Facebook adds A.I. to Marketplace for categorization, price suggestions and soon, visual search

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Facebook is celebrating the two-year anniversary of its Craigslist competitor, Facebook Marketplace, with the launch of new features powered by A.I. Specifically, the social network says it’s adding price range suggestions and auto-categorization features to make selling easier, and it says it’s testing camera features that would use A.I. to make product recommendations.

Automating price suggestions and categorization, however, is not unique to Facebook – eBay earlier this year introduced a feature in its mobile app that will fill out your listings for you, using technologies like structured data and predictive analytics. Letgo can also make generalized price suggestions.

In Facebook’s case, the company says it will be able to categorize items based on the photo and description, then suggest a price range (e.g. $50-$75) for sellers to choose from. According to the company, when this autosuggest feature is enabled, sellers are less likely to abandon their listings, it has learned. (9% of sellers abandoned listings before the feature was enabled, it noted.)

Facebook also highlighted some of the other ways it uses A.I. – to automatically enhance the lighting of images uploaded by sellers, for instance, and for detecting and removing inappropriate content.

And while not A.I.-based, the company additionally noted its new buyer and seller ratings where people can rate their experience and leave feedback.

Further down the road, things may get more interesting. Facebook lightly teases its plans to turn Marketplace into more of a discovery tool for finding things you want to buy using your smartphone camera. For example, the company writes in a blog post, you could point your camera at something you like – such as your friend’s cool headphones – snap a photo, and then Marketplace would search across its listings for similar items.

This sort of visual search tech is also common among competitors, including eBay again, plus Pinterest and even Google. Facebook, then, is playing a bit of catch-up for the time being.

Further down the road, Facebook’s plans for Marketplace put it more directly up against Pinterest. It says it envisions using A.I. in the future to help people with home design – like, by uploading a photo of their living room, then getting suggestions about furniture to buy. Home design and inspiration, of course, is the bread-and-butter of sites like Pinterest, Houzz and others, including newcomer Hutch.

That said, even if it’s lacking in some features today, Facebook Marketplace is not one to be counted out. Thanks to Facebook’s size and scale (and the annoying way it continuously red badged the Marketplace icon, forcing users to keep tapping it), the company says its buy-and-sell platform has grown to be used by more than one out of every three people in the U.S. on a monthly basis.

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