CIAM: What Is Customer Identity and Access Management?

CIAM: What Is Customer Identity and Access Management?

Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) solutions help you verify account logins and protect yourself and your customers from fraud. They form a critical tool for combining digital security with frictionless customer experience. For industries such as financial services, eCommerce, and healthcare, an effective CIAM solution is essential.

Here we’ll cover what you need to know to pick the right CIAM solution. First, we’ll define CIAM and how it differs from internal Identity and Access Management solutions. After clarifying CIAM’s meaning, we’ll consider why it’s important and who needs it. Finally, we’ll review seven core elements that should be a part of an effective CIAM system.

What Is CIAM?

CIAM, short for Customer Identity and Access Management or Customer Identity and Access Manager, is a business software application that provides clients with login credentials and verifies the identity of users attempting to log in with those credentials. The term may also refer to the login management and access control procedures that are automated by CIAM apps.

CIAM is designed to provide authorized users with secure, quick, and easy access to their accounts while preventing access by unauthorized users. CIAM includes:

  • Procedures for configuring digital customer identities, such as creating usernames, choosing passwords, setting up profiles, and assigning which features customers can access through role and permissions management
  • Procedures for authorizing access to customer accounts, using online identity authentication methods and identity proofing procedures such as multi-factor authentication and biometric authentication.

CIAM plays a vital role in delivering customers a frictionless experience during the onboarding phase of their customer journey. It also ensures that clients enjoy secure yet hassle-free access to their accounts throughout the customer lifecycle, promoting satisfaction and repeat business.

What Is the Difference between CIAM vs. IAM?

Customer IAM uses methods and technology similar to Identity Access Management procedures for authorizing employee access to company accounts. The key difference between CIAM and IAM solutions is that IAM is an internal, company-facing approach to managing account access, while CIAM is external and customer-facing. Because of this, CIAM may protect access to certain types of personal data more commonly associated with customers than employees, such as stored payment information or data specific to certain industries, such as stored healthcare data.

Why Is CIAM Important?

CIAM provides a range of important benefits for businesses that deliver digital services:

  • Frictionless customer experience: using a CIAM app streamlines the authentication process and eliminates login friction, providing a personalized and seamless customer experience
  • Sales and customer retention: using a CIAM to improve the login experience promotes reduced abandonment rates, increased conversion rates, and higher customer retention rates
  • Enhanced personalization: a CIAM app helps you gather valuable insights on customer behaviors and what drives positive customer experiences
  • Security and privacy: CIAM security and identity verification cybersecurity procedures keep customer data private and secure, protecting your customers and your business from fraud, data breaches, and privacy violations, along with associated expenses
  • Regulatory compliance: in certain jurisdictions and some industries such as finance and healthcare, CIAM authentication may be necessary to comply with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) laws such as the PATRIOT ACT, data privacy laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and age verification requirements

These benefits make CIAM invaluable for companies interacting with customers through digital portals.

Who Needs a CIAM Platform?

CIAM can be helpful for any business which provides customers with online account access. Using a CIAM app is particularly critical for use cases such as:

  • Banking and financial services, where regulatory obligations apply
  • Healthcare, where privacy regulations intersect with customer identity management issues
  • eCommerce and retail, where CIAM plays a vital role in delivering a satisfying digital experience for the customer
  • Travel and hospitality, where specific industries such as airlines may have regulatory requirements in addition to needing CIAM as a business best practice
  • Event management
  • Industries with age verification requirements, such as gambling, gaming, and alcohol distribution

In addition to these specific industries, companies with an online portal where customers regularly access digital services or account information can benefit from adopting a CIAM solution.

Seven Core Elements of a CIAM Solution

What should you look for when selecting a CIAM software provider? Here are seven of the essential functionalities to consider when shopping for CIAM solutions:

1. Self-Service Features

For identity management to be efficient for your customers and support team, your CIAM solution should have powerful self-service features. Otherwise, your customers can become frustrated when they keep running into issues requiring support. Your support team can get overwhelmed trying to manage large volumes of tickets that involve routine matters that could have been handled more efficiently through self-service. Some of the most important self-service features to look for include:

  • User identity verification: Does your CIAM solution include automated user identity verification features such as biometric authentication, which can establish identities rapidly without requiring customers to solicit human support?
  • Social identity registration and login: cCan customers use your CIAM solution to integrate their social media login credentials with your login procedure, saving them time?
  • Customer profile generation and management: Do your CIAM tools allow customers to create and manage their profiles without help?
  • Personalization: Does your CIAM app customize the user experience based on customers’ data for a more personalized experience?
  • Support: Does your CIAM tool make it easy for customers to request assistance when customers encounter issues they can’t solve through self-service?

