A lot of online services today take advantage of social media identities. You can start using a subscription service such as Spotify or Viaplay service with your Facebook identity. Social media identities minimize friction in adopting new consumer services. The same use case is not really practical for business-to-business environment. Social media identities are not usable in cases, where larger transactions take place, even in the consumer world. And I can’t see these low level of assurance identities being used in the financial, healthcare or government sector. For online service providers this means that they need to figure out what is the appropriate identity they can accept.

Lets look at the digital identities through their use cases rather than technology.


Customer Conversion

Anything that lowers friction when registering or capturing a visitor should be considered. If you are considering slapping a username and password and a registration form into your new shiny online service – take a deep breath, and reconsider. Yet another password is the number one reason for abandoning a service. Let your visitors use something that they already have.

In the light of recent events, you might want to offer your visitors alternatives to Facebook. We know that Facebook was hoarding data, and that its business model is based on selling targeted ads. What most of us didn’t really realise (or care) was how much Facebook actually processes our data weather we actively use Facebook or not, and how eager they’ve been selling our data to third parties. Therefore, you can’t solely rely on Facebook social media identities for capturing your visitors. Add other brands as well, such as Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft etc. All of these are low level identities – you just can’t be sure that the identity is a valid one, but they are good in easing their registration pain.

If you need more accurate identity data during registration, you have plenty of alternatives to choose from. A global alternative is Mobile Connect, an initiative by GSMA and already available in multiple countries with over three billion potential users – and more coming each month as mobile network operators launch their own Mobile Connect services. Local alternatives exist in many forms. Some countries have launched trust networks, where you can acquire nationwide authentication services using a single contract. Or you may have a framework in place that allows you to connect to local identity providers – organisations that have created digital identities to their customers and are offering third parties to utilise those identities within their own services. A common thread among these providers is that they

  • Very often provide strong authentication with verified identity attributes
  • Don’t have a business model where personal data is exploited in every imaginable way – quite the contrary, they are typically very privacy oriented

There are also companies that can offer multinational identity brokering services, like Telia [in Finnish]. These brokering services are typically connected to country networks, or have established links to local, country level, identity providers. Through Identity Brokers companies can easily acquire services that provide convenient authentication with valid identity data.

When choosing an appropriate identity for conversion you must weigh in at least these facts: How difficult it is for the visitor and how trustworthy is the identity. Social media identities are very convenient for the end users (if they have one), but have taken a huge hit on the trust side. Even in the congressional hearing Mark Zuckerberg failed to describe how Facebook follows its users while they are not using their services. The other alternatives might be a bit more cumbersome to use, but their trustworthiness is way better than social identities. To increase your conversion rates – why not offer a good selection of third party identities from social to other more privacy oriented alternatives.


Customer Retention

The golden 80:20 rule applies here – it’s easier to sell to existing customers. If they have taken their time to become your customers, they are more likely to buy again from you than your competition. But if you make their life difficult, customers will vote with their feet (or keyboard as this is all about digital).

The appropriate identity plays a part here. There are quite a few online services out there already with vast customer databases (accounts). What you can do to make the life of a customer easier is to allow something called User Driven Federation. In practise this means that the customer can link a third party identity to their existing account and instead of using the forgotten and subsequently reset password for logins. Mobile Connect is a prime example here, as some mobile network operators have implemented authentication solutions that utilize the biometric capabilities of a mobile phone. Logging in with your fingerprint? Can it get any easier? And you won’t easily forget your fingerprint…


Special Case: Appropriate Identity for your Business Customers

Most of the text above deals with challenges related to more consumer type of services. But the same problems persist in the B2B environment, where yet another password is a curse. For business customers, service providers can allow single sign-on from the business customer network, if they have one. For smaller businesses without their own network infrastructure, the service provider can allow access using something that they already have, including a social media identity – but typically this identity will be linked into an existing account they have with the service provider. For an extended explanation on how to better manage your business customers, check out our Customer IAM blogs or the Customer IAM 101 Webinar.


How / Where to Get Appropriate Authentication?

Don’t even think about starting your own project developing the necessary technology. The key component that you need is an Identity Provider (IdP), and there’s plenty out there – Including our (the first European, fully interoperability certified IdP) Identity Server. Authentication protocols change and evolve. The Identity Provider will make sure you can take advantage of new authentication methods and trust frameworks. If you need to manage customer identities, link third party authentication methods to the existing accounts, you need your own Identity Server. If you only need authentication, you can search an identity broker that can provide services in your own market area.

Contact us to learn how we can help you to manage your customer identities.