Competition is tough in the retail industry, including online where Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) effectively compete with large retail corporations. Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) can make a business competitive difference.

The NAB Online Retail Sales Index reports that Australian SME retailers grow faster than large corporations online. In February 2017, NAB reported the 2016 Australian retail online sales to be $21.65 billion, with a growth of 10.8% year on year across the retail industry, and a highlight growth of 18% for SMEs that made 36% of the sales online.

Managing efficiently consumers’ digital identities and providing secure and convenient access to online transactions is obviously worth some serious consideration, because a retailer’s login screen is a new storefront.

The processes of customer online identity registration and authentication create a first impression that influences the uptake of online services, whether through web or mobile applications. Customers can turn to another service provider when identity and access management processes are too difficult or too clumsy (a personal story here).

I would suggest the following recommendations to both SME and large retailers seeking to further extend their online market share:

  1. Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) is a Customer Service project. CIAM is not an IT or a Security project – It is a business project with direct Customer eXperience (CX) and customer satisfaction impact. Don’t leave it to the Security team to drive, but get them to help with it. Under Customer Service leadership, CIAM stakeholders should also include business line representatives (e.g. grocery), digital marketing, IT and Security.
  2. CIAM is a business differentiator and an asset when the CIAM functions strike a good balance of CX and Security. CIAM can be “Strong and Nice”, delivering a strong security and a nice CX at the same time.
  3. Know your customers digitally. Consider your target demographics, and tune CIAM to it. For example, some people need to see and experience Security to develop digital trust. Other people don’t need and don’t want to see it and having Security too visible is counter productive (a story here). A CIAM solution can offer customers choices about how they experience their engagement with online services (e.g. authentication method). A CIAM solution should also integrate with CRM and marketing analytics systems.
  4. Privacy is your business partner. Privacy regulations, such as the Privacy Act in Australia, could be seen as a compliance headache and a business hindrance. I don’t see it that way. On the contrary, I believe that a further business differentiation can be developed by being very transparent with what we do with customers’ data and by providing an easy way for customers to control it.
  5. Look for a CIAM solution that is clearly consumer focused. Gartner makes a good case as to why legacy enterprise IAM solutions are not a good fit for customers.

Consumer IAM is a critical element of a digital business strategy. It helps enable the digital customer experience, protect consumers’ privacy, and secure data and resources. (Gartner)

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