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For successful digital transformation, ignore identity at your peril

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock)

Even before coronavirus swept across the world, turning how we live upside down, businesses were already embarking on their digital transformation plans. Yet, with a majority of day-to-day activities having been forced online as a result of the pandemic, more and more organizations have fast-tracked their plans and accelerated their move across to digital platforms. We have witnessed a huge uptick in the number of companies now opting for digital services so they can carry on serving their customers and employees as normally as possible.

But while a majority of organizations forge ahead with their plans - now, often in rushed conditions - they are in real danger of losing their competitiveness or falling behind their peers. This is all because they have failed to address one critical element of the digital experience: identification.

Crumbling customer journeys

Where some organizations are not very far along in the digital transformation journeys and therefore not used to conducting so much of their operations online, they can find it difficult to maintain the same number of touch points between themselves and the customer. When entities and people are moved online, it is impossible to see them and maintain exactly the same relationship as in the real world. As a result, they risk the customer or employee journey they are creating taking a negative hit because it is either too complex or, at worst, prevents them from making a purchase or logging on to their account. In scenarios where the user journey breaks down, individuals can become quickly frustrated, which could ultimately lead them to convert to other brands that have a simpler online experience. A report from PwC found that 59 percent of customers will walk away from a brand after several bad experiences, and 17 percent after just one bad experience, even if they love the company or product. This further proves that bad customer journeys can drive your customers away faster than you think.

When it comes to digital transformation, we have all seen the headlines - whether it is logging on at work or the cumbersome online weekly grocery shop, customers and employees are frustrated with access and authentication issues. In fact, recent research from Callsign highlighted that nearly two thirds (61 percent) of workers are struggling with business networks and systems access during the Covid-19 crisis. The hard-fought trust that businesses have built up over time is crumbling overnight due to poor online experiences that regularly leave people disappointed.

On the flipside, companies are also incredibly vulnerable at this moment in time. They need to be able to authenticate and know exactly who they are talking to in order to avoid any issues when it comes to fraud and cybersecurity – as well as the reputational issues that accompany them. It has been well publicized that cyber criminals are shifting their focus to target remote workers. Most notably, it has been reported that the details of half a million Zoom accounts, a communication tool which has become hugely popular during the pandemic, are now for sale on the dark web which could be exploited by cybercriminals. Therefore, if they do not have the right identity checks in place, then unfortunately the focus will be ‘putting out fires’, rather than a positive digital transformation strategy.

Building digital trust

Evidentially, businesses need to understand that they cannot automatically transfer the relationship they have with their existing customers in the real world directly online because a digital service is very different to that in real life. As organizations digitally transform and lose their physical presence, businesses are required to build their digital trust, sometimes almost from scratch. One crucial element of the trust building process is getting the user experience right. When a user journey goes without a hitch it gives consumers the confidence that the organization, they are engaging with knows what they are doing from a technology perspective.

In the digital world, identification and payment actions encompass a large percentage of the user journey and a good user experience could be when there are a range of verification methods available, and when the authentication process works seamlessly. The trust cultivated during these touchpoints then percolates into other aspects of the relationship, such as being rest assured that the company is keeping customer details safe, they have excellent cybersecurity policies and the right privacy measures are in place.

Without trust, any progress made in fostering a relationship can immediately be destroyed should a customer encounter a problem whilst dealing with the organization online. If they continue to get it wrong, they may not survive, for the online world is much less forgiving than the real. This was highlighted in the aforementioned Callsign research, where it was found that 20 percent of consumers switched to other brands due to a bad online shopping experience during the month of April.

Having a seamless and secure digital identification solution in place is integral to building digital trust and should be seen as part of the critical infrastructure for critical business. Poor authentication – whether that is when logging into an account or making a payment - is the root of all frustration when attempting to access a product or service digitally. If an organization gets it wrong, then it could mean all their other digital transformation initiatives go to waste. I tend to think of this as the front door of your house – your front door needs to be secure enough to protect all your possessions inside your house, but also needs to be simple for you to access on a daily basis. This is exactly the balance required for online authentication. 

It is also important to consider that younger generations are prioritizing brand trust even more than their older counterparts. A report from Accenture found that more than half of customers in the UK want companies to make a firm stand on issues they care about, such as transparency and sustainability, with younger consumers like Gen Z (75 percent) driving this trend. This means that identity is only going to grow in importance when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. 

The path to digital transformation

Without digital identity being as seamless as possible, digital transformation simply will not happen. Businesses need to provide simple and secure online experiences for their employees and customers alike, otherwise individuals will simply reject it and find another way to go about their lives online – because right now, that is the only option they have.

Ryan Gosling, Head of partnerships, Callsign