What Is Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM)?

Customer identity and access management (CIAM) makes the customer login experience complete. There is more at stake than just registration and authentication, and that is why CIAM has come into play. But what is CIAM, and why do you need to know about it?

Customer identity and access management (CIAM) is a digital identity management software solution for businesses that combines login verification with customer data storage. CIAM aims to improve the customer’s sign-up and login experience while securely managing customer identities. It also offers the luxury of a centralized customer database that links all other apps and services to provide a secure and seamless customer experience.

CIAM ensures a secure, seamless customer experience
Strong CIAM solutions usually provide a combination of features including customer registration, self-service account management, consent and preference management, single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA), access management, directory services and data access governance. The best CIAM solutions ensure a secure, seamless customer experience at extreme scale and performance, no matter which channels (web, mobile, etc.) customers use to engage with a brand.

These solutions can be delivered via software that can be deployed on premises, in private clouds or via API-first Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) platforms. These platforms expose their capabilities—including admin capabilities—via APIs and are geared toward development teams who want to embed CIAM services into their applications. Regardless of delivery method, the goal is to make the experience of accessing digital applications seamless and secure.

Why is CIAM Important

Customers want two simple things as they interact with brands. Firstly, they want brands to make it easy for them. They demand great user experiences. Secondly, they expect brands to protect them from fraud, breaches and privacy violations. CIAM helps you do both.

Delighting your customers means ensuring their journey—from their initial introduction to your brand to the time they become your loyal advocates—is as smooth as possible. If you fall short of providing an exceptional experience, your customers may go elsewhere.


“One in three customers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience.”

Source: “Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right,” PwC, 2018 


Given what’s at stake, a great customer experience is no longer just nice to have; it’s a critical differentiator. In their ”Experience is everything” report, PwC found that 32% of customers will abandon a favorite brand after just one bad experience.
 
You can’t stop at experience either. Customers also care deeply about security. A 2019 Ping Identity report revealed that 81% of customers would stop engaging with a brand online following a breach (a 3% increase over 2018), and one in four would stop all interaction whatsoever. The most recent Cost of a Data Breach study found that of the $3.86 million average cost of a data breach.

What Is Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM)? 2

To give your customers what they want and keep them coming back requires both delighting them and protecting them. Customer IAM helps you strike the ideal balance between customer experience and security, without needing to sacrifice one in pursuit of the other.