eBay app a form of ‘digital shoplifting’

Image recognition technology being developed by eBay will allow smartphone users to photograph a product they like in a retail store and see if it’s listed on eBay at a better price.

By using image matching technology, eBay will be taking a concept likened to “digital shoplifting” already scaring US retailers a whole step further by allowing second hand or privately sold products to compete with new stock in-store. Or potentially even copied or counterfeit lines. 

Current technology, such as the RedLaser app available for iPhone, allows a shopper to scan a bar code on a product and see what other retailers are offering it for either online or in other shops in the immediate neighbourhood. 

“This is digital shoplifting. I’ve just stolen from them in front of their eyes,” explained London-based online retailing writer and commentator Ian Jindal during a presentation to the Westfield World Retail Study Tour last year.

But eBay’s technology will allow people to match items in-store with a single listing online – and to buy it with a few clicks on the screen. 

AFP reports eBay CEO John Donahoe, speaking on the sidelines of eBay’s X.commerce conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, said the company planned to roll out the feature by the end of the year.

The company has not yet decided which of eBay’s apps will get the feature or whether the technology will work only on clothing and accessories or on virtually any product.

‘Digital shoplifting’ is phrase coined to describe how retailers can ‘steal’ customers literally from the aisle of a rival store – winning them over on price, added value or free delivery via smartphone technology or social networking initiatives. (read more about social commerce in an earlier feature on Inside Retail).

eBay.com’s (US) fashion department already has a similar feature that allows users to click to see clothing and bags that resemble what they’re look at on the website.

The technology also has similarities with a Google smartphone app which allows people to search for items by photographing objects or text rather than typing in words.

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