It would be near impossible to ignore the increasingly pervasive use of voice assistants in everyday life.
Siri and Alexa are now household names, gaining their own personas outside of the hardware that contains them. But the opportunity for conversational commerce has remained tepid. There are a number of reasons for this — consumers need to walk before they can run and need to learn both the intricacies of this new form of interaction with technology and, simultaneously, to develop trust that their commands are accurately interpreted and executed.
This educational trough, however, is passing and the mainstream voice platforms are rapidly adding a plethora of third-party functions — Amazon’s Alexa, for example, grew its collection of skills to over 15,000 in July from 10,000 in February of this year.
The evolution of conversational commerce, whether via voice interaction or textual chatbot conversations, is likely to become more important, with a particularly solid use case building for in-car payments. BI Intelligence forecasts that global connected car shipments will grow to 48 million in 2018 from 33 million in 2017. This, alongside developments in self-driving vehicles, positions the car to become more than just a means of getting from A to B.
Voice assistants are correspondingly set to grow over the next few years. According to research by eMarketer, there are about 61 million voice-assistant users in the U.S., or approximately 18% of the U.S. population. This includes speaker systems like the range of Amazon Echo devices as well as native voice assistants across mobile platforms such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Samsung’s Bixby and Google Assistant.
This is expected to grow to over 70 million U.S. users by the end of 2019. In tandem with the growth in voice assistant usage is the growth in voice commerce — purchasing goods and services over a voice platform. Research from BI Intelligence estimates that 24 million U.S. consumers will have participated in voice commerce in 2017, a number that is set to nearly double within the next two years.
This impending sea change in the way we interact with objects will have a significant impact on many aspects of the payment experience.
“In the next couple of years, the industry will see a hybrid approach to user interface design — conversational platforms will continue to use traditional website visual graphics such as charts, graphs, video or other content to complement the experience,” said Tiffany Montez, analyst at Aite Group. “Over time, as these solutions get smarter and as consumers continue to grow more accustomed to using voice and text to communicate with brands, the dependency on traditional user interface components to fill the communication gap will lessen."