Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) is a specific twist on identity and access management (IAM), focused on customer identities. Where traditional workforce IAM strategy is focused on security, productivity and compliance, CIAM aims to improve the customer registration and login experience, as well as reduce the risk of account takeover, which is rampant in the consumer space because of password reuse. CIAM isn’t just limited to consumers, but can also apply to other businesses, such as a company’s enterprise customers.
Scale is also an important factor in CIAM. Unlike workforce identity, where you could have up to hundreds of thousands of users who are employees, customer identity use cases must support tens if not hundreds of millions of customers. Consequently, CIAM solutions must be able to scale to meet the demands of your customers.
In the identity space there are both vendors that specialize in CIAM and vendors that handle both customer and workforce identities. Regardless of which type of vendor you choose for your CIAM project, it’s useful to keep in mind the key benefits that a CIAM solution should provide.
Keep customer data safe from attacks: Consumers are notorious for reusing passwords for the dozens of services they use online. CIAM protects those passwords with multi-factor authentication (MFA). Or better yet, CIAM provides adaptive MFA, which looks at various contextual factors, such as location, time of day, and device, to support even stronger security by increasing authentication requirements for high risk login attempts.
Create seamless and trusted digital experiences for customers: Many companies have multiple web applications and portals that each have their own identity store, which requires users to authenticate multiple times when switching between different applications. This creates additional friction during the login process. By integrating all your digital channels with a single CIAM solution, you can provide a more seamless user experience for customers without requiring yet another password.
Quickly migrate customers without interrupting the user experience: Many CIAM projects encounter roadblocks when faced with the challenge of migrating users off of a legacy or homegrown system. A CIAM solution should work with your existing system to quickly migrate your customers without impacting the experience.
Customize the experience with flexible APIs: When building applications, developers want to ensure a seamless customer experience for securing access to digital resources. APIs provide the flexibility needed to customize authentication requirements throughout the development lifecycle.
IAM and CIAM requirements are similar when it comes to scalability, security, and accessibility. Both must include these three components to guarantee a great user experience, whether for internal employees or external customers. The ways in which CIAM goes beyond the traditional IAM approach are:
Scalability: A CIAM solution must be able to handle increased Internet traffic both in terms of volume and frequency. Unlike IAM for employee use, your customer portal must be able to support millions of users. It also has to be able to handle rapid spikes in traffic. Use of the portal is unpredictable, but there will be peak times when many people are hitting your system at the same time and your CIAM solution must be able to handle those peaks.
Security with minimal friction: In the past, companies only gave consumers one option for signing in: username and password. Now that MFA is commonplace, applications often require two or more factors before granting users access. To ensure that adding MFA factors is not discouraging users from creating accounts, CIAM must be implemented in smart ways so as to not slow down or block customers. To keep the barrier of entry low, companies also often lean towards using social media identity for passwordless authentication. You want to have options in how you secure authentication, so be sure your CIAM solution offers enough flexibility to support your particular business.
Accessibility: CIAM provides high accessibility to your company’s brand and products for existing and potential customers. Your customers should be able to get what they need on any device and at any time. A consistent login experience across many channels, whether a website, mobile app or store kiosk, creates positive user experiences that keep your customers returning time and time again.
Companies often need to let business customers access some of their applications, such as order management or inventory systems. As increasingly more businesses have IAM solutions in place for their employees, it makes sense to just establish trust between the respective IAM solutions so that their employees can get one-click access to the inventory system instead of having to use additional credentials. This not only increases security, but also significantly improves usability.
Consumers have to remember a lot of passwords. Whether it’s their social media, online banking, or online streaming accounts, the number quickly adds up. As consumer services are breached around the world, hackers accumulate more and more credentials, which are sold and bought online to launch large-scale password stuffing attacks using extensive bot networks.
This puts consumers who reuse passwords at particular risk. With CIAM, you can give the consumer the option to add a second authentication factor or sign in with their social identity, which provides stronger protection against account takeover.
According to Gartner, CIAM is an essential component to building solid customer trust. In fact, by 2020, companies that implement digitally trustworthy customer solutions will generate 20 percent more online profit than those that do not. With a Trusted Customer Experiences™ solution, companies can build a strong foundation for customer identity, while minimizing operating costs, maximizing revenue and optimizing the customer experience.
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