Half of new retail customer IDs will be based on social network IDs by 2015 – Gartner

7 Feb 2013

Imagine a world where personal information from social profiles can be imported to other sites requiring users to log in, therefore reducing users’ need to remember passwords for several websites. Well, by the end of 2015, 50pc of new retail customer identities will be based on social network identities, Gartner reports.

The 50pc is an increase from less than 5pc today, said Gartner, adding that social identity adoption will have a major impact on the practice of identity and access management (IAM) this year and into the future.

“For an increasing number of internet users, social networks are the internet,” said Ant Allan, research vice-president at Gartner.  

“Using ‘login with Facebook’ – or other popular social networks – reduces friction and therefore improves users’ experience of customer registration and subsequent login.

“For registration, the required personal information can be imported from users’ social profiles, reducing – if not eliminating – form filling. Moreover, using a social network identity means users don’t have to remember rarely used passwords or endure convoluted password reset processes when they forget them,” Allan said.

Organisations can also benefit from the use of social identities for authentication, Allan said, as it reduces the number of abandoned registrations and logins, and makes it easier for customers to browse and buy. Therefore, it also helps organisations attract and retain customers.

There is a caveat, however. The lack of identity proofing and weak authentication for social network identities can put merchants at risk of more fraud. To combat this, service providers can allow social network registration, but enhance the process with more controls when a retail site provides access to sensitive data and monetary transactions, Gartner said.

Another issue is that social network identity may not suit all organisations, Allan added.

“Businesses offering consumer-facing services, as well as government agencies offering citizen portals, should assess the benefits of accepting social network identities for customer and citizen registration and login,” Allan said.

“They must also weigh these against the risks posed by the lack of identity proofing and weak authentication for social network identities. Mitigating these additional risks may offset any cost savings.”

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic