'Alexa, Who Won The 2016 PYMNTS/Alexa Challenge?’

"Alexa, show me who snagged the top spots in the 2016 PYMNTS/Alexa Challenge."

And she did yesterday when the results of the PYMNTS/Alexa Challenge were revealed. During the five-week challenge, 12 teams and 14 companies dug deep into their innovation bags of tricks to use voice to solve everything from the $60 billion annual prescription abandonment problem to making checkout abandonment a thing of the past.

The decision process was incredibly tough given the level of effort and creativity exhibited by all of the companies that participated. 2016 PYMNTS/Alexa Challenge participants included: Best Innovation Group (BIG), DaVincian Healthcare, Discover, Exa, Feasty powered by Zipscene, FIS, Fiserv, ONvocal powered by People Power, USAA, Vantiv, Visa and Western Union.

And the results?

“The 2016 PYMNTS/Alexa Challenge pushed the boundaries of what everyone thought Alexa was able to do, as we all learned how powerful she really is,” Karen Webster said.

Power that transformed a variety of payments, financial services and even health care payments use cases. This year’s Challenge winners are:

2016 Challenge Champ: DaVincian Healthcare

Prescription abandonment and non-adherence is a challenging medical and economic problem facing our health care system today with annual costs of approximately $300 billion. DaVincian Rx introduces a prescription assistant skill to Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem, helping people stay on track with medication awareness, daily dose reminders, adherence reports, new prescription and refill alerts, and innovative, convenient payment and delivery options.

Prescription abandonment is a subset of this problem which costs the health care industry upwards of $60 billion annually. DaVincian Rx uses Alexa to help consumers stay on top of their medical needs — whether it be taking a pill, getting a refill, and even getting a prescription delivered or making a payment for one in advance.

“Many of the barriers related to people staying on track with their prescription plan can easily be removed by bringing in simple payment methods from the financial field and novel delivery options,” said Meredith Porter, Chief Medical Officer for DaVincian Healthcare. “By using a voice command tech, we can guide patients to be better aware and have more control over their own treatment.”

Best Use of Technology: Fiserv

Life moves quickly and people want banking and payments experiences that are in step with how they live and work. Fiserv used Alexa to advance money management and movement “at the point of thought.” While this particular service is already in the field, the PYMNTS Alexa Challenge helped propel its potential.

“We evaluated the banking activities people conduct most often and leveraged the live cloud-based system running our digital banking platform to develop an Alexa skill for each one,” explained Scott Hess, VP Innovations, Team at Fiserv.

Whether that was using the skill to review a checking account balance, to ask when a payment was due, or to make a payment, Hess said the goal was to focus on making things simpler for their customers.

Easiest to Explain to Mom: USAA

USAA serves the military community by providing the best financial products and services. Amazon’s Alexa helped to enhance the experience for its savings and brokerage services that also helps improve the everyday lives of its members. USAA used the PYMNTS/Alexa Challenge to take its skills to where its customers often need it most: to a savings booster skill.

“Often we find that our customers are really struggling to make their finances work. So what better time to help them in that decision process of what money to spend, how much money to spend and when to save then when they are shopping,” said Darrius Jones, AVP Enterprise Innovation at USAA.

This can be done by doing something as simple as asking: “How can I save $30, Alexa?”

“Alexa will respond with how much money savings booster will determine at anytime,” Jones said. “It really brought together the power of the Amazon ecosystem, both Echo and the shopping platform and the power of USAA’s advice.”

Most Creative: Feasty/Zipscene

Powered by Zipscene’s consumer dining data, Feasty delivers access to dining deals based on individual consumer preferences. The skill that the combination of Zipscene and Feasty cooked up <haha> is aimed at solving one of the biggest consumer frictions there is: figuring out what to eat.

At a prompt that sounds something like “Alexa, tell Feasty I’m hungry,” she would provide that consumer with a few options tailored to her own preferences, which are based on past behaviors as well as offers in the area. The recommendation takes into account the time of day, weather, etc. – so no mac 'n' cheese at 11 p.m. on a sweltering 90-degree evening.

“We partnered to create an Alexa skill set that provides consumers with an easy-to-use intelligent support system that each of us makes every day,” said Jeff Bickel, Chief Product Officer for Zipscene.

Most Disruptive: FIS

Millennials are every banker’s dream, but they are among the hardest group of individuals to service. The Alexa skill put forward by FIS is actually a friendly advisor who follows a millennial through their life and enables them to avail themselves of the kind of budgeting, savings, planning and wealth management tools that will help him prepare for a financial future at every step. This particular skill also gives millennials a more complete picture of what banks can offer by making the search process invisible to them, but pulling from a robust set of options based on the needs of that particular millennial at that particular point in time.

Their skill was demonstrated with a “day in the life” theme to show how Alexa can use this guide, dubbed Fay, to step in to help a consumer during their financial journey.

“Our skill helps act as an always-available coach for all of life’s needs, not just for the present, but on a go-forward basis. So we really focused our application on how to guide millennials through major financial life events,” explained Doug Brown, FIS’ head of mobile.

“We were excited to push the limits of how Fay, the skill for Alexa, could really engage people in a whole, new meaningful way,” he said.

Most Likely to Get Traction: Visa

Taking voice-initiated ordering and payment to the next level is about removing the friction associated with using voice to order and pay in situations where it is uncomfortable – and frankly undesirable — to speak a PIN, but where authenticating the consumer is obviously critical. Visa’s use of voice biometrics and tokens linked to Visa Checkout and Visa Offers solves for that problem and inspires consumer and merchant confidence when transacting using voice anywhere – even in the spa.

“We’ve been playing with Alexa since last November and we have built out a basic bank transaction and money transfer skill for our showcase for Super Bowls,” said Jagdeep Singh Sahota, Sr. Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships at Visa.

“We looked at taking Alexa into highlighting the future of voice commerce where a consumer will be able to use Alexa to discover, browse and seamlessly conduct a commerce transaction using their voice,” he added.

Each of the videos that bring these skills to life can be found on the PYMNTS/Alexa Challenge website

“This was about solving a real problem or reimagining a future for a consumer and the ecosystem that surrounds consumers as they look at new ways to conduct commerce, buy things, solve problems and even manage the health care environment,” Webster said.



The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.

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