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Why Single Sign-On is not just login automation

Updated on March 15, 2016

Single Sign-On has been around for a long time now and has evolved over a long time. It can be said that when the concept of Single Sign-On was developed a fairly long time ago, it came ahead of its time. Single Sign-On necessarily was developed to avoid remembering multiple username and password combinations but also carried security concerns with it then. At that point in time, the need for logging into multiple websites and web applications wasn’t a major concern and just limited to a small minority of enterprises, but the same problem now concerns the public at large. Almost all B2C companies face this problem now and an evolved Single Sign-On has perfectly matched as a solution to the crop of problems that businesses are facing now. This is also because automatic login to associated web properties is not the only accomplishment of Single Sign-On. In fact, Single Sign-On per se is a non-entity anymore. What businesses need and are using is Web Single Sign-On. Like already said, providing automated login to multiple associated web properties is only basic functionality of Web Single Sign-On. So then, what are the key advantages that Web Single Sign-On brings to the table? Read further.

Automated Login

Again, like already said, providing automated login is only basic functionality of Web Single Sign-On but it’s still an extremely useful process that removes friction in the pre-onboarding phase. Web Single Sign-On requires that the subsequent login requests (post the first manual login) be carried out from the same web browser in the same terminal for compliance. But by automatically logging in customers, customers don’t have to create and remember new passwords, customers don’t have present those credentials to the associated website or web application again and again which essentially smoothes the road for the customer leading to a frictionless customer experience. Again, the stress is on the fact that this is an important but a basic functionality of Web Single Sign-On in improving the customer experience.

Web and Mobile Integration

Web Single Sign-On is basically, as the name suggests, aimed at providing said functionalities but only when the customer accesses the website or web applications through a web browser. Web Single Sign-On typically makes use of the XML based Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML). SAML isn’t really compatible with mobile apps which makes it, and so SAML based Web Single Sign-On, incompatible with mobile apps. However, mobile apps are a very important constituent of the customer interface these days and several businesses in fact are running on mobile apps with a minimalistic web interface. For such situations, an OAuth based Single Sign-On is used which recognized mobile apps and is compatible with them. So, basically the takeaway here is that the Single Sign-On product you employ for your business should be written in such a way that it is compatible with both web and mobile environments. It is important to note here that compatibility wouldn’t mean a simultaneous usage. If a customer session is active in a web browser and attempts accessing the mobile app (without a session being active on mobile), it wouldn’t mean an automatic login. The sessions on web and mobile are separate.

Leveraging Social Login

Like stated earlier, the prime purpose of Single Sign-On is to improve the customer experience and one way of doing this is by topping Single Sign-On on Social Sign-On. Social Sign-On, or Social Login, lets customers sign in directly using their existing social identities. Mind that even the usage of Single Sign-On doesn’t the sign up step is done away with. Customers would still have sign up, fill forms, write their names and ages. But with Social Login, that step is eradicated. Customers can directly sign in without a sign up process and their personal data would be captured directly from their existing social profiles. When used in conjunction, Social Login and Single Sign-On, can effectively mean that irrespective of the number of web properties and the access (whether first time ever or subsequent login), a customer only has to login once. There is no sign up and there is no subsequent login to access other web properties

Centralizing Customer Data

The most important function of a Web Single Sign-On is today’s business dynamics is that of creating a single view of the customers. Businesses are operating multiple web properties as part of larger domain and customers access all of them. But being interlinked, the customer would like to be recognized as one person by all of the web properties. An intimation from the customer to one web property should reflect across all of them. A single view also helps businesses by presenting a consistent and holistic representation of data by businesses about their customers. All in all, a single view of the customer helps businesses understand customers better. This in turn results in better personalization and engagement measures which eventually only improve the customer experience. And Single Sign-On plays a key role in creating a single view of the customer by aggregating data from all the web properties a business operates and its customers access. Each time a customer requests access to a particular web property, the Single Sign-On application is the second point of contact (after the login page on first sign in and the first subsequently) and hence is ideally to capture data from the customer and centralize it in the easiest way. Most Single Sign-On products by themselves create a centralized profile of each customer tracking activities from different properties. Intuitively, if a customer profile is updated on one property, the same is also reflected on others. Thus, the recognition the customer gets is continuous throughout thereby improving the customer experience.

Centralized Customer Data Analytics

Continuing, a centralized and unified customer profile is not just good from the customer’s perspective but also from the business’ perspective. A single view of the customer is more than the sum of all parts and leads the company to be able to perform better analytics and derive a better understanding of their customers. At the same time, this also helps businesses segment their audiences better to market specific products considering segmentation is obviously much harder with fragmented customer profiles.


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