap through to an item, it brings up a minimal detail page in Messenger's in-app browser; clicking the prominent "buy" button asks you to login with your eBay credentials. That all makes sense, but I had the eBay app installed on both phones I tried this one -- sending me to the app where I was already logged in would have made for a better experience for sure.

Regardless, the eBay Shopbot does meet the company's mission of putting the service out in front of users on a different platform. "We're going to where our users are, versus letting it all play out on eBay.com and our mobile app," EBay chief product officer R.J. Pittman told Bloomberg. The eBay Shopbot is available now in beta and works on iOS and Android versions of Facebook Messenger as well as on the web.

eBay teams up with Facebook Messenger to launch shopping bot