Amazon PayPhrase Tries to Make Paying Online Easier

  • September 13, 2012
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Amazon PayPhrase Tries to Make Paying Online Easier By Brad Stone

Amazon.com is trying to take some pain out of the process of buying stuff online. I’m not sure that the new service it is introducing tonight, PayPhrase, accomplishes that, but  it may be an important building block for the future of Amazon’s fledgling subsidiary, Amazon Payments.

The new service aims to replace the user names, passwords and the multiple clicks needed to purchase an item online today with a unique, simple-to-remember catch phrase – say, “Brad’s Home.” Beginning tonight, any Amazon user can visit amazon.com/payphrase and create up to 20 of these phrases, then associate them with a four-digit PIN, a shipping address and credit card.

Then, people primed to buy items on Amazon.com and on sites that use Amazon Checkout, such as DKNY and Buy.com, can enter in their PayPhrase for a relatively easy, three-click checkout.

“They do not have to share credit card with another third-party Web site, they do not to have to be signed in, and they get this consistent experience wherever they checkout,” said Matthew Williams, general manager of consumer payments at Amazon Payments.

The challenge for Amazon, as I see it, is that it requires a bit of effort to set up PayPhrases. And then it gives people’s already password-swamped brains a new set of stuff to remember. Only one Amazon user can grab a given PayPhrase, so when the obvious ones are gone, people may resort to some wacky combinations. (Amazon itself recommends some odd phrases, such as “relentless dentist.” Will people who use the word “password” as their password really remember that?) There’s also the PIN to remember, although people can use the same PIN for all their phrases.

But this may all be about setting up Amazon Payments for the future. Typing in a PayPhrase on Amazon.com doesn’t seem that much of a short cut. But how about saying it out loud, when a keyboard is not available? The coming wave of smartphones and Internet appliances will all have some kind of voice recognition built in. Although Amazon is not integrating PayPhrase into its mobile shopping tools right away, it certainly will at some point. With PayPhrase, Jeff Bezos and his crew may be looking into the future, and preparing to seize a cut of the mobile payments business.

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