As the proportion of retail sales conducted online continues to climb, the level of service expected by customers is also rising.

Personalised interfaces and stock selections together with one-click payment options have rapidly become must-have features for any digital store. The more friction that exists during transactions, the more likely it is that customers will look elsewhere.

There are three key expectations that online shoppers have for the brands with which they interact. Those expectations are:

  • Convenience: Customers want to be able to interact with a website or shopping app that is intuitive to use and allows them to access the products and services they are seeking quickly and easily. Businesses need to make the effort to ensure their digital properties are carefully designed and provide a consistent and enjoyable user experience.
  • Security: Conducting digital transactions requires customers to provide personal and financial details to a retailer. This data must be fully protected at all times so that customers feel relaxed about providing it.
  • Privacy: Steps also need to be taken to ensure that data does not fall into the hands of unauthorised parties. Multiple layers of protection are required, and steps are taken to ensure that, once data is no longer required, it is deleted from all systems.

The role of CIAM

To provide the most seamless and secure online shopping experience possible, increasing numbers of businesses are making use of Customer Identity Access Management (CIAM) platforms. These platforms enable a business to securely capture and manage customer ID and profile data as well as control their access to applications and services.

From a customer’s perspective, a well-configured CIAM allows them to interact with different parts of a business without having to constantly provide their ID details. From the business’s perspective, the CIAM allows different backend systems and applications to be tied together as a cohesive whole.

Some examples of how a CIAM platform can improve the online experience for customers include:

Streamlining the account creation process:

For new customers looking to transact with a business, the first step will be to create an account and provide some personal ID details. This process needs to be a frictionless as possible and create a positive first impression.

A CIAM platform can help to achieve this by providing support for different registration options. These could include links to social media accounts or registration with other identity providers.

The CIAM platform can also assist by providing straightforward identity verification methods that let customers easily prove who they are. The platform can also help to build a robust profile of customers that will aid future transactions.

Providing a seamless sign-in experience:

Once a customer has created an account, the CIAM platform can ensure that each future sign-in experience is as pain-free as possible. This is a critical step and one that can be challenging to get right.

For this reason, multi-factor authentication (MFA) is becoming an increasingly popular choice for businesses. MFA requires customers to provide something in addition to a password to gain access and complete transactions. This could be anything from a one-time code generated by a smartphone to the receipt of an SMS containing a newly generated PIN.

Businesses need to ensure that they don’t ask customers to undertake MFA steps at multiple points during a transaction as this will lead to frustration. They should only be limited to critical points such as initial log-in and just before purchases are approved.

Control customer access:

Once customers have created an account and successfully logged in, the business needs to ensure they have access to the areas of the site that are relevant to their requirements. Here, a CIAM platform can ensure fine-grained access can be achieved without causing any friction for visiting customers.

The CIAM can allow authorisation to be centralised and a context-aware approach taken to each customer interaction. This ensures a tailored experience is delivered and then delivers a constant transactional environment.

Enforce privacy and consent policies: 

The need for consistent and secure privacy is not limited to one stage of a customer journey. Businesses must comply with one or more privacy regulations that apply at multiple touchpoints in a given digital experience.

Customers need to have the ability to make decisions not only about who their data is shared with and how it’s shared but also about what data is shared in the first place. In this way, a trusting relationship can be built that will support a long-term business relationship.

A CIAM platform can assist in this area by ensuring that all data is collected, processed, and stored in the most secure way possible. The platform can also ensure that regulatory requirements are being met at all times.

By taking these steps, a business can ensure it is well placed to attract and retain customers by providing a compelling, user friendly, and secure online experience. Implementing a CIAM platform can support these efforts and ensure a business is ready to grow its digital sales over the coming months and years.

Ashley Diffey is head of Asia Pacific and Japan at Ping Identity.