The sharing economy largely contracted over the past year as consumers retreated into their homes for safety and public health reasons. The space appears to be growing once more as the world opens back up, however, said Shirly Kalush, chief business development officer for mobility provider GoTo Global, in a recent PYMNTS interview.
GoTo Global, which is available in Israel, Malta and Spain, enables both consumers and businesses to rent vehicles such as cars, vans, eBikes, mopeds and kick scooters via its mobile app. Kalush explained that consumers are returning to vehiclesharing and other sharing economy services in higher numbers, as many of them are more comfortable with the private nature of rented vehicles than with hailing taxis or using public transportation. She noted that GoTo itself experienced a significant increase in users as vaccination rates climbed.
“When you look at the decision-making tree, you are thinking, ‘Me, as a person, do I want to be surrounded by other people … or would I rather travel by myself?’” Kalush said. “And given that, as a result of the pandemic [and] many people moved to work from their homes, they no longer need their cars or second cars and, as a result, many are selling their second cars.”
Consumers’ increasing use of vehiclesharing services and similar offerings, as well as their high utility and safety expectations, also comes with a few challenges for companies. These include confirming that the consumers using these apps are who they claim to be. Verifying their identities quickly and easily is becoming essential for sharing economy firms to keep pace with demand without sacrificing security as more bad actors seek out these online platforms for malicious purposes, often threatening the safety of sharing economy participants’ personal information as well as their physical well-being.
Winning The Digital Identity Verification
The hurdles surrounding verification for vehiclesharing offer valuable insight into why identity verification is such a crucial part of the sharing economy in general. Renting out vehicles like cars or mopeds in most markets requires customers to have valid government-issued driver’s licenses, Kalush explained. GoTo Global works with a third-party verification services provider to vet potential renters’ identities. Prospective customers must first scan photos of their driver’s licenses, and automated technology then imports the relevant information into the systems, she said. These users are then required to provide photos of their faces so they can be compared with the photos on their licenses.
“The benefit in Europe is that with a car driver’s license, you can also drive mopeds, [which] is good because it opens the market, as you do not need a specific moped license,” she said. “And in addition … you also take a picture of your face so that [we] recognize that the ID and your face [belong to] the same person [and that] you did not steal the ID or something like that. It really gives another benefit, another layer of confidence for us.”
Having robust identity verification tools in place helps ward off fraudsters as well as users who legally cannot utilize certain services. Israeli consumers who are younger than 18 can rent mechanical bikes but are not legally able to rent cars or vans, for example. Kalush explained that users who are under the legal driving age go through a shortened automated onboarding process that does not require a driver’s license but will block them from utilizing vehicles they are not legally eligible to use. This makes it critical to use automation or other emerging technologies that can swiftly determine who is eligible for digital-first sharing services.
“Anything that can be automated — such as [the] connection to government databases to see that the driver’s license is not stolen, to see that the license number matches, to see that the face matches the ID and to see it is not a stolen ID — [is a] super important [functionality] in user verification, as long as [it] does not hurt user conversion,” Kalush said.
This is especially important in the vehiclesharing or ridesharing spaces, where companies must also ensure the safety of their vehicles as well as their drivers and riders, she continued. The need for automated, secure digital identity verification solutions is likely to grow as more consumers flock to their mobile phones to access vehicle rentals and similar services in a contactless, seamless way. It is therefore important for sharing services to keep a close eye on exactly how digital identity — and consumers’ perceptions of it — may shift in the future.
Prepping For The Digital Identity Future
Discussions surrounding the future of digital identity are hardly new, especially in the sharing economy. Individuals have been renting homes on sites like Airbnb for vacations, using their smartphones to buy coffee or access delivery services and booking rides with increasing frequency over the past several years. Analyzing all of these activities can help a company comprehensively evaluate an individual’s typical behaviors and determine overall trustworthiness.
“On the business side, of course the [more] complete the data we have on our customer, the better [it is], both in terms of safety and [in terms of knowing] who is using our platform,” she said.
Access to customer data is key to helping businesses develop services that are better tailored to their customers and their identity verification expectations, but the responsibility of having this data also means that privacy and security are becoming essential. Staying abreast of how consumers’ digital identity verification and privacy needs are shifting is a priority for businesses seeking to create a safe and seamless environment for sharing economy workers and participants.