With voice commerce expected to grow from 18 million users last year to 78 million by 2022, according to Business Insider, sellers of all sorts are starting to pay attention to the technology’s potential to create new transaction markets—and perhaps steal volume from mobile devices.
Early enthusiasts for voice are likely to come from among the ranks of mobile-commerce startups. An example is Santa Monica, Calif.-based Atom Tickets LLC, a 4-year-old, studio-backed startup that lets consumers buy movie tickets—and order-ahead popcorn and other concessions—through their mobile phones.
Atom is participating in a so-called beta program that Amazon.com Inc. launched in November to open its Alexa voice-commerce technology to outside developers. The program includes Amazon Pay for so-called Alexa skills, the specific applications that allow Alexa to carry out instructions, so users can tap their Amazon account for purchases.
Atom already relies on Amazon Pay as a payment method, and now hopes to broaden its user base by being early to offer voice-based purchases. Amazon says it has sold “tens of millions” of the Echo devices that let users interact with Alexa. “We’re excited by the potential of Alexa and voice commerce,” Alex Rouse, head of product at Atom and himself a former Amazon executive, tells Digital Transactions News by email. “Since the space is so nascent, consumers are just starting to understand the potential of these devices and form their habits around how they can be used.”
As things stand, Atom offers Amazon Pay on its mobile Web site and plans to add it on its mobile app later this year. The app currently allows users to pay with Apple Pay, Chase Pay, and PayPal, as well as credit cards. The company provides the ticketing function for IMDb, a Web site for movie enthusiasts, where users showed a preference to use their Amazon account credentials. “It made sense to implement Amazon Pay to make it easier for their large movie-going audience to buy movie tickets from Atom,” says Rouse.
Now Atom, a company backed by the movie studios Lionsgate, Walt Disney Co., and 20th Century Fox, is starting to let those users pay through Alexa. “Atom Tickets is participating to learn how consumers use these devices as well as provide a best-in-class movie-purchase experience,” says Rouse. But it’s also hoping to learn how consumers want to use voice, and also smooth out any rough edges it may find. Stored credentials may help do that.
“Keep in mind, when transacting through voice, even simple tasks can easily become cumbersome,” Rouse says. “Using Amazon Pay on Alexa will let the user leverage their stored payment methods to skip some of the more tedious steps related to account creation and payment-method entry, which will dramatically improve how consumers buy movie tickets.”
There may be reason to think Amazon Pay will make at least some difference, according to statistics cited by Atom. Since the company adopted Amazon Pay in July, “We’ve seen a 20% increase in order value and a 60% reduction in abandoned checkouts from customers who use [it],” says Rouse.
Besides enabling ticket purchases, the Atom service also functions as a social medium, allowing users to invite other users to go to movies at the same time they’re choosing shows.