With Amazon’s entry to Australia looming, eBay is marking 18 years of ecommerce in Australia while rolling out new technology features and delivery guarantees to meet rising shopper expectations.

Much has changed since the online auction site launched locally in 1999.

The 40,00 small businesses and 11 million unique visitors each month that eBay now enjoys are a far cry from its early days as an online auction house. The vast majority of items now being sold on the platform are brand new and sold at a fixed price.

According to managing director Tim MacKinnon, eBay’s arrival changed the retail landscape in Australia and meant people were “no longer bound by geography”.

“We could trust someone at the other side of the country or the world to send us a package we had paid for. This was a huge leap at the time, but something we now take for granted.”

Another big change has been how consumers use eBay. In its first year shoppers spent one million hours using eBay. In 2017 that number has exploded to 239 million hours – a huge increase even when factoring in more users. According to MacKinnon, it’s driven by Australian’s propensity for smartphone technology.

“Australia leads the way when it comes to mobile shopping. It has been incredible to watch mobile traffic grow from 8 per cent in 2010 to the 70 per cent it is today,” he said.

Courtesy eBay research

eBay’s success may be because they saw it coming. According to MacKinnon, eBay has been “ahead of the curve” in mobile investment and “not only predicting but creating the future of shopping”. It’s a success they are hoping to replicate with AI.

Earlier this year eBay CEO Devon Wenig was bullish about AI adoption and warned, “If you don’t have an AI strategy you are going to die in the world that’s coming”. The ecommerce giant has acquired several AI companies as it looks to create more personalised shopping experiences.

Some of that AI investment is starting to show. Today eBay also announced their new image search and ‘find it on eBay’ functions, both powered by AI and machine learning.

Using their own photos or images from the internet, shoppers can search for visually similar items. According to MacKinnon the features are driven by the customer experience and the changing nature of retail.

The features aim to help surface the most relevant products to customers from eBay’s vast inventory.

“Gone are the days of spending hours scouring the web or trying to find the right keyword for a product you saw,” MacKinnon said.

“By applying artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, we are able to make it easy to check eBay for anything, extending the convenience of the marketplace and aligning the retail experience with the way consumers want to shop.”

With Amazon (and its ultra fast delivery services) just around the corner, eBay has launched eBay Guaranteed Delivery – the ability for vendors to offer guaranteed delivery dates, backed by eBay.

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