Ebay has partnered with Google to build a voice-based interface that lets consumers find information on eBay’s sixty million product listings.

From today saying “Hey Google, ask eBay” or “Hey Google, let me talk to eBay” activates voice searches on Google Home devices as well as compatible Android and iOS smartphones.

Would-be eBay sellers can also ask Google ‘What’s it Worth’ to find out what an item would sell for on eBay.

At the end of the chat Google can send the info to your phone, where consumers can carry out the actual transaction.

“Ebay built this technology from the ground up and it’s the perfect example of how artificial intelligence is helping to make a truly personalised shopping experience,” said Tim MacKinnon, managing director of eBay’s Australia and New Zealand markets.

“We are looking at the future of retail here, and we are excited to be at the early stages of this new commerce frontier, bringing the eBay shopping and selling experience closer to our customer’s everyday lives.”

The consequences of voice-activated AI

While we wait for Amazon Alexa to arrive, eBay will be the first experience of voice-based shopping for many Australian consumers.

Analysts believe voice interfaces will have far reaching consequences for brands who risk being disintermediated by AI-enabled devices.

Forrester predicts 10 per cent of all purchase decisions will influenced by intelligent agents in 2018.

The analysts define intelligent agents as a personal digital concierges which access user data, interpret it and make decisions on our behalf, such as Microsoft Cortana, Google Now, Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa.

Forrester argues 67 per cent of retailers globally will be unprepared to exploit these intelligent agents, and that percentage will be much higher in Australia.

“Many of us have worked so hard to build a great mobile app experience, a beautiful website and tried to personalise experiences for our customers but in a situation like this all your digital assets will be bypassed,” said Zhi Ying Ng, Forrester Analyst for Digital Strategy.

“The intelligent agent will be able to pick and choose who to provide offers from to their customers. We predict that eventually intelligent agents will capture most of these moments.”

Ying Ng said now is the time for businesses to decide if they plan to cooperate or compete with intelligent agents and platforms.

To compete, Forrester recommends doubling down on database marketing platforms, increasing customer intelligence capabilities and understanding customer preferences to enable real time interactions.

Last month NAB launched a new service that lets its customers ask general banking questions via Google Home or a smartphone with the Google Assistant.

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