Artificial intelligence, biometric authentication, and voice recognition are all starting to seep into our everyday lives.
As these advancements mature, they affect the ways we interact with the world. The ways we shop, pay, and communicate are all undergoing changes thanks to this tech.
Today, it’s never been easier to shop online. Ecommerce has enabled us to buy almost anything, from almost anywhere, at any time. Even better, we have increasing choice over how we buy. From single-click purchases to PayPal checkouts and even to Bitcoin, the online checkout journey is more flexible than ever before.
But what if this flexibility is only the start? Thanks to the new advancements in AI, biometrics, and voice technology, ecommerce purchases are evolving before our eyes.
Buying by AI
Chatbots are proving to be useful tools for almost any part of the customer journey, and this is no different for the checkout process. With natural language processing and machine learning making them ever smarter, chatbots are well on their way to taking over simple checkout transactions.
Customers could soon find themselves buying items and placing orders directly through a chatbot. Rather than searching an entire site, a visitor could simply click a ‘chat’ button and enquire about a range they like, or the stock of a set item, or the cost of a product. From within the same window, a bot could answer the customer’s questions and proceed to take direct in-chat payment – bypassing the traditional checkout page altogether.
We’re already seeing this in its infancy stage with the Domino’s easy order chatbot system, otherwise known as ‘Dom the Pizzabot’. Launched via Facebook Messenger, Dom was one of the first instances of Facebook bots being used for online orders. Dom has enabled the pizza giant to meet customers where they are – in messaging apps.
Capitalising on the popularity of messaging services by creating a ‘conversational transactional experience’ is an undoubtedly wise move from Domino’s. However, Dom isn’t the only instance of a conversational interface finalising the checkout journey.
If ordering through chatbots on your screen isn’t futuristic enough, chatbot ordering is heading towards an increasingly screenless future. Voice is fast becoming an instant, accessible way to order.
For example, Alexa can purchase through voice commands alone. She is an example of a conversational interface that’s already handling the checkout journey in its entirety, and all through voice recognition. There are still a few bumps and concerns – stopping children and prankster friends from ordering on your behalf is proving an issue for Alexa.
But Alexa still serves as a starting point for a future of conversation-based checkout journeys. Digital assistants with voice recognition enable customers to buy from your company hands-free, from start to finish. The checkout journey can now be completed just by talking; customers need only ask for your product, and it’ll be in their cart. With a simple ‘yes’ the sale is completed.
However, the widespread ability of this is partly contingent on current voice operated chatbots being able to integrate with any company. Currently Alexa can only order from Amazon, but before long we could have voice controlled conversational interfaces that allow us to buy from many of our favourite ecommerce sites.
Voice is only the start of biometric buying. The advancements in face recognition technology mean that biometric security features could become a new, easy method to authenticate purchases, slotting into a smooth online checkout journey. Facial recognition could be all the customer needs to finalise their checkout experience – authenticating the purchase simply by looking at their camera.
There are some worries about the security implications of this technology. After all, passwords are (relatively) secure, and unlikely to be plastered across your forehead for all to see. But it’s a different ball park when your forehead is part of your passcode. How can something constantly on show be a secure key to entry for your accounts?
However, with the growing use of this technology in the mainstream marketplace, facial recognition technology is becoming more widely accepted. It’s fast on its way to becoming another common method of account authentication used to confirm payments and purchases.
Checkout innovations are unlikely to say disparate. As we gain flexibility in how we buy online, options will converge in an omnichannel support blend. An omnichannel checkout process will mean that customers can start their checkout journey on one channel, and seamlessly transfer to another, and another. This enables the checkout experience to work around customers’ busy lives, dying batteries and channel preferences.
For example, customers could start their checkout journey on their laptop at home, then seamlessly switch to their mobile when they realise they’re late and need to head out the door. They could finalise their purchase on the move by chatting vocally to your company’s chatbot, using their thumbprint to authenticate the transaction once ordered. The rise of omnichannel, coupled with emerging checkout innovation, will fuel an omni-checkout experience.
It’s been over two decades since the first online checkout was introduced to consumers. Since those early days of the untamed web, the process has been constantly redesigned, reimagined and refined to ensure the smoothest journey possible.
Now, exciting checkout changes are once more on the cusp of setting new mainstream standards. Bots are breaking bottlenecks, voice is driving new standards of ease and accessibility, and biometrics are creating hyper-personalised shopping experiences. One thing is for sure: the checkout journey is evolving. Prepare for a future of flexible, fluid online purchasing.