eBay are getting to the truth faster with AI


Too often the insights that brands receive are the insights they’re looking for rather than the insights customers – or potential customers – want to provide. We ask the clever questions we want to ask, frame discussions according to business strategies and then draw suitable conclusions. The whole process can, at times, feel a little too comfortable and the insights we generate potentially fail to uncover deep human truths.

At eBay we’ve been experimenting with something a little different. Instead of us, as a brand, being in control of insight-gathering, our consumers are. Through AI-enhanced platforms that utilize open-ended questions, customers are in the driving seat, using video and instant feedback to tell us what they want to tell us – insights that resonate with them, that they feel and experience.

Marketers very often talk about being disruptive but then pull back from the precipice. This time we really took that leap. This approach disrupted our thinking, planning and processes but it provided nuggets of truth that conventional quantitative closed-end surveys never would.

Customers are in the driving seat, using video and instant feedback to tell us what they want to tell us

There are no 20 to 30-minute questionnaires, only insights that come from free-flowing unstructured data that we sift through. Instead of structuring questions as if we know how consumers think, we glimpse into their minds with greater clarity because, by being allowed to talk on their terms, they willingly allow us in.

For instance, at eBay we’re constantly trying to improve our platform and the way people interact on it. The shared experiences have to be positive. Our AI-fuelled insights process allowed us to track the emotions people felt when they were on the site or were considering using it. And that emotional analysis will help us to make the right kind of changes.

Not only are those conclusions more meaningful because they’ve originated from our audience – rather than us prompting them – but we’ve reached them faster. We’ve become more knowledgeable, more agile and more connected because of the way we’ve transformed our insight-gathering process.

Unpacking, analyzing and then reacting to those findings is making our brand even more highly-valued.

The potential of AI to transform the insights industry is enormous

AI is still in its formative stages but its potential to transform the research and insights industry is enormous. The key is to give up control, embrace uncertainty and allow our processes to be disrupted.

By using video and open-ended questions, we’re letting consumers talk. And leveraging technology to mine for insights rather than relying on traditional questions and scale points. We’re getting to the heart of things by enabling consumers to articulate their feelings about the brand in the way they want and know how. They feel more empowered and we’re finding more insightful truths.

There’s a tendency in the industry to try and over-quantify everything. It’s therefore very uncomfortable when you don’t have a solid framework that allows that and instead must rely on interpretive analysis. But using AI technology to do this enables us to find human truths faster. We need to experience that discomfort, to embrace that challenge of allowing customers to provide their own responses and lead us to the answers, rather than be prompted by traditional research and insights methodologies.

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