Powered by machine learning, artificial intelligence, and neural language processing, voice assistants help us accomplish tasks more easily in our everyday lives. Moreover, voice interaction is heading towards the finance sector, too. For instance, institutions like the Royal Bank of Canada have already introduced voice payments via Siri, and it is a matter of time until this payment method enters the mainstream.
Simply put, a voice payment is a process of speaking to an artificial intelligence-powered device, such as a speaker or a smartphone, and requesting it to make a payment. Consequently, the device will recognize the verbal request, act on it, and respond with a confirmation.
Voice payment technology comes from the advancements made in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Artificial intelligence refers to the capabilities of machines to do tasks that would require human intelligence. Machine learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence where machines learn from data without being programmed explicitly.
Moreover, voice pay utilizes natural language processing (NLP), a branch of AI that allows computers to learn, understand, respond, and produce content in human languages. This technology works closely with voice recognition engines. For example, voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri utilize AI-enhanced voice recognition technology, where human speech is converted from analog to digital form. The machine then receives, interprets, understands, and performs the spoken commands. As a result, NLP is a crucial component in making voice payments possible.
Setting up a voice payment account is similar to an online wallet. The process of setting up a voice payment account is very similar to that of paying through an online wallet. The customer links their credit card, debit card, or bank account details to their device in both cases. However, in the case of voice payments, the customer doesn’t have to open the app and type the amount details. Instead, the person prompts their device to make the payment using the voice command.
Once the command is vocalized, the device opens the payment app and asks the end-user to confirm the payment. The customer can authorize the payment using a password, face recognition, or a fingerprint scan. The process works the same in reverse. For example, you can prompt your device to ask for a money transfer from another person.
Consumers can also check their account balances and monitor their payments with this technology.
In the modern world’s fast-paced environment, most consumers opt for voice command, including voice payment, because it is convenient and practical. Mobile payment platforms and online wallets, such as Venmo, Square Cash, and PayPal, already allow their customers to use voice commands for peer-to-peer transfers. Moreover, traditional banks like Wells Fargo are adding conversational voice interfaces to their mobile banking apps.
Finally, consumers can order products from e-commerce sites or retailers and pay them off via voice-enabled credit card applications. This is also referred to as voice shopping. For instance, Google signed up with Carrefour France to launch a voice-activated grocery shopping service. Google also intends to extend its service to 30 more countries where the food retailer operates. For the past three years, the two companies have developed this revolutionary payment method. The service will allow customers to tie their bank account to the Google assistant and dictate the products they want to add to the cart. Customers can then checkout and pay using their voice.
Voice payments will unlock many opportunities for banks and financial institutions. Moreover, many believe that voice technology is the future of finance. Here are the top opportunities for voice payments:
Modern customer experience: Asking a voice assistant to transfer money is more accessible than typing in account numbers, IBANS, and double-checking between apps. Moreover, you could ask the voice assistant for balance checks and withdrawal alerts, making daily operations faster and more convenient.
On-the-go banking: Voice payments enable people on the run to effortlessly interact with their finances. This is especially beneficial for people affected by blindness and vision impairments as it allows them to manage their money accessibly and independently.
Minimizing fraud: Each customer’s voice and fingerprint is unique, with over 100 physical and behavioral characteristics. Therefore, multi-factor authentication powered by voice and biometrics can detect if the end-user is the customer or someone else pretending to be them.
Retaining customers: With the inclusion of voice payments, banking has become more convenient, and banks that offer this service provide more accessibility. As a result, implementing voice payments can entice and retain clients. Moreover, financial institutions can use predictive analytics software and consumer feedback to improve this technology.
Like any new emerging technology, voice payments also face different challenges and need to overcome the difficulties, especially when money is involved. Here are the top challenges that technology is facing today.
Security: Some customers consider the technology unfamiliar and too risky because there is nothing tangible to see or feel. Moreover, leaders in the voice payment sphere must ensure that voice-activated payments are fully secure from hacking and fraud, even though voice payments use biometrics to identify the user.
Privacy: Not only do many customers find voice payments too risky, but they also fear that allowing devices to listen to their voice creates privacy risks. Customers also worry that the applications will listen to their private conversations even when they are not using them.
Understanding different accents: Voice assistants often have difficulty understanding accents, especially non-American accents. So, while this technology may be an excellent solution for those with a standard American accent, individuals with different accents may have difficulties using the service.
Point-of-service integration: To ensure wider adoption of voice payments, the hardware and software components must be compatible with voice-activated technology. However, the cost of integrating with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled systems is pricy for merchants to cover.
Return on investment: Many financial institutions feel that online transactions, such as digital wallets and online banking are already simple, easy, and accessible. Therefore, some consider those voice payments don’t bring any additional utility or added value for their customers to sign up for.
Millennials are attracted to convenience-based technology like voice payments. It is a matter of time until we see a shift in the market driven by customer demands. Moreover, the adoption of AI in our daily lives is shifting the trend towards voice applications, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices like speakers and voice assistants. However, voice assistants must get better at recognizing various accents with time.
It is important to note that voice-enabled devices will complement existing technologies and not replace them. For instance, Google’s “Hands-Free” application will allow users to make payments without reaching for their phone or wallet. The application is designed to work with Google’s payment service “Android Pay.” According to Google, there are currently more than a million locations that accept Android Pay. When checking out, the android user says, “I’ll pay with Google.” Then the payment details will be transferred to the merchant’s POS system with the help of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, phone sensors, and in-store cameras. The cashier is also presented with the pre-loaded photo of the account holder. Once the user’s identity is confirmed, the payment can be authorized.
Voice payment technology is transforming the FinTech industry. Soon there will be no place for traditional payments. It is a matter of time until voice technology reshapes how we interact with financial institutions and those who remain undecided risk falling behind. The promise of a convenient and hands-free payment system is too hard to ignore, considering the increased revenue and customer experience it can provide.