Voice-based channels in payments

Voice commerce is by now a familiar term, increasingly recognised as the fourth sales channel. And while predictions about its precise impact vary, it seems certain that the rapid adoption of voice assistants – figures from Juniper Research forecast 275 million voice assistant devices will be used to control smart homes by 2023 – will change the way we access many online services.

As Mary Meeker commented, delivering her Internet Trends 2018 “with voice, we’ve hit technology lift off with word accuracy and we’ve certainly hit product lift off”.

Recognising this trend, we invited voice expert Ray Guy, Founder, Chief Technical Officer of Alkira Software to join the New Channels and New Customer Experiences panel at our recent payment Summit.

Ray raised some interesting points about the opportunities and challenges that voice faces in financial services adoption, so we followed up with him for further insights.

How did you get into voice? 

Six years ago, a blind friend needed assistance to run his home-based business and access online services. In working with him, I realised many people are alienated from essential online information due to technical barriers. It became my personal mission to voice-enable the internet to allow equal access for all.

What are the opportunities for voice? 

Voice makes it far easier to deliver goods and services to customers than ever before.  It is easy and natural for us to simply ask for what we want. 

 Huge opportunities exist for companies that embrace voice as a vital channel to deliver customer value, both B2C and B2B.  Voice conveniently delivers benefit in the form of information, education, order processing, inventory, entertainment and more. 

 We’ve seen such opportunities before in web, mobile devices and social media – businesses who skill up early and embrace the disruptive technology benefit greatly from their foresight, while stragglers weaken or fade away.

What do you see as the challenges for voice in payments? 

The number of voice-enabled devices in use has grown exponentially in the last few years, and the voice revolution is now upon us.  Businesses that are adopting a “wait and see” attitude will be outpaced by those who understand voice and its impact on the global marketplace. 

It is difficult to fully grasp the scale of disruption voice will cause.  Major platforms like Google and Amazon will take user requests, fulfil orders, manage inventory, process payments and handle packing/delivery.  Businesses everywhere (including payment processors) will be disenfranchised if they are not actively offering viable voice-based alternatives. 

A major challenge for payment service providers will be to remain relevant on the voice platforms.  The major voice providers each have their payment services which they encourage merchants and integrators to utilise. 

 Another important challenge is to address the privacy and security concerns of voice-driven payments.  Voice fingerprinting technology is easy to thwart, so it is necessary to introduce additional two-factor authentication mechanisms while still preserving the ease of voice purchases.  Substantial capital expenditure commitment is required by “off platform” payment providers to deliver both security and convenience.

What will we see in the next three to five years?

Just as smartphones are now universal, voice services will soon be everywhere and used by almost everyone.  Voice assistants are already embedded in smartphones, speakers, cars, home appliances, watches and more.  This technology will be adopted widely.  We will all be using voice to interact with a comprehensive range of services on a daily basis, as well as buying ridiculous amounts of stuff online.  Why?  Because voice makes commerce more convenient than ever before.

If you’d like access to Ray’s presentation at our Summit, please get in touch.