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A few years ago, I noticed an alarming trend at Socure: despite fintechs launching in new global regions, they weren’t seeing the growth rates they had projected. Usage was flat, conversion rates were lower than average, and end-users reported frustrating experiences with aspects of their application process in online forums. It didn’t make sense – the fintechs were offering more potential customers the chance to use their services, so why weren’t they converting?

We dug into the data and surveys to better understand the issues. The results were eye-opening. We found that many people around the world simply couldn’t use U.S.-based fintechs at all. One fintech required the name form to have at least 3 characters, and others didn’t know how to handle languages that commonly used escape characters like Arabic, Thai, Korean, and Japanese scripts. Multiple aspects failed. Others felt alienated when legacy identification providers couldn’t accommodate their names, languages, or address formats. Some even said they found requests for personal data unnecessary and off-putting due to past negative experiences. 

Legacy providers have failed these consumers and organizations they serve through overreliance on static edit distances, soundex phonetic encoding, and rigid lexical rules that have long been favored in entity resolution problem solving. The problem with these types of entity resolution is that it often leads to negative bias regarding Latin, Middle Eastern, and Asian names, which may entail hyphenation or short string length. 

Identifying Identity Verification Inclusion Challenges Across the World

By not considering these users and their unique circumstances, legacy vendors run the risk of excluding these populations altogether. Rather than relying on the accepted best practices of the past, the Socure team realized that new industry standards were needed. We are committed to building the most inclusive identity verification software possible.

To understand challenges firsthand, we asked our own globally distributed and diverse team about their experiences. We then looked at native businesses in Vietnam, Kenya, India, Korea, Brazil, and other markets to observe how they used products that required identity verification. We supplemented with quantitative and qualitative research. We made accessibility and inclusion a part of everyone’s function with key champions across products. 

Making Changes to Reach More Users

As a result of this research, our team made sweeping changes to the Socure platform. We provided guidance to customers on how to handle foreign scripts, as well as how to collect identity information in cultures that don’t use first names at all and in cultures where customers want to use their preferred name, rather than their legal name. We localized all languages, allowing names and addresses to be entered in each script. We wrote preprocessing scripts to transform localized data formats into global standards for better resolution, rather than the other way around. 

Our team also helped customers redesign signup flows to accommodate limited connectivity and only collect information that’s needed, effectively enabling them to provide a personalized progressive onboarding experience. We also focused on data acquisition in some of the most rural areas and younger demographics that traditional datasets didn’t have broad coverage on. When our business moved into the public sector, we prioritized access and a customer experience that out-performed competitors.

The results speak for themselves. 

We’ve seen dramatic upticks in account signups, improved conversion rates across the board, and higher customer satisfaction. By making inclusiveness and accessibility core parts of our product experience, we’re now able to serve and benefit many more users around the globe. 

The moral of the story? Building inclusive products is vital for any business that wants to maximize its potential customer base. Make inclusiveness a priority, understand your users’ needs, provide alternative and flexible options, consider cultural differences, and you’ll be rewarded with greater access, higher engagement, and a much larger addressable market. As we expand our business into the public sector, making sure every person is able to access identity verification is critical to us and our government partners. 

At Socure, focusing on inclusiveness and accessibility has improved customer access to financial services and other industries. To support our mission of verifying 100% of good identities in real time, Socure is committed to continuous progress toward the most inclusive identity verification experience possible. We call on every organization to make inclusive and accessible design a priority as well. By building apps with and for the most marginalized, we can ultimately build better applications that benefit all of us. 

Our Know Your Customer (KYC) and Document Verification products are best-in-class, designed to help organizations securely onboard every consumer, regardless of the format of their name, language, or trusted documentation they can provide. We recently published an insights guide on how to address the challenges of onboarding key consumer groups – download your copy here. 

Josh Linn

Leading digital identity verification and authentication strategy for a top 10 FI before joining Socure in 2018 to lead Data Acquisition efforts, Josh Linn now serves as Senior Vice President of Machine Learning Product Management & GM of RegTech leading innovation for the regulatory compliance and predictive analytics platforms. He holds and MBA from Syracuse University and a Master's of Science in Information Systems from Northwestern University.