The Crunch: Identity verification is a necessary protection for retailers that offer discounts to members of groups — such as students or members of the military. But e-commerce businesses need to provide a seamless customer experience while securely verifying identities online. ID.me, a digital identity platform founded to help veterans access more benefits, verifies and stores members’ ID cards for secure, single sign-on access to discounts with over 200 partnered brands. Retailers that integrate with ID.me benefit from higher conversion rates, more targeted email marketing, and a network of social channels that draw traffic to their programs. By innovating digital identity verification, ID.me extends group promotional programs to e-commerce and the omnichannel store. For those unique capabilities, the company has earned our Retailer’s Choice Award.
Many retail stores, restaurants, and venues offer exclusive discounts to groups of customers distinguished by details such as their age or community service — from military personnel and first responders to teachers, students, and senior citizens. Members of these groups are typically required to present some form of identification, whether a military ID or driver’s license, to receive discounted merchandise and services.
As more transactions shift to websites and mobile apps, servicemen and others who qualify for group discounts are finding it tedious, risky, or impossible to provide that identification online — and retailers can’t easily verify it, either. This means deserving people miss out on discounts, while brands lose out on both sales and customer loyalty.
US Army veteran Blake Hall founded ID.me to address the need for secure online identity verification.
“We noticed that a lot of programs for military and students that were offered in stores, theaters, and other locations weren’t available online,” Blake said. “As we talked with marketing teams and brands, they said they’d love to create a consistent, omnichannel experience for these groups — but they had no way to verify on their websites whether a customer was, in fact, a member of one of these communities.”
ID.me is a free service that provides one-time verification of an individual’s identification cards and stores them in a digital wallet for secure, single log-in access to online benefits.
“It works like PayPal for identity, but instead of attaching a credit or debit card to every sign on, we attach verified aspects of your identity,” Blake said. “With PayPal, once you link a bank account or a credit card, you can rapidly check out wherever you see the button. ID.me works the same way.”
ID.me’s real-time verification API gives brands access to the ID.me network — to easily confirm their customer’s eligibility for promotion, avoid fraud, and provide a seamless checkout experience that satisfies the customer and boosts conversions.
“We take a lot of the friction out,” Blake said. “Instead of one online business having to verify all the students and veterans that come to it in a white-label fashion, it’s able to leverage verification checks that happened somewhere else in the network.”
ID.me enables group members to protect their personal information while taking advantage of qualifying promotions online, and it powers ID verification for hundreds of top brands. For extending the benefits of group discount programs to consumers — and retailers — in the digital marketplace, ID.me earns our Retailer’s Choice Award.
From Military ID Verification to Simplified Digital IDs for All
Blake and Harvard Business School colleague Matthew Thomas launched TroopSwap in 2010 — a project-turned-business connecting veterans to benefits through exclusive daily deals online.
Blake and his colleague had noticed veterans had more difficulty confirming their military affiliation than those on active duty. “We saw a lot of behavior that didn’t make sense — veterans having to show documents that had their Social Security number, address, name, and date of birth just to get a free appetizer on Veteran’s Day,” Blake said. So, in 2012, they decided to shift the focus of their business to online identity verification.
Veterans could set up an account with Troop ID — which verified their personal information against a government database — and use their login credentials to verify discount status on websites with the Troop ID widget. “We worked with USAA early on because it could screen IDs against military records. So, for the USAA members who served, we had a real-time API to confirm service,” Blake said.
Then large brands started to approach TroopSwap about broader applications for the technology.
“They said, ‘It’s not just military personnel — it’s students, teachers, influencers, and employee discount programs. We’d like to target and have an authentic relationship with all those segments,’” Blake said.
In 2013, TroopSwap rebranded itself as ID.me and became an identity verification platform for a wider group of communities — including teachers, students, first responders, government workers, and business employees. ID.me also began working closely with brands to create a powerful network for easy, secure access to group promotions.
And ID.me continues to expand the groups it serves. The company is working with AARP to launch AARP ID, a digital credential for AARP members to receive offers and discounts from online retailers.
The key advantage of this network is that ID.me Wallet users enjoy a convenient experience everywhere they shop. “As more communities and brands use us as a trusted, shared platform, it’s better for those individuals — who don’t have to verify their identity on each site. They verify once and bring ID.me with them,” Blake said.
ID.me Wallet Enables Group Discounts Online to Boost Conversions
ID.me powers verification for 100 top retailers as well as rebate programs with Ford and General Motors by leveraging existing protocols to design APIs that integrate with a retailer’s website as easily as Facebook Connect or Google+. The implementation process takes as little as a few days for smaller brands, while large companies may take two to three weeks to run quality assurance reviews before taking ID.me Wallet integration live.
Adding further value, ID.me can use the site’s existing promotional code functionality to verify eligibility for certain offers. When a member visits a partnering retail site, an icon in the promo code section re-directs them to ID.me, where they sign in and consent to release their information. The shopper is then directed back to the retail site to complete the transaction.
“The group affiliation triggers a hidden promo code that no one can see. Since the code is invisible, it can’t be shared,” Blake said. This process protects retailers from discount fraud while delivering a streamlined promotional experience to the shopper.
ID.me boosts customer conversion rates by enabling retailers to deliver simple, secure identity verification. “Brands have higher conversion rates because they’re not making the same person do the same thing twice. That was an important aspect of our strategy — we didn’t want a veteran to have to reverify who they are at every branded site they visit,” Blake said.
Retailers that integrate ID.me gain access to consent-based customer data from an email list of over 1 million group members and benefit from ID.me’s network of advertising partners and social marketing channels — including 2.7 million members of the military community on Facebook. ID.me also has a blog that sees significant traffic.
Under Armour — the first to integrate TroopID in 2012 — has seen improvement in multiple customer benchmarks since partnering with ID.me. Under Armour retail outlets had always honored servicemen and veterans with a 10% discount in-store, but the company needed a way to more efficiently build awareness of the program and provide this discount to its online customers.
ID.me enabled Under Armour to increase conversion rates, and its affiliate marketing revenue grew 30% year over year. The company also broke its email marketing records for open and click-through rates because it was able to approach military customers in more authentic ways — such as around military holidays — that create deeper emotional connections.
“When we activate a program with a new brand, we have the ability to promote it right away. And that’s key — you don’t just need the infrastructure, you need the capability to drive traffic to it,” Blake said.
Personalizing the In-Store Experience with Multi-Channel Verification
ID.me was founded to provide the military community with more secure ID verification and connection to benefits and discounts. That mission has expanded to include other communities, benefiting hundreds of brands and their customers by extending access to retail group promotions from physical stores to e-commerce shops.
Meanwhile, retail stores have been regaining sales and traffic by redefining themselves as omnichannel hubs where customers can mix and match mobile and in-person services. But they struggle to provide the same level of personalization. “A lot of data is lost in-store. Customers can simply flash a student or military ID card, but there’s no record of their email, purchase history, or affiliation,” Blake said.
Today, ID.me is bringing those benefits full circle by iterating its platform in brick-and-mortar stores. “We’re tying into loyalty programs for stores such as Academy Sports and Outdoors,” Blake said. “Retailers that deploy ID.me both online and in-store can recoup that data and bring in-store customers back onto their email lists.”
ID.me’s founding mission to help military veterans protect and control their personal information during verification shines through its transparent customer consent policies. “The user sees exactly what data elements ID.me is sending to the retailer in exchange for the offer. That’s a big part of what we do — keeping the user in control of their own data.”
For building a platform that partners with retailers to extend group members’ secure access to promotional programs across multiple sales channels, ID.me earns our Retailer’s Choice Award.