when services are digital only

Times of crisis are, by definition, difficult. But they are also transformative in a good way; necessity is the mother of invention, and dealing with this pandemic means building solutions that will benefit us all far into the future. Digital services are on the front lines, keeping people home safe, secure and still able to participate in society.

The necessary rapid scaling of digital services, both for online and offline delivery, is teaching vital lessons, building new capabilities, and creating new realities and opportunities. While tech-savvy early adopters have used their devices to transact for decades, offline commerce still accounts for the majority of sales. In 2019, eCommerce accounted for $3.5 trillion in sales, which is 14.1 percent of all retail sales. As broadband access improves and smart devices proliferate, both numbers were projected to rise in any case.

However, with wide-spread stay-at-home requirements, online options are going from a “nice to have” to a necessity. As Trulioo Chief Operating Officer Zac Cohen noted in a recent PYMNTS discussion with Karen Webster, “those digital interactions have now become a must-have. We no longer can attain goods or services through any other means other than online,” he said. “I think that aspect really changes the conversation around availability, accessibility and security and how important those things become when there is no other choice.”

New audiences, new considerations

Now, people who have not grown up with digital technology, or who don’t have the latest and greatest tech setups, or have various accessibility issues, are relying on digital channels to help them get needed products and services. These people need different design considerations; there are different use cases, different personas and different requirements, and building out for these new audiences is no longer relegated to the long-term roadmap. The influx of new customers needs attention now and those companies that can provide that attention successfully will be well situated long after this crisis has passed.

Unfortunately, this need for speed and a general mood of fear and panic is exactly what fraudsters and criminals thrive on. The influx of new customers going online makes fraudulent accounts that much harder to distinguish. New systems and procedures might be rushed to market without the proper due diligence to security and privacy considerations. The expertise and knowledge to monitor and flag unusual activities might not be sufficient to stop or deter problematic activities.

Balancing the user's desire for a good experience with the need for proper data protection is at the core of delivering digital services, especially at the account creation stage.

Designing and building digital services at speed

The good news for organizations looking to quickly scale up, or start, their digital offerings is that the technology is already reliable and scalable. There’s no need to recreate the wheel, as solutions exist that can onboard customers quickly and safely.

The more challenging aspect is to understand the needs of the user and design for that. Now, the user is not one ideal customer profile that only requires one workflow. Multiple use cases, in multiple countries, with multiple varying requirements will need clarity in design and flexibility in operations. As Cohen puts it, “the first step and the most critical one is to put yourself in those shoes and understand what it might be like for someone who isn’t typically used to taking a picture of themselves with a phone or you know, using their identity documents in the identity verification process. Putting yourself in their shoes and really thinking about that persona will allow you to create the best approach regardless of the service you’re providing.”

Tailoring to the needs of the audience — and having the processes to support them — will provide the level of comfort that these new digital migrants need in order to open accounts and start doing business. Protecting the user and providing the right assurance will help guide these wary prospects to become confident users.

“Organizations that had their toe in the water need to dive all the way in and expand that across the board and bring in previously potentially marginalized groups who weren’t already digital-first for many different reasons. They now have a critical access point where accessibility becomes key,” Cohen states.

Enabling everyone, everywhere

This is the most critical time for digital services. It’s an opportunity for organizations to help fulfill the promise of the internet, enabling everyone, everywhere.

Digital options are no longer optional. They are fundamental to ensuring that society can continue to function during this pandemic. For the long term, digital processes that we create today need to serve all people, give all people choice. By building for everyone, we build stronger, more resilient organizations, communities and people.

As Cohen puts it, “wider digital access and a better-connected economy that exists as a social function is going to pay so many dividends for us and a lot sooner than anyone had ever hoped for before COVID-19.”

Listen to the podcast:

Listen to "When Digital First Became Digital Only — And What It Means For Digital Identity" on Spreaker.