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Going Digital: Optimizing the Digital Onboarding Process

Ensuring a satisfying user experience can be difficult for online service providers as the user typically has to give something in order to access the platform. UL's Sanne Ketelaar explains how to meet consumer expectations for convenience, data quality and security.

A woman looks down at her smartphone with various onboarding options layered onto picture.

February 11, 2020

Today’s consumers have an increasing majority of their interactions and transactions occur in the digital landscape. From social media to online shopping, consumers routinely rely on the internet, websites and virtual platforms to communicate with others, shop for goods and services, and access an ever-widening array of entertainment options. These consumers expect those online experiences to be convenient to access and easy to navigate and use.

For online service providers, however, ensuring a satisfying user experience can be difficult as the user typically has to give something in order to access the platform. Providing an email address and establishing a password are two common requirements by an online service provider.

Known as digital onboarding, this process can be perceived by users as a barrier to entry. When the main objective of consumers is to get access to a service, maintaining the balance between gathering personal information and providing easy access is critical to prevent them from giving up halfway into the process.

“Building a consumer-friendly and secure digital onboarding process is a major imperative for online service providers,” said Sanne Ketelaar, head of project management organization at UL Identity Management and Security (IMS). “It sounds like it should be an easy task, but delivering convenience, data quality and security in the development of consumer-accessible online platforms frequently involves compromises and trade-offs that need to be kept in balance.”

The core of digital onboarding is signing a consumer up for a service online to gain access to information, a community or to complete a transaction. This includes not only digitally verifying the identity of a consumer in a secure transaction but also introducing and explaining the features of the service they will access or be provided.

“It’s similar to onboarding a new employee,” Ketelaar said. “You want to verify their identity, ensure the data you collect is correct and secure, but also train them, and provide them information.”

The concept of digital onboarding is found in virtually every industry. In the growing IoT ecosystem, an effective digital onboarding process is equally applicable to platforms and smartphone apps that help us connect and control all manner of smart devices.

“Developing a well-designed digital onboarding process is an art,” Ketelaar said. “At a minimum, the process must address the convenience of the user experience; the efficient collection of quality user data; and ensuring and maintaining the security of user data.”

The convenience of the user experience means meeting consumer expectations about where they want to go, what they want to do and how fast they get there. To design your onboarding flow with convenience in mind, a strong approach is to understand every user persona and carefully map out their onboarding experience.

Collecting the correct and sufficient data is critical in every transaction. Many countries have strict regulations about what data can be collected, how it is stored and how it can be used. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation is one example of a stringent consumer data protection requirement. A balance is needed to ensure collection of quality data is met, to provide customizable service to your customer all while remaining compliant to data protection regulations. 

Ensuring your onboarding process is secure is something that is expected by the consumers. Not only should security be a main pillar of focus during the building and development of the onboarding process, but it also should be monitored when the service you offer is live.

According to Ketelaar, achieving these goals means that developers must adopt a “shift-left” mentality in the development of their software platforms and systems. “Evaluation and testing of the digital onboarding process need to begin as early as possible in the design and development process; and continue throughout the entire development cycle,” Ketelaar noted.

“We want our customers to include security at the beginning of the project, not the end.” By adopting this “shift-left” mentality vulnerability and security issues are identified early on in the software development process and monitored throughout the life cycle of the service.

“It’s really about creating a dynamic development culture where convenience, quality data collection and security are part of every piece of the product lifecycle,” Ketelaar said. “We at UL IMS educate online service providers about the onboarding process and regulations while providing continuous testing and security evaluations during the development and maintenance of a platform in order to maintain safety in this digital age.”

Interested in learning more about digital onboarding solutions? Contact us to speak with one of our identity management experts.