Online customer onboarding is all about personalisation

  • Esther Groen Christian van Ramshorst
  • Digital identityOnboardingCustomer in Control


For the fifth year in a row, INNOPAY has contributed to the ShoppingTomorrow research program. Together with CM we hosted the expert group 'Digital Identity'. In this collaborative project a group of experts did research on how to implement a fully digital onboarding process for both B2B and B2C customer. This blog provides the main insights of this project, download the full research paper here.

New ecosystems arise in which customers share large amounts of their personal details. How and what data is shared largely depends on the context, how comfortable we feel online, and how much value we attribute to our personal data. As a result, online consumer behaviour varies and is unpredictable. Although consumers claim to value their online privacy over optimal service provision, this is not reflected in their digital behaviour[1]. Consumers take on different digital identities, the so called privacy paradox.

Getting consumers to willingly share their personal data without a clear prospect on what is in it for them proves to be a tough challenge for retailers and service providers. Online conversion rates are lagging as current onboarding processes especially represent the need for attributes from the retailer or service provider's perspective. They are not designed to capture the multiple digital identities of online consumers.

This blog presents a model (developed with the ‘Digital Identity’ experts) that will help organisations to better understand their own context in relation to the behavioural context of their preferred consumers. Enabling them to define and deliver on a customer centric digital strategy and onboarding process by putting the customer in control of their identity.

model ENFigure 1: Understanding the identity context. Source: Expert group Digital Identity Shopping Tomorrow 2017

Data maximisation versus data minimisation

The majority of current digital onboarding processes reflect the organisational belief that the holy grail in customer loyalty still rests on the principle of gathering customer data[2] as much and as quickly as possible. The principle that a better understanding of customers drives better services and deeper relationships, still stands. However, consumers are becoming more aware of their online privacy and therefore more reluctant to share data. Additionally, customer data management yields increasingly more responsibilities for organisations driven by new regulation like GDPR. As a result, the discrepancy widens between the traditional organisational approach of 'data maximisation', and the consumer behaviour and regulatory trend towards 'data minimisation'. As for the model in figure 1, organisations currently tend to have a high need for attributes, while customers not always have a high willingness to share these attributes. Each quadrant in the model describes how organisations should act in that context.

Consumer behaviour versus the organisational requirements

In building relevant online customer relationships, it is essential that organisations understand what data elements, or attributes, are needed to determine the identity of their customers and whether they are willing to share them and how.

Main factors for consumers to share data are:

  • Type of product or service the customer intends to buy
  • Trust of customer in organisation and brand
  • Value assigned by the customer to own attribute

From an organisational perspective, the personal data (identity attributes) required by organisations during onboarding can be categorised as follows:

  • Legal: attributes that enable the service provider to comply to regulation related to products and services offered (i.e. duty of care, KYC, Telecommunications Act, AMLD[3])
  • Operational excellence: attributes that are required to (optimally) provide a specific service level and manage internal risk policies (financial and reputational)?
  • Commercial: attributes that contribute to the commercial agenda of an organisation and particularly focus on building long term relationships with (potential) customers

The expert group concludes that the digital identity of consumers, and its required data-richness, is always contextual and particularly defined by consumer behaviour, trust in brand and the complexity of the product and service involved.

A one size fits all approach will therefore no longer suffice in becoming and staying relevant to consumers. Onboarding needs to become personal and flexible while meeting legal, operational and commercial requirements.  

Getting a grip on conversion rates

To improve conversion rates, it is important that organisations get a grip on the context of their onboarding process.

In our research paper, the model in figure 1 has been tested on three onboarding use cases with differing product or service complexity. Overall, we see that all three processes are not customer centric as they:

  • primarily aim at addressing the organisation’s need (or want) for especially commercial attributes
  • are not able to handle variations in digital identity requirements and consumer behaviour, and
  • are designed to handle the 'happy flow', exceptions are dropping out entirely

In short, whether the customer is willing to share the requested attributes is of inferior importance. Not surprising conversion rates are lagging.

How to put the customer in control

First, organisations should critically (re)consider whether all attributes requested are really necessary. Second, where organisations used to segment their (potential) customers demographically, in current digital context, behavioural segmentation is required. For instance, segmentation in terms of ‘willingness to share personal attributes’, i.e. ranging from anonymous towards a full digital identity profile, will enable organisations to better align their services and address the customer’s ‘privacy’ preference. Not just in terms of what a customer likes or wants, but based on what a customer really is willing to share in acquiring a certain product or service. By providing the customer different options, the customer is put into control of its own digital identity. And when your service is aligned with the varying willingness to share attributes of customers, you will be able to service more customers and increase conversion.

Retailers and service providers therefore have a lot to gain when they start working towards a more customer centric digital identity strategy and onboarding process. And this model helps them shape and deliver on this strategy on the short term and longer term. Stay tuned for our follow-up blog where we will deep dive on how different customer profiles and their ‘willingness to share’ will put both organisations and customers in control.

The full Shopping Tomorrow research paper can be found here and will further elaborate on the model and important trends. Feel free to contact us for additional information, or when you are evaluating your digital identity activities.

[1] Shopping Tomorrow 2017 Consumer research, carried out by GfK
[2] Research into current onboarding processes, carried out by expert group 'Digital Identity' as described in the full research paper
[3] AMLD (Anti-Money Laundering Directive) is a directive focussed on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing

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