Voice Payments 101

Borrowing, Credit Cards, Credit Rating

Have you ever made payments only using your voice? Most people have at least given their credit card number out over the phone or have used automated phone payment menus – although the latter often leaves people shouting “REPRESENTATIVE!!!” at their phone attempting to interface with a human being.

Significant advancements in voice recognition technology are enabling more natural forms of voice payment that don’t require a stilted script and specific words for a reply. As a result, voice payments are projected to take a huge leap in the near future.

A research report by BI Intelligence, the research service arm of Business Insider, found that 18 million American consumers have made a voice payment at some point. BI projects that over the next five years, that number will almost quadruple – from 8% of consumers to 31%. The report cites three driving factors – advances in artificial intelligence (AI), a massive increase in voice-enabled devices, and “a strong consumer value proposition for voice payments.”

In other words, many tech companies are making great advances in voice technology and the corresponding devices. They are attempting to make it not only convenient for you to order through voice recognition, but also to tie it into their existing products and services to provide greater overall value for both parties. Consider how virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Home have evolved from curiosities to mainstream devices with increased capabilities (“skills”).

Alexa already allows you to order physical goods or digital music through Amazon Prime – and, in some areas, you can reorder meals that you have previously purchased through the Amazon Restaurants skill. Siri has teamed up with PayPal to allow voice-prompted payment transfers through the PayPal platform. Google Home is integrated with the massive amount of data that Google already has stored from emails, calendars, and other Google functions, which should make it easy in the future for Google to suggest items that you are interested in and provide voice payment options to buy them.

Each assistant and its backing company will have varying options as merchants, banks, payment processors, and other entities scramble to make deals and provide simple connections. It remains to be seen exactly how the field will change over the next five years, but given the growth that BI projects, the competition will be fierce.

The advances are not just limited to virtual assistants. Traditional Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems – the ones that make you scream “REPRESENTATIVE!!!” – will incorporate all the advances that apply. IVR may be somewhat limited, since these systems won’t be able to adapt to the same voices on a daily basis – but the advances still apply. Banks and merchants will play both sides, making IVR as simple as possible while making their services compatible with as many virtual assistants and other voice-enabled devices as they can.

Keep this in mind as you investigate options for a digital assistant, or want voice payment options with your bank or credit card. Check the options that each vendor provides. For digital assistants, look over the merchants and services that are supported, how easy it is to set up the device initially for voice payments, and how often you have to make changes in the voice payment setup.

Also, consider the privacy aspect. Are you giving up significant privacy for the convenience of voice payments through a digital assistant, and are you willing to do so? Are you comfortable with the security measures with each device? (You don’t want your ten-year old ordering cases of M&Ms or your neighbor’s teen ordering a drone through your account.)

Voice payments, along with mobile payment systems and other advances in the payments field, are making it easier than ever for you to make transactions wherever you are in as little time as possible. These technological advancements shouldn’t come as a surprise – why wouldn’t commercial entities want to make it as easy as possible for you to transfer money to them? However, it’s up to you to decide how to use them, and to choose your preferred platform. Research your choices well.

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Photo ©iStockphoto.com/chombosan

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