Voice Payments Aren’t Mainstream (Yet)

Smart speaker users are interested in paying bills and paying back friends, though

While most consumers currently use smart speakers for mundane tasks like turning on lights, conversational commerce has captured the attention of marketers for its potential.

Speculative retailers have set their sights on voice shopping, but paying by voice could have broader implications. An Ovum and ACI Worldwide survey of billing organizations across the globe, conducted in January 2018, delved into the future of payments. 

Mobile optimization was the biggest current priority among the organizations surveyed. Nearly half (49%) had mobile “e-billing” in development, and 20% wanted to offer it in the future. As far as specific mobile enhancements, the most popular was payments from a mobile-optimized website, with 46% offering that capability and 18% planning to. 

One of the lower priority initiatives was enabling payments from connected devices like smart-home assistants, yet it was still cited by 28% of executives. Meanwhile, nearly one in five wanted to offer such payments in the future.

The ACI Worldwide and Ovum study specifically looked at consumer payment options provided by businesses, but voice payments also have the potential to include peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that in addition to Amazon working on gas station payments via in-car Alexa devices, the retailer also has a feature in development where consumers can tell Alexa to pay a friend or family member. The latter would compete with services like PayPal’s Venmo or even Zelle, which is offered by banks but is less buzzy.

In a November 2017 Capgemini survey of people in Western Europe and the US who already use virtual assistants, 28% said they had used a smart speaker or smartphone virtual assistant to make a payment or send money. 

This was the least common activity, far less popular than asking for information like weather or news (82%) and playing music or videos (67%), though a figure over one-quarter isn’t insubstantial. It’s a good bet that consumers who already own smart speakers and use virtual assistants are more open to new ways to use them.

When the same study asked respondents which products or services they'd be interested in purchasing via voice, interest was high for all—no category had a response lower than 41%. Sending money to people or paying bills online was appealing to 44% of those polled.