​Getting customer IAM right

Mark Perry, APAC Chief Technology Officer and Principal Architect at PING Identity

Identity and access management (IAM) has traditionally been associated with solutions designed to manage employee access to on-premises applications and systems, but these days it’s a whole lot more.

With the internet now a critical channel for business, creating effective IAM systems for customers has grown in importance. With increasing numbers choosing to shop online, and using a range of devices, companies are faced with a whole new set of IAM challenges.

As well as basics such as names, email addresses and shipping details, businesses also need insight into things such as buyer behaviour, product preferences and privacy choices. In the digital world, the degree to which companies know and understand their customers can make the difference between enjoying long-term loyalty and losing them to a competitor.

Unique requirements of CIAM

Businesses need to understand that managing IAM for customers is very different from doing it for employees. For example, customer IAM (CIAM) requires the ability for much greater scalability. Add the need to offer first-rate usability, convenience, security and privacy and the challenge increases further.

For these reasons, CIAM requirements are very different from typical enterprise IAM. The key requirements for an effective CIAM system include:

Good usability: Providing a user-friendly experience is a make-or-break factor for CIAM. If customers deem the process to be too complex or tedious they will opt out and go elsewhere. The interface needs to be intuitive and simple to use.

Scalability and performance: CIAM solutions must be able to scale up to handle increased traffic, including unpredictable demand spikes and usage patterns. Employee IAM solutions may be able to support thousands of employees at relatively predictable times, but few are designed to meet the elastic demands and peak usage requirements of customer-facing applications. In some cases, the CIAM must be able to handle many millions of customers, often simultaneously, while ensuring high performance.

Consistency across engagement channels: Consumers can interact with a business via a range of channels including web or mobile browsers, mobile apps, in-store kiosks or even phone calls or visits to a store. They expect a seamless, consistent experience across whichever channels they choose to use.

Maximising conversion rates: The way customer identity is managed has a direct impact on a business’s bottom line. Get it right, and conversion and adoption rates will improve. Get it wrong, and the opposite occurs. The key lies in simplifying everything and balancing convenience with security. If friction points are minimised from the initial usage touchpoint, conversions will be maximised.

Unified customer view: When a business has separate customer engagement channels or acquires new brands or products, the probability is high that an individual customer exists across multiple properties and directories. The right CIAM solution will provide the business with a unified view of the customer across all forms of contact. This allows for more personalised engagement and deeper insights that can drive revenue-generating opportunities.

End-to-end security: Consumers are protective of their personal data and fearful of potential threats. Having a centralised CIAM solution is the core of a strong security posture, providing end-to-end data encryption and security to provide a higher degree of confidence and put customer concerns at bay.

Privacy and data sharing consent: Consumers are increasingly concerned about how their personal data is used and shared. It’s become a critical competitive requirement that leading brands not only provide privacy and consent options, but make these options user friendly. If the customer can’t easily find or use them, they might as well not exist. A CIAM solution plays a critical role in ensuring customer confidence, as well as compliance with privacy regulations across all the jurisdictions in which a business operates.

Managing personal preferences: Customers expect a tailored experience that is relevant to their interests and needs. Capturing and managing these preferences is an increasingly critical part of delivering successful customer experiences. Augmenting identity profiles with preference data enables companies to personalise products, offers and communication frequency and methods.

Delivering business value

CIAM systems are no longer the purview just of the IT department but have an impact on the business as whole. This is because the CIAM solution may be the first interaction a customer has with a company or brand. Design it well, and customers will be delighted. Design it poorly, and their frustration could easily lead to abandonment and missed opportunities.

Until recently, customer identity solutions were typically customised one-offs or a combination of custom code, portals and employee IAM solutions. However CIAM has different and distinct considerations and technical needs. Trying to bolt on functionality to your existing enterprise IAM solution just doesn’t cut it.

A comprehensive CIAM solution must address familiar technological considerations such as usability, scalability, privacy and security. It must also extend to encompass marketing and business analytics requirements such as consistency, conversion and a unified view of the customer.

With the right CIAM solution, a business can deliver the simple, frictionless experience customers expect, while ensuring the security that the business requires.

Tags IT SecurityIdentity And Access Management (IAM)Mark Perryend-to-end securityCIAMcustomer IAMCyber security training

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