Alexa's bill pay addition nudges it closer to retail payments

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A few weeks after debuting voice-supported recurring bill payments in India, Amazon is extending a similar feature to most of its markets.

Through a connection between Alexa and Amazon Pay, users can ask when a bill is due, the amount and the difference between a current and prior bill. The feature also enables direct payment commands, such as "Alexa, pay my phone bill." Amazon will use billing management company Paymentus to power the feature.

The global feature will likely differ from the initial India deployment, which has closer ties to that country's national initiative to digitize payments. Amazon enabled Amazon Pay for utility bills in India earlier in October. Amazon Pay in India is also connected to the country's national UPI interface through a partnership with Axis Bank.

Supporting utility bills payments through Amazon Pay incrementally advances Alexa's utility as a voice payment tool. Alexa has offered limited bill payments for about a year through a collaboration with Synchrony. Adding Amazon Pay potentially broadens the user base, since it follows a merchant acquisition deal in the spring between Amazon and FIS/Worldpay.

While most voice payment technology has been for general recurring bills such as cable TV and electricity bills, the combination of Alexa/Amazon Pay and a broad-based merchant acquisition play brings Alexa-powered voice payments one step closer to overall e-commerce and Amazon's brick and mortar strategy.

Voice-aided shopping is rare, but is expected to expand dramatically in the next three years, pushing Amazon to find ways to combine habit-forming utility bills to attract consumers with Amazon's trove of shopping data to lure merchants. Beyond utility bills, consumers have also shown an interest in using voice to shop and pay for groceries, electronics and entertainment.

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Internet of things Bill pay Digital payments Amazon