Blockchain: every engagement tells a story

Customer onboarding has changed rapidly in recent years. In some areas, providers are creating simple, low cost, intuitive digital experiences that have fuelled the growth of their business and brands.

Technology is changing the way customers approach the purchase of goods and services. In 2015, it was reported that more searches are conducted via mobile than desktop, with 48% starting on a search engine. The decision making process is also changing – fuelled by information, people are being influenced by multiple channels, in multiple ways.

Eight out of 10 customers are now spending considerable time and effort in researching and evaluating the products and services they desire (12-15 hours) – from watching online videos and utilising comparison sites, to reading user ratings on social media.

Significant opportunity exists to make this process quicker and easier. Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) over the next 3 to 5 years will mean customers will no longer personally need to conduct their own time-consuming research. AI will provide bespoke recommendations on why a product or service best fits the customer, validated with evidence from research data and combined with the customer’s personal information, such as age, lifestyle data and purchase history. This somewhat conceptual landscape is moving fast. Machine learning, cognitive systems and technological developments are taking centre stage in many business discussions. There are questions raised around which ones are viable, cost effective or rewarding enough?

In the context of onboarding, Blockchain could be used to provide a transparent and trustworthy platform for provenance, presenting historic transactional data. An organisation could publicly share a product’s origin and track it throughout the chain of production, while recording its statements publicly for posterity. At the end of the chain, a customer can check details of the product, its on-going suitability and review their path to purchase. This transparent and open record of a customer’s transactional behaviours can provide a beneficial insight into an individual but also complement areas such as AI.

Some have reservations about Blockchain – considering whether it will threaten growth but also the stability of business models. Whilst on the other hand some perceive it as an opportunity to streamline cluttered processes, improve resilience and enhance transparency. More importantly the use of Blockchain offers transparency through the promise of a unique shared database – that spans multiple sites and geographies – acting as a public ledger of all transactions.

Like organisations, some compliance experts, such as the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (Enisa), have reservations around Blockchain. And importantly they want to ensure any organisation who adopts Blockchain considers the security challenges associated with technology. Organisations shouldn’t be lured by the premise of efficient and more cost effective processes that Blockchain suggests, it argues. Like any innovation, or new development, firms should consider the breadth of it as a service solution.

Enisa has also stated that Blockchain can bring some security benefits, including enhanced transaction privacy and the ability to follow an audit trail. Like anything, the pros and cons need measuring – but in the arena of Blockchain, compliance and security needs to have a critical assessment when considering implementation

Onboarding can require multiple people and multiple departments to be involved. Blockchain offers the ability to eliminate the need for middlemen. Blockchain can be plugged into existing technology in order to make it cost effective and usable. So while considering the multiple touch points of a customer, the various influencers and stages of the customer buying journey, Blockchain could support consistency of storing information.

Blockchain is largely new. It hasn’t been widely tested and its concept promises a lot, but also presents areas of concern.

This shouldn’t be a restricting factor though, like any new idea, it needs to be explored and considered holistically – in line with all processes, security measures and business strategies. The adoption of technology as a delivery mechanism, such as Blockchain, will be heavily reliant on trust. Trust not only from the organisation in order to adopt, but from migrating trust from current, centralised processes, to a new distribution model. This will be unachievable without a test and learn approach to it. Trust can’t be formed from spectating, organisations and executives need to build trust in the concept by engaging with the technology directly to understand how it can be deployed into the business. But, when you take the punt to try it, make sure you consider every angle – and are prepared to adopt, flex and develop it as a concept as time continues.