Selecting a CIAM solution with these features will empower your customers to solve most of their login issues while saving your team time.

2. Single Sign-On Authentication (SSO)

Single-Sign-On authentication allows customers to use a login from one software service to access other apps which have been given shared permission to accept the same login credentials. For example, Google Account users who are logged in can access other Google services such as Gmail and YouTube without having to log in again.

SSO saves users time typing multiple usernames and passwords, and it can mitigate certain security risks by avoiding the need to log in numerous times and remember various credentials. This makes SSO a vital feature to look for in a CIAM solution.

3. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication strengthens basic security by requiring users who have entered a password to provide additional authentication of their identity. This may consist of answering a question, typing in a code texted to the user’s smartphone, taking a selfie photo for comparison with a stored photo ID, or other methods.

MFA makes it more difficult for identity thieves to hijack valid credentials by stealing a password or device since additional verification is required to complete the login process. This can limit vulnerabilities in other identity verification methods. For example, an identity thief who hacked an SSO password might be able to use it to access multiple accounts without MFA, but adding MFA makes this much more difficult.

4. Centralized User Management

Centralized user management provides a single repository your IT team can use to store and manage customer identities and credentials. This is a critical CIAM feature for assisting customers with password updates and login issues. It also enables you to sync customer information and updates across multiple apps and devices, avoiding problems that can arise if this has to be done manually.

Centralized user management further strengthens your security by providing an interface your automation tools, and IT team can use to address security risks and breaches. Your CIAM tool should provide you with centralized user management.

5. Reporting and Analytics

A secure CIAM solution must empower your team with solid reporting and analytics features. This lets you identify customer account access patterns and analyze possible snags in your procedures that are disrupting your user experience. For example, suppose your analytics data indicates that many customers are failing to complete the process of confirming their passwords. In that case, this may mean your confirmation emails are getting flagged as spam.

Reporting and analytics tools also help you spot red flags which indicate suspicious activity. This enables you to prevent fraud and identity theft.

6. Integration via APIs and SDKs

Your customers need to be able to use your CIAM solution to access your services through any devices and networks they use, whether this is through a mobile device, a desktop, a laptop, or a company network. If you want them to be able to use SSO, they’ll also need to be able to share permissions between your app and third-party apps. This requires a supporting development infrastructure that allows your team to set up the necessary integrations and customizations.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) connect one software app to another in an integrated workflow, allowing you to share passwords between apps. Software Development Kits (SDKs) let your team build customized apps and make the most out of APIs.

When choosing a CIAM solution, make sure that it supports any integrations or customizations you need to do. Look for a solution that supports out-of-the-box integration with the apps your software needs to connect with.

7. Scalability

Another critical feature to look for in your CIAM solution is scalability. If you have many customers, your support team doesn’t have time to field frequent support requests over routine issues that could be handled automatically. For example, you don’t want your representatives to spend the bulk of their time helping users recover lost passwords or log in after a false positive failed to authenticate valid credentials.

A scalable solution should make it easy for you to automate the management of your current volume of customers as well as expand to handle anticipated growth. Look for a CIAM app that can quickly scale up to the level your projected growth requires.

Automate Your CIAM Processes with Incode

CIAM is essential for providing security to customers accessing your services online without diluting their user experience with inefficient procedures. This is especially critical for businesses in sectors such as financial services, where regulatory considerations come into play, and eCommerce, where online experience can make or break your business.

But as the list above suggests, effective CIAM solutions can be complex. Engaging a third-party Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) provider offers a convenient way to ensure compliance and implement CIAM quickly.

Incode’s Omni platform can provide a complete solution for organizations getting started with CIAM or a custom solution that integrates with your existing processes through API. Omni uses artificial intelligence to power frictionless identity management across all channels and delivers your customers a secure, speedy authentication experience. Contact us today to see how our CIAM solution can help you simplify your customer identity and access management.