eBay has upgraded its Motors iPhone app to allow users to search for a vehicle simply by taking a photo of it.

Other new features on the app, which is only available in the US, include broadcasts from key racing events in the video section - plus the ability to share your sales activity through Twitter.

The new search tool allows users to identify a car's make, model and year by taking a photo of the back of the vehicle, these are then matched with listings on eBay Motors.

The auction site has long been an advocate of m-commerce and was on track to achieve $5bn of sales through mobile in 2011.

It also announced that more than 1m listings were made each week through its mobile platform.

eBay identified Motors as one of its core sales categories alongside homes and gardens, fashion and electronics, and it currently sells around 2,800 vehicles worldwide each week through its mobile platform.

eBay spokesman Clare Moore-Bridger said the popularity of buying and selling cars through mobile had been surprising. "People don't expect our customers to be willing to buy cars using their phones, but we have sold Bentleys and Porsches through mobile in the UK.”

She said eBay is the most popular site for online car sales in the UK, largely due to motor enthusiasts and those renovating cars searching for deals or spare parts.

The app's new video section reflects eBay’s assumption that a lot of mobile shopping is inspired by what shoppers see while they are out and about.

Live content was streamed from a Daytona race event last weekend to raise awareness of eBay Motors among racing enthusiasts.

Moore-Bridger said that the idea was to put the auction site front of mind with racing fans so if they saw an interesting item at the event they would use eBay to try and buy it.

Using this same logic, eBay opened a shop near London’s Oxford Street in December to promote the site as a destination for Christmas shopping.

When shoppers are inspired by an item or an event we want to make sure that they use their phone to shop for that item on eBay."

As well as video content, the Motors app includes a 'custom garage' feature that finds suitable parts for your vehicles.

eBay says that this provides a richer experience, encouraging them to come back regularly instead of simply focusing on the transactions.

The company has also launched an exclusive range with designer Derek Lam to promote a separate fashion app in the US.

The items included in the collection were decided by a vote among eBay customers, with the most popular item on sale exclusively on mobile.

Moore-Bridger said eBay is investigating the possibility of securing exclusive fashion lines in the UK in 2012.

Fashion is very important for us, it’s an area of growth and we are increasingly seeing returning customers. The aim of our Fashion Store is to highlight that you can buy new, designer items on eBay, it’s not just about second hand or discount goods.”

David Moth

Published 30 January, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (2)

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

Auto Trader had a license plate search tool on its iPhone app, but was forced to remove it by the DVLA (http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/5679-dvla-forces-auto-trader-to-alter-iphone-app).

Perhaps visual search is the way forward, though it won't be as accurate e.g. can it tell the difference between petrol and diesel versions or different engines sizes?

over 6 years ago

Ali White White

Ali White White, Director at Elliptycs

Ebay are certainly on the right track here.

However, as you put on the previous article Graham, why Auto Trader had to take their service down still confuses me with the information so easily available through other means.

Working for a car dealer group the whole idea of making it easier for customers to get information when they are out and about will be a great step forwards.

With the advancements of vehicle data and finance integrations that websites such as our own can pull from various sources, it could be so easy to blend it with augmented reality to give some really detailed overlays.

The problem as you say though is that visual search alone won't tell the difference. The question is; for what eBay want to achieve do they need engine size / fuel type. I would have thought not?

For dealers such as us I presume the DVLA would not have an issue with anyone having an app that worked off registration details but would only work on reg numbers we have in stock for when they are forecourt browsing.

Ultimately I think there will be a few routes forward and I'm looking forward to see further applications.

over 6 years ago

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