- Amazon Pay is expanding to let customers pay utility bills online or with its Alexa voice-powered assistant. Alexa users will able to get answers to questions like, "Alexa, when is my water bill due?" or commands like, "Alexa, compare my electricity bill to June last year," per an announcement.
- Amazon estimated the payment service will be available in 95% of ZIP codes by the end of the year. The e-commerce giant said it's targeting the 70% of consumers who aren't enrolled in automatic payment plans, MarketWatch reported.
- The company partnered with fintech firm Paymentus to add utility bill payments to Amazon Pay, the company announced in a keynote presentation at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas. Amazon sees an opportunity to expand the service to telecom, cable and insurance bills, Paul Gauthier, VP of Amazon Pay, said at the conference.
U.S. households on average spend more than $2,000 a year on utility bills, making them a significant possible market for Amazon Pay. By expanding its payment services to utilities and integrating them with Alexa, Amazon aims to make its voice assistant more valuable to consumers and boost adoption of its smart home platform. Amazon last month said that Alexa now supports more than 60,000 different devices, giving users broad flexibility in setting up a smart home with Alexa as the central hub. For utilities companies, Alexa's ability to answer questions may help to relieve pressure on its call centers, freeing up customer service representatives (CSRs) to handle more complex tasks.
The addition of utility payments could also help introduce consumers to using Alexa for payments, something that might help Amazon drive e-commerce through Alexa. Voice-based e-commerce is starting to pick up but is still a small portion of overall e-commerce as consumers see the voice as a platform for entertainment and information and are worried about its security as a commerce platform. Other online retailers can add Amazon's payments button to their websites, helping to reduce friction that often leads customers to abandon shopping carts before checkout. Amazon embedded the payment function in Alexa two years ago and added a feature to make charitable donations through Amazon Pay and its voice assistant last year.
Amazon is betting on Alexa to help it expand its payment platform as a wide variety of companies seek a bigger share of consumers' digital wallets. Rivals include payments processors like Mastercard and Visa, fintech startups like PayPal and Square, and tech giants like Apple, Google and Samsung. Apple Pay this year will overtake coffee chain Starbucks in providing the most popular mobile payment method for shoppers at U.S. stores, researcher eMarketer estimated.