eBay Partners with Google Assistant to Bring Voice Control to eBay’s Android App

A new partnership launches voice control capabilities on our marketplace to meet the needs of our customers by creating a more seamless, modern experience.

Our focus is always on our customers, and we are constantly innovating and collaborating to provide a simpler, more modern experience for both buyers and sellers on our marketplace. Starting today, our Android customers can now seamlessly blend voice querying with our eBay app experience to facilitate an end-to-end shopping experience on their Android device. This is our first mainstream experience in the voice sphere: integrating the eBay app with Google's Assistant. eBay is also one of the first ecommerce companies to integrate with Google for this voice capability.  

Consumers’ Shopping Behaviors Have Evolved

In 2020, voice activation as a user experience and interface method has reached a precipice. First of all, COVID-19 has forced many of us to stay at home all day, where we are always in close proximity to our mobile devices. At the same time, the rapidly changing pace of current events has increased behaviors, such as obtaining news or instigating calls or texts to connect, through voice activation. Indeed, the very premise of “tap” or “click” shopping is losing ground.

The Smart Audio Report conducted by NPR examined the effect of COVID on voice-controlled devices:

  • 51% of Americans use voice assistants on their smartphones, compared to 61% that use voice assistants overall, representing 85% market usage. This is well more than those who use smart speakers, TVs or cars, which represent the other 15%.
  • 52% of customers are asking their voice assistants one or more queries per day, up from 46% pre-COVID (13% increase).
  • Now, 63% of the U.S. population say they use voice-activated assistants of any kind.

In addition, this desire for voice control of all devices is building on an already-growing trend that we’ve seen over the past few years. In the second quarter of 2018 alone, the global market for voice devices grew by 187%. From 2019 to 2020, it’s estimated that 111 million customers in the U.S. used voice control via voice assistants.

So when Google approached us as an early adopting key partner for voice control, we were thrilled to explore the space with them.

How it Works

As one of Google Assistant’s first integrated ecommerce partners, we collaborated with Google using our deep linking architecture on four main use-cases, each of them central to our core shopping journey and asking the following such questions: 

  • “Hey Google, search for a light blue Sneaker on eBay” will open the app, and search for the query voiced;
  • “Hey Google, find an Omnath, Locus of Creation magic card on eBay” will open the app, and locate the specific item the customer is seeking;
  • “Hey Google, show me my eBay Watch List” will open the app and drop the customer in their watchlist; and 
  • "Hey Google, let me see my eBay purchases” will open the app and drop the customer in their purchase history page.

To achieve this voice control access to our marketplace, we exposed entry points in our application to Google Assistant using an actions.xml file. Then we handled requests defined in that file to link to different flows. Google mapped voice queries based on the contents of our actions.xml. By defining the type of action we allow our customers to do, and on which landing page, we can harness Google’s robust capabilities to map that action to human language.  

With the help of Google’s natural language processing technology, variants of each of the above, in many languages, will be understood and enacted in the experience overall. This enables us to engage with customers all over the world extremely easily. This will make our customers’ experiences more seamless when they have their hands full but want to continue shopping on eBay.

We’re excited to find future synergies with Google Voice in the near future and to use this partnership as one of the many ways we are accelerating our tech-led reimagination of our marketplace in service of our customers. 

The feature is now available worldwide. So for all of our Android customers — we hope you’ll start chatting with your Google Assistant to find your passions on eBay!