On-boarding is an area in which all businesses are constantly seeking marginal gains and improvements. Whether in financial services, entertainment or any other sector, everyone wants to enable new customers or users to join quickly and easily, with the ultimate goal obviously being to increase the number of customers the business has.

Naturally over the last decade, technology has become much more important in the on-boarding of new customers. The prevalence of digital in all our lives forces businesses to offer routes into their services via digital channels, even if they are not providing a digital service.

This significantly benefits the business too though, as in the majority of cases digital enables them to acquire new customers 24/7 by removing the dependency on staff and the opening times of brick and mortar stores.

But there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to customer on-boarding. Signing up to a new app or online service is different to opening a new bank account or taking out a loan. There can be legal requirements to consider, as well as optimising the user experience.

At its most basic form, digitisation of on-boarding allows users to complete lengthy forms in their own time via a device of their choice. With some simple form validation, providers can ensure this is quicker than completing paper based forms by auto-populating or removing fields where possible, based on what the user has already entered.

RBC Wealth Management in Canada recently spoke about how such digitisation has led to them achieving incredible cost savings. They revealed that around 75% of errors in investment transactions were due to missing data or signatures. The company was losing approximately 80,000 staff hours per year to correct these issues. Simple form validation can flag missing fields immediately and prevent the user from progressing through the form until the faults are rectified.

More advanced digitisation has been used to fulfil requirements around ID verification and customer signatures. Traditionally, these are easier to fulfil in store but providers can’t rely on customers to come to them.

In 2015 UK customers interacted with their bank 895m times via mobile, 705m via the internet and 427m via branch visits. By 2020, the digital dominance is expected to have grown further, with 2,341m interactions via mobile, 528m via internet and 268m via branch.

Clearly, financial providers have to modernise their on-boarding journeys but there is a battle for regulations to keep up with technological advancements, as banks need to move with the times without compromising security.

Radical have recently created several on-boarding journeys for Co-op Bank that allow users to upload a photo of their ID when completing the digital sign up form, for it to be instantly and securely verified by a professional third party.

Likewise, integration of eSignatures provides a digital alternative to a written signature and performs excellently across digital devices. eSignatures are legally recognised in the UK and most of the rest of the world. It is down to the business, and often their internal legacy systems, whether they can choose to accept them.

Big named financial providers have started to implement these new on-boarding techniques but challenger banks see their modern interpretation of customer on-boarding as a key aspect of their business model. For example, Starling Bank boasts that it takes just 5 minutes to open an account with them thanks to biometric technology, such as Touch and Voice ID.

Outside of financial services, many new digital products are integrating SMS verification during sign up through providers such as Sinch, Twilio and Plivo. These work by a user entering their mobile phone number during sign up and being sent a short verification code via SMS, which they then have to enter in to the digital sign up form to complete the process. The providers offer a similar service via voice call too.

For products with lower security needs, sign up via social media accounts can provide an efficient on-boarding process. Product owners need to be careful not to exclude potential customers though and should always offer an alternative method alongside social sign up.

Once a user is signed up, intelligent cross selling can be integrated into the overall on-boarding journey. Using financial services as the example again, if a user has completed the on-boarding process for a current account, the provider will have most of the information required to on-board them for other products too. As a result, they can intelligently offer the user speedy access to a new savings account for example and auto populate the majority of the details required if the user agrees.

As with all areas of digital, customer on-boarding will continue to make advancements. Use of location services from smart devices has been mooted as the next innovation in verification but also poses potential security risks.

If, like us, you’d like to keep up to date with the goings on in customer on-boarding be sure to check back at the Radical Company blog for more of our thoughts and findings.