How did user research contribute to the creation of your new “Voice Commerce” concept?

How can you make magic happen? 

A discussion with Taline Karanfilian, Head of UX at Ingenico Labs.


Hello Taline, you are the Head of UX at Ingenico Labs. Who is Ingenico and what is your role at Ingenico Labs?

Ingenico is a global leader in payment solutions.
At Ingenico, we provide merchants with a full range of innovative services and solutions from the delivery of payment terminals to payment options. The aim is to make customer payment and purchasing quick, simple, seamless and secure, whatever the sales channel.

At the Lab, I am the head of user experience. Part of my role is to lead ideation workshops, −which I do with the help of Devoteam Creative Tech− to stimulate and encourage the emergence of creative and innovative concepts for the next generation of purchase and payment solutions.

Our approach is consumer-centric. This means putting the consumer at the heart of the entire purchase and payment experience. The main challenge for us however was that up until now, Ingenico had never really been in direct contact with consumers. Our processes never entailed interaction with end-users. We mostly sold our products and services to banks and retailers with almost no opportunity to understand the consumer mindset.
When I arrived at the company, I was surprised to discover how focused the team was on technical aspects. Notions such as ergonomics, customer satisfaction and pleasure were all secondary. I wondered how it was possible to launch a new device for use by millions of people without even interviewing them, or observing them in a real context to understand their needs and pain points.

Then 4 years ago, management had a dramatic change of vision, which is why I am here today.

You recently presented a new voice payment concept, the discovery of which you attribute to the importance of research[1]. Could you tell us more about it?

When we started to work on our voice payment solution, we looked into different ways that end-users could pay by vocal command.
While developing the idea, we also did some technical benchmarking on the voice solutions already being used for 100% end-user authentication.
We started by designing a POC (Proof of Concept) to illustrate our new solution and present to end-users so as to gauge their appetite for the idea.
This is where end-user research played a key role. We ran some focus groups and individual interviews on a more mature market for voice-activated products. From this, we were able to take home some very relevant and useful insights that then allowed us to redirect our outlook and redefine a solution that would be more aligned with consumer expectations for voice purchasing.

How did the Lab come up with this new “Voice Commerce” idea? What was your UX approach?

Well, our market is changing and we now have a lot of newcomers that have arrived on our turf. In order to stay ahead of the game, we decided to play outside of our turf too.
Voice assistants emerged with the arrival of bots. We had already invested in chatbot solutions embedded natively in our payment solutions, so it was natural that our next move be voicebot exploration.

We therefore started by benchmarking existing solutions where orders were being placed using voice assistants, mainly in the home environment. Our initial intention was to identify the pain points. 

We decided to forge ahead very quickly with the ideation workshops. At Ingenico Labs, it is in our DNA to build convictions and test success or failure quickly instead of going through the usual lengthy 12-month benchmarking process. We invested in fake prototypes to test our ideas with the end-users.

So it was a very iterative UX approach mixing ideation workshops, idea design, prototype design (voice and UI) and end-user research.

What did you learn from this approach? How did it help you?

Our purpose wasn’t only to consider the user-friendliness of voice-activated interfaces, but the technical challenges too. We thus decided to progress on the basis of 2 parallel workstreams:

      One to find a new way for end-users to purchase and pay by voice.

      One to benchmark all the relevant technical solutions existing on the market, used to secure voice payments. 

The insights from both workstreams were equally important in our decision-making process and were critical in directing our tasks and enabling us to choose the best scenarios.

From a design perspective, this project was one of our best examples of “learning by failure”. The insights gained from our first round of end-user testing helped us to avoid heading in the wrong direction and developing our product on the basis of false assumptions.

Upon probing, we found out that voice payment solutions already exist, but are not secure. They may work for some countries, but can’t be launched everywhere and not in France.
We therefore started by investigating some concrete user scenarios for payment by voice.
Within just a few weeks, the Devoteam Creative Tech research team designed a static mock-up for end-user testing, which they took to the US (the most mature market for voice-activated interfaces with the highest number of smart speakers in the world).
After 4 weeks, we realized that end-users will not be ready in the near future to communicate their bank card details vocally. We also came to the conclusion that voice authentication was not technically mature or secure enough yet.

We needed to find other ways to pay securely by voice.
We (Ingenico Labs and the Devoteam Creative Tech design team) therefore decided to rebuild the scenarios with fresh new ideas and that’s when the magic happened.
That’s how we came up with the ultrasound solution.
We tested a few new scenarios and realized we had a great new concept in our hands! 

However, even if we trust the viability of our new concept, we are still investigating the 100% voice-activated scenarios, continuing with our research and technical benchmarking.

What value did Research & Design contribute to this project?

We attributed the same value to both solution research & design and technical analysis, something that had been greatly lacking in the Ingenico decision-making process.
Today, most of our concepts start with validation of end-user interest before any investment is made in technical development

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome implementing this approach?

People are afraid of what they don’t know. Putting the end-user at the heart of our analyses and decisions is something quite new to Ingenico. However step by step, with confidence and tenacity, we have managed to come up with some really innovative tools and have had the UX approach adopted by other teams.

Could you give us 4 tips for generating innovative concepts?

The first tip concerns research. Research is the light that guides us in all our exploration, ensuring that we head in the right direction, instead of investing money on false assumptions. 

Secondly, do not be afraid to challenge old ideas.
We never take what we hear around us and what our customers say for granted. Always remain open to new ideas and new ways of working.

Thirdly, forget all barriers (our driving principle). If you really want to innovate, you need to free yourself and jump the fence. If not, it is likely that you’ll stay in the same business forever, probably miss the boat and be overtaken by the newcomers.

Finally, have fun. Enjoyment is crucial to innovation.
We believe that you always get more ideas from people who are happy to work and who have fun. It may seem obvious, but it is not everyone who gets to enjoy what they do.

How can you convince people to jump the fence? It must feel like a game.
How can you put emotion into a product? You have to take pleasure in it.


[1] Managed by Devoteam Creative Tech

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