A lot of people have been talking about chatbots lately, so when I saw eBay release their ShopBot chatbot, I thought I’d give it a test run. I’m interested in Conversational UI and want to understand what it takes to design a chatbot that is easy to use and provides value. What would it take for a chatbot to become better that a traditional web app? So let’s have a look at what eBay has done with the recent launch of their ShopBot.
Assuming you found the ShopBot in Messenger, you’ll be prompted to Get Started. By doing so, you agree to share your personal profile info with the bot. As part of the onboarding process, Messenger starts the conversation with ShopBot on your behalf. I like how the UI has been altered in Messenger to make it easier to understand how to use chatbots. See the little hamburger menu at the bottom left of the screen? When you click it, a menu pops up enabling you to get the conversation started.
I started by scrolling through the available collections. Bold banner images and descriptions explain each collection. I prompted the bot to find something else. I was curious whether it could understand emojis – unfortunately not. So I asked it to find an Apple Watch for me. It gave me a bunch of options to choose from. I could scroll through each item with prompts to view or find more like it.
I was really impressed that when I selected one of the Apple Watches, it started asking me more specific questions about size and material. I’d imagine there is an extremely complex set of questions sitting behind each product. When the bot knew exactly what I was after, I could click through to view more details. This page has clearly ben optimised for mobile where most people are likely to be using the chatbot.
Unfortunately, the experience started to fall apart when I clicked “Buy”. I was directed to the typical “Sign in / Register” page for eBay. In my opinion, this entire flow needs to be optimised for chatbot users. Some of the things I’d explore include:
- Can existing eBay users link their Facebook account during ShopBot onboarding? Once authorised, it would be great if ShopBot could sign-in to their account on their behalf.
- For new eBay users, the Register page is quite daunting having arrived from the chatbot interface. Facebook Login could be a good way to optimise registration for ShopBot users.
All in all, the chatbot experience was better than expected. I’m keen to see these developed further.