“How do I pay for it, without having to touch anything?” is a question almost everyone is asking themselves in the COVID-19 era. And as of Tuesday (Sept. 1), a new touchless mechanism for making real-world purchases is hitting the streets. Amazon Pay has teamed up with Fiserv and ExxonMobil to offer touchless payments using Alexa at more than 11,000 ExxonMobil stations nationwide in the U.S.
The technology will enable any customer to pay for gas by merely instructing Alexa to do so, Patrick Gauthier, vice president of Amazon Pay, told Karen Webster in an exclusive interview.
“The only thing they’ll have to touch is the gas pump itself, as we have not yet found a way to transport the gas from the pump to the [gas tank] touch-free,” Gauthier quipped. “But everything else, the customer can do by interacting with Alexa in the safety of their car with their voice.”
The ExxonMobil plan has been in the works for some time. Amazon, Fiserv and ExxonMobil announced a plan to build pay-at-the-pump with Alexa in January at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.
At the time, Nandan Sheth, Fiserv’s head of global digital commerce, told PYMNTS that Alexa’s entrance into fuel purchase was “big news” on two fronts — gas stations and voice commerce. He said the deal represented a significant leap forward for gas stations in embracing the commerce opportunity that voice will present in the connected-car context.
“We think a lot is going to happen, and we are going to stay laser-focused on the connected car and expanding what it is capable of offering through our marketplace propositions,” Sheth said.
He said gas purchases represented the perfect place to start such efforts because paying for fuel is simple and intuitive for any user.
The process described by Amazon, Fiserv and ExxonMobil certainly sounds simple. Consumers with Alexa-enabled cars or smartphones say: “Alexa, pay for gas” as they roll into a participating station. Alexa will confirm the station’s location and pump number with the customer, at which point Fiserv’s digital-commerce technology will activate the pump and perform token generation to ensure the payment process is secure. The system requires no additional effort or sign-up on the consumer’s part, so long as they’ve already enabled Amazon Pay.
And, according to Sheth, this is just the start. He told PYMNTS that simple and commonly recurring actions like getting gas would be critical in habituating consumers to transact by voice. Sheth said that, in turn, will eventually lead to the development of more complicated use cases.
For instance, he said voice as a mechanism to pay could expand to quick-service restaurants, grocery stores, retailers, vending machines, toll booths and the like. And Sheth predicted that the car would increasingly act as the commerce hub from which consumers will deliver those commands.
“There is so much power that we think will ultimately surface, as consumers are just becoming more used to this … and more complicated use cases start making sense to develop,” he said.
Of course, that assumes that consumers cotton to the ExxonMobil new system. All kinds of payment innovations had floundered over the years when they simply failed to attract enough consumer attention to become widely relevant.
But Gauthier told Karen Webster that Amazon Pay isn’t worried given what the company has seen in the new ExxonMobil system’s tests.
“It is just a magical experience for consumers,” he said. “That is what the testing has shown us.”