How Retailers Can Embrace Voice Shopping and Manage Fraud and Privacy Concerns

Voice shopping

As omnichannel shopping evolves to include more devices and apps, retail leaders understandably want to keep up with technology trends such as voice shopping to better serve customers.

An Adobe survey of business decision makers, found that 91% are making significant investments in voice and 94% plan to increase investments in the coming year. This rush to explore voice shopping is reflected in the rapid growth of the market. The analyst firm, Juniper, predicts the industry will skyrocket to a value of $80 billion in 2023. So, with these factors combined, it’s no surprise that customers are starting to expect the convenience and speed of asking ‘Alexa’ or ‘Siri’ to complete purchases for them with voice shopping.

While voice has captured the attention of consumers, advertisers and retailers, let’s not forget that it has also captured the imagination of fraudsters. The platforms, interfaces and devices that facilitate voice commerce are in their infancy, meaning voice-enabled shopping is ripe for fraud and other security vulnerabilities. So, what are the implications for retailers as they explore voice shopping? How can they err on the side of caution without becoming ‘voice’ laggards?

The fraud conundrum with voice shopping

Like with any emerging technology, the early adoption stage is both the most exciting and tenuous time to get on board. It’s important to retain optimism for voice shopping’s meteoric rise, but temper those giddy feelings with a bit of reality. The hard truth about voice technology is that it is still being refined. But smart retailers can succeed with voice shopping if they approach their voice initiatives with eyes wide open.

For instance, as we’ve said, the voice channel is ripe for fraud and other security risks, mostly because the field is so new. So, retailers and consumers must navigate a minefield of potential fraud when using voice search and shopping services. Consider recent privacy breaches: like Amazon sending a German Alexa user’s recordings to the wrong user, and concerted fraud efforts like deep fake audio scams. It seems the potential for fraudulent activity in voice is growing right along with the optimistic economic projections.

“Alexa, what else do retailers need to consider?”

Another consideration is that while today’s voice shoppers demand a broad range of options, they struggle with technology’s limitations, such as kinks within the AI interface or a lack of apps to use. Forrester researchers asked Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana 180 questions about products and services and ranked each response as either passing or failing. Overall, the voice assistants failed 65% of the time. This poor user experience could easily add friction to the customer’s buying journey, and even lead to incorrect orders if no verification takes place.

And consider the fact that consumers are limited by manufacturers’ requirements for hardware and the associated costs. In some cases, consumers may need to spend more to get full access to voice shopping capabilities. To use Amazon’s Alexa voice search and shopping service, consumers need to be Amazon customers and have an Alexa-enabled device. Moreover, Alexa users can’t access all of Alexa’s voice-shopping features unless they are Amazon Prime members.

The need to purchase additional hardware or subscriptions in order to take advantage of voice shopping’s convenience might be too much for some consumers. Retailers, then, could risk isolating a portion of the customers that they work so hard to obtain.

An alternative, particularly for retailers not named Amazon, would be to adopt a native voice strategy. Retailers could explore enhancing the omnichannel experience by enabling online shopping on the web and through mobile devices. Retailers could, for instance, add voice interaction to their traditional click-and-touch interfaces and unlock new features and an entirely new level of convenience. 

Is your voice app PSD2 compliant?

Compliance with payment regulations will also be a major factor for retailers navigating voice shopping technology. While much of the conversation around PSD2’s Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) requirements has been around fears that the regulation will cause additional friction and hurt conversions, shopping by voice could lead to a better experience. 

SCA requires that consumers’ identities be confirmed by something the consumer knows (such as a password), something the consumer has (such as a mobile device or computer with their unique digital IDs) and something the consumer is. Besides the common example of a digital fingerprint or a particular typing rhythm, this third factor, called inherence, could potentially be satisfied through voice recognition, at least according to the European Banking Authority’s June 2019 Clarification. 

Innovation or caution? Retailers can do both

The future of voice shopping relies on retailers to integrate voice into an all-inclusive online shopping strategy, with a keen eye on fraud prevention tactics. Far from becoming ‘voice laggards’, retailers can err on the side of caution whilst still exploring all the exciting opportunities that voice has to offer.

Credit: Ed Whitehead, MD EMEA, Signifyd