Last updated: October 19, 2021 CIAM: What is customer identity and access management?

CIAM: What is customer identity and access management?


What is customer identity and access management (CIAM), and how can it protect consumers and businesses while boosting the customer experience? We’ve got the answers in this primer on CIAM. 

Every detail counts when a brand can make things a little easier for their customers and provide an experience that makes those customers feel as though both their time and data are respected. 

Unfortunately, according to recent research, only 49% of U.S. consumers say companies provide a good customer experience today. This is leaving significant money on the table for brands. The study found that 43% of global consumers would pay more for greater convenience; 42% would pay more for a friendly, welcoming experience. And, among U.S. customers, 65% find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.

But, technology alone is not the answer. Technology is the enabler here. The answer comes from your internal team and the experience you can provide for your customers. 

Keep in mind, data privacy is only increasing in popularity and importance for consumers – and their willingness to give you their data begins with your customer experience.

After all, 43% of U.S. consumers say they would not give companies permission to collect their personal data to allow for more personalized, customized experiences. The one caveat? They will (88% of them at least) give you their data if they trust your brand. 

With such high customer expectations and so much on the line, there’s one new technology brands have at their disposal to ensure customer data security, convenience, and empower internal employees. That is customer identity and access management. 

CIAM: What is customer identity and access management?

Customer identity and access management (CIAM) solutions help provide a unified customer login experience while reducing the risk of a data breach. CIAM systems work with a brand’s front-end architecture and tech stack (website, checkout, etc.) to collect customer information from a variety of sources and store it in a centralized location. 

CIAM is particularly important and relevant to brands not only for its front-end customer login experience and backend employee 360 visibility of a customer profile, but also because of the secure management of that customer identity. 

CIAM solutions typically offer a host of features, including:

  1. Customer registration
  2. Self-service account management
  3. SSO (single sign-on)
  4. MFA (multi-factor authentication
  5. Preference and consent management
  6. Access management
  7. Directory services
  8. Governance of data access

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.


Identity and access management (IAM) handles authentication and access within an organization. For example, IAM is used when employees join, leave or change roles within a company and need updates to their user account privileges and access. 

CIAM handles authentication and access outwardly for an organization. CIAM is used, for example, when a customer registers for an account, makes changes to that account (manually or through tracked actions taken on a website), or asks to be removed from a company’s list. 

CIAM is used for both B2B and B2C organizations, where the “C” in CIAM can be a business itself rather than an individual customer.

The benefits of CIAM

The top benefits of CIAM surround three areas:

  1. Transparency
  2. Documentation
  3. Compliance

In an era of increasing data rights and regulations like GDPR and CCPA, businesses need to be clear about when, why, and how they are collecting a customer’s information, and maintain documentation of when and where that data was collected.

And, businesses need to do this in a way that is cost-effective for their teams (i.e. without a huge IT  hiring spree). 

CIAM is crucial to helping organizations manage data and profiles: 

  1. Maintains proof of how, when, where, and why you collect and process customer data
  2. Provides transparency into how you collect and use customers’ personal data
  3. Addresses the toughest requirements of consumer data privacy regulations
  4. Implements a holistic solution for managing customer profiles, preferences, and consent
  5. Stores versioned consent records for up to seven years in our audit-ready vault
  6. Ensures that consent and preferences are consistently enforced through centralized and simplified data governance and orchestration
  7. Reduces costs and IT complexity by managing digital identities, consent, authentication, and authorization from a single platform
  8. Protects against business and regulatory risks by defending sensitive data and intellectual property with dynamic access control 

CIAM gives customers the power of preference management. Customers can easily login, see what data has been collected, and edit and manage which nurture streams they are a part of, update their data (new emails perhaps, a new phone number or address, etc.), and control their own experience with your organization. 

In this way, a CIAM helps customers feel more like partners to your brand, which helps to build loyalty and trust.

Here are key ways a CIAM boosts trust and loyalty:

  • By using customizable, preconfigured workflows to capture customers’ consent and preferences at each permission-based touchpoint
  • By empowering customers to manage their own experiences through customizable, self-service preference centers
  • By onboarding customers quickly with intuitive user registration

Run smarter: Unified customer profiles and customer intelligence
As a CIAM reduces security risk and increases customer control of their own data, the system is saving internal teams from additional manual work.

Even better, the CIAM is building a unified customer profile that marketing, sales, and customer experience can use throughout a customer’s sales cycle and journey. 

  • For marketing, the team can aggregate the data to determine customer personas to market toward and gain new prospects. 
  • For sales, the team can easily get a clear picture of who their prospect is, compare them to similar profiles in the account, and personalize their pitch to build the best relationship and secure the best sale. 
  • For CX, the team can quickly see and understand a customer’s full journey and all touchpoints with the company, helping the customer easily access information they need based on past interactions. 

Data protection is a business requirement

Your customers plain and simple expect your technology solutions to work – all the time. Technology has advanced, as has the customer expectations for that technology and how a company uses technology to provide a superior customer experience. 

And data security for customers is no longer an afterthought. Customers have wised up to how data is collected, and want more say and control over their personal information anywhere they can get it.

Giving them easy access to their data, showing them where and how you collected it, and ensuring their data is safe with you builds a strong relationship on a foundation of trust. 

A CIAM system is the technology you use to do it, but the desire to treat your customers as friends, looking out for their best interests, is your ultimate why behind implementing the technology in the first place. 

Learn more about customer identity and access management.

Your competition
wants your customers.
Is your brand built to keep them?
Unlock data strategies to power your enterprise HERE.

Share this:
Tracey Wallace

Subscribe to our newsletter for the most up-to-date e-commerce insights.

Search by Topic beginning with