Voice-Enabled Commerce

February 12, 2020 | 7 min read

Voice-Enabled Commerce

Voice-Enabled Commerce Could Be the Next Great Innovation in Digital Shopping

Today’s shoppers have a wealth of various channels through which they can reach out and initiate transactions. They might make purchases in-store, online via desktop, or through a mobile device, just to name a few. One of the most intriguing new models, though, is what we’re calling “voice-enabled commerce.”

According to a January 2020 press release from Visa, the company is working with Sirius XM to develop a prototype system for in-car, voice-enabled payments. In the release, Visa describes the system as a digital wallet “integrated into the dashboard.” This technology gives drivers the power to make purchases “with simple voice commands – even if they left their wallets and phones at home.”

Voice-enabled technology offers several unique advantages. For instance, drivers can pay for gas, parking, and tolls without entering payment credentials every time. They may soon have the ability to conduct research and even make purchases while stuck in traffic.

The system uses tokenized payments, meaning transactions have the same protections as EMV chip cards. Also, consumers also won’t need to worry about whether their transactions are completed successfully; the voice-enabled technology uses Visa sensory branding to ensure each transaction is complete and secure.

The Next Leap Forward in Payments & Commerce

Voice-enabled devices already enjoy widespread acceptance in the US. By 2023, we’ll have 8 billion of these digital assistants in our homes, offices, and cars.

Widespread adoption of IoT devices unleashes incredible commercial potential. Consumers are no longer limited to devices with screens; they can engage in voice-enabled commerce at any time. Your ability to sell suddenly becomes a 24-hour-a-day prospect. Imagine your customers being able to shop and spend money while doing chores, making dinner, or sitting in traffic!

Voice-enabled commerce also creates opportunities to deliver a more personalized experience. 63% of consumers expect personalization as a standard of service, and directly interfacing through an IoT device like Alexa or Google Home presents a great opportunity to do so. Plus, as the technology advances, we’ll discover more ways to leverage voice commerce and improve the customer experience.

Predictions regarding the potential benefits of voice-enabled commerce are nothing new. Like visual search, it's a tool that's been anticipated for years. Now that the technology is a genuine reality, though, we need to start thinking about the risks involved.

Vulnerabilities of Voice-Enabled Commerce

Smart speaker devices already occupy space in millions of American homes. Despite their convenience, researchers have found multiple ways to compromise these systems, from software to lasers.

One thing we’re discovering about these devices is that speech-recognition AI can process audio humans can’t hear. In one 2016 experiment, for instance, researchers managed to hide voice commands in online videos. A voice-controlled device then picked up on those commands and followed them to take different actions like opening webpages and switching to airplane mode. It stands to reason that a fraudster could bury a malicious command in white noise behind other content in the same manner.

Voice-enabled commerce presents other risks, too. Because of their central role in consumers’ homes, cars, and other personal spaces, IoT devices can record some very sensitive information. That could present a tremendous security risk if compromised.

Worries about voice-enabled fraud overlap with other security concerns pertaining to IoT devices. The “deep fake” technology used to imitate celebrities and other individuals provides an example of just how much is on the line. It’s possible we could see an upsurge in identity theft tied to audio manipulation as a result of this technology.

Other Challenges Beyond Criminal Fraud

The prospect of criminals using troves of users’ audio data to enable fraud isn’t the only risk here. There are simpler matters surrounding voice-enabled commerce that could be just as costly in the long run. Take friendly fraud, for instance; we already observed a dramatic increase in the number of unjustified chargebacks filed in recent years due to the expansion of the eCommerce market. Introducing voice into the conversation will almost certainly complicate matters.

Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer’s Remorse

Some consumers will find it temptingly easy to shop via voice while doing other activities. This could lead to overspending and buyer’s remorse. Customers might then file chargebacks to “undo” their actions.

Family Fraud

Family Fraud

Enabling purchases through IoT devices in the home opens the door for family members of the cardholder to complete purchases without authorization. The cardholder then panics, suspecting the transactions are fraud, and disputes them.

Accidental Orders

Accidental Orders

A customer could claim to have made a purchase unintentionally; maybe the family’s voice-enabled device picks up on a conversation and submits an order as a result. It seems farfetched, but a customer could use this as an excuse to justify a chargeback.

How we manage customers’ voice data is another variable in the equation. Legislation like PSD2 in the EU and CCPA in the US mandates that customers have control and transparency regarding their personal data. The guidelines regarding voice data are vague, though, which creates the potential for inconsistent enforcement. In addition to more red tape and overhead, inconsistency could produce new threats down the road.

Don’t Be Silent in the Face of Fraud.

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Be Proactive About Voice-Enabled Vulnerabilities

Not every aspect of voice-enabled commerce is practical from a fraud prevention standpoint. Some risk factors will be dealt with as they arise, but the challenges outlined above highlight an even more important underlying fact: new technologies create new vulnerabilities.

Fraudsters are always on the lookout for opportunities to take advantage of you and your customers. When seen from that perspective, the prospect of voice-enabled devices being used to commit fraud is not a matter of if, but rather, when.

In the past, the eCommerce space has tended to take a more reactive posture. Now, though, we have the opportunity to be proactive about the threat of voice-enabled fraud, simply by implementing best practices. For consumers, this means using strong passwords for IoT devices, and using unique PIN codes to protect individual records that reference finances, health data, and other personal information.

As a merchant, you should follow these best practices for the voice-enabled market:

  • Know Your Customer: Work to develop a profile of your customer to the extent allowed by legislation like PSD2. Use this to try and filter potentially fraudulent activity.
  • Optimize for Voice: You should optimize your internal search for voice-enabled commerce. This will improve the customer experience and prevent buyers from ordering the wrong items.
  • Develop a Strategy: You should have a broader, omnichannel strategy, and customers should be able to transition smoothly between channels—e.g., browsing via voice, then checking out via mobile.
  • Build Trust: Be transparent about your security protocols, and reassure customers you take data security seriously. Continually work to build confidence in your ability to protect buyers’ data.
  • Optimize Your Fraud Processes: Fraud detection in voice-enabled commerce is very different from what you would use in a standard desktop purchase. Your systems must be responsive to IoT considerations.
  • Seek Outside Help: Voice-enabled commerce is a new, complicated idea. Don’t hesitate to turn to the professionals if you’re unsure of how to optimize your processes.

Voice-enabled commerce presents tremendous opportunities. You and your customers can enjoy a more personalized, one-on-one experience, with buyers able to reach you anywhere at any time. You’ll only see the benefits of this new channel, though, if you can mitigate the risks.

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