Saturday , March 23, 2019

Amazon Opening Voice-Command Payments To Outside Developers and Merchants Inc. is recruiting outside software developers and merchants to create functions that work with its Alexa voice-command system and the Amazon Pay service so that consumers can make purchases using their Amazon payment credentials at both physical and online merchants.

Seattle-based Amazon made the announcement at its big Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference going on this week in Las Vegas. The online retailing and computer-services giant is asking developers to create new “skills,” or functions that Alexa, an Internet-connected service that uses artificial-intelligence technology, can use with payments. Alexa is accessible through Amazon’s Echo devices, which look like speakers and toward which users direct questions or commands.

Diners can order ahead and pay at some TGI Friday’s restaurants by speaking into an Amazon Echo device. (Image credit: Inc.)

Amazon Pay stores the customer’s credit card data and related information so that shoppers can quickly pay on Amazon’s own site as well as those of outside merchants that use the service. “Now, Alexa customers can easily use payment information already in their Amazon account when they want to purchase physical goods or services through an Alexa skill,” an Amazon spokesperson tells Digital Transactions News by email. “It’s a seamless experience for customers. No need to grab a credit card.”

Amazon already has recruited an undisclosed number of merchants and organizations that will bring new Alexa skills into Amazon Pay. For example, restaurant chain TGI Friday’s lets customers order ahead through Alexa at some locations. TGI Friday’s was a launch partner this past summer for Amazon Pay Places, a new service for physical merchants to accept Amazon Pay, according to the TechCrunch news site.

Also participating in the Amazon Pay for Alexa skills program is the online movie-ticketing service Atom Tickets LLC. “With the Atom skill, you can seamlessly buy movie tickets from select theaters,” the spokesperson says.

An undisclosed number of organizations that take donations also are participating in the Alexa payment-skills program. Amazon did not identify any of the organizations.

“This is a great announcement,” says payments consultant Richard K. Crone of San Carlos, Calif.-based Crone Consulting, likening what Amazon is doing in voice-based payments to what PayPal did for online merchants.

“PayPal opened up secure payments on the Internet to all types of merchants,” Crone says. “Amazon is opening up voice payments to all merchants. Even competitors to Amazon run on Amazon Web Services.”

Amazon Pay for Alexa skills is now in a private beta test with developers, the spokesperson says. Merchants that want to participate can apply on Amazon’s developer site.

The Alexa payment-skills program is just one of the latest developments in a busy year for Amazon that includes the purchase of the Whole Foods supermarket chain and its award of a U.S. patent that lets consumers tailor online gift cards to their own specifications.

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