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Paweł Kiełt

Why Your e-commerce Needs a Single Sign-On?

The average user has at least a dozen separate accounts on various websites and applications: one, two or more email accounts, a Google account, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, an account on an online bidding/marketplace platform, online banking account, an account for music and video streaming services... That's quite a lot. If shopping in your online store requires them to create yet another account, you risk frustrating them and making them do their shopping somewhere else. How can you avoid it? By implementing a Single Sign-On solution. What is it, what are its advantages, and when and how should you implement it? Read on to find out!

What is Single Sign-On?

The Single Sign-On (SSO) is the option of logging into a service or a web application once and thus gaining access to all authorized resources compatible with this service or app. To put it simply: by logging into one of the systems of a given service provider using SSO, you are automatically logged into all other services available for your account (a similar thing happens when you log out of one of the systems). As a result, you only need to remember one email address and one password to be able to freely use different independent services of a given provider.

The SSO has been used by, e.g., Apple, Google, and Microsoft users, as well as the corporate entities where employees log into various services used by their company. Nowadays, the SSO is also implemented by more and more online stores. Why? Because it brings a lot of benefits - both for eStores and their customers.

What Are the Advantages of Single Sign-On for a User?

First of all, SSO improves the user experience of your online store. Users don't have to create a separate account to be able to use it. All they need is a username and password they already have, or login credentials to their e.g. Facebook account. Switching between services doesn't require logging in again. More and more people appreciate this time-saving feature - most of us are logged into Facebook all the time anyway. What's more, SSO allows users to change their passwords to all these services, as well as edit their personal data, profile photo or any additional information from one place.

But it doesn't stop there. Using SSO increases customer satisfaction by embedding them in your omnichannel sales strategy (more about its benefits below).

Finally, using SSO is a way of assuring users that their data is safe - it's stored in one, secured database. And here's the most important fact: when logging into a service that uses SSO, no sensitive data is tranferred and only the identity of the user is confirmed. So your users can relax and enjoy the shopping.

What Are the Advantages of Single Sign-On for Your eCommerce?

The Single Sign-On brings even more benefits to online stores. First of all, it makes it easier to build microservices-based infrastructure. Why is this important? Each of the microservices can be built using a different technology, one that is most appropriate for the task at hand, thus increasing their efficiency and ease of maintenance and development. Moreover, in the long run, as your online business grows, it will be much easier for you to scale up individual microservices rather than an entire monolith entity.

More importantly, using SSO is the first step towards centralizing all user data available to you. You can collect it from many different touchpoints (both online and offline) in one place, and assign it to a unique customer ID, creating the so-called single customer profile. In this way, you avoid problems with duplicate accounts and distorted data (and it will also be easier for you to delete customer data one day, if necessary). This, in turn, opens up the possibility of using advanced marketing automation workflows to communicate with a given customer. Knowing their habits, likes and behaviors related to shopping on your website, in your mobile app and in your traditional store (through, e.g., a loyalty program), you can design marketing communication that will send them offers they're likely to be interested in just at the right time, when they're ready to buy. Good personalization of your communication is the key to an efficient cross-selling, and the first step to both building customer loyalty and increasing their customer lifetime value (CLV).

In addition, the SSO provides you with greater data security and allows for full control over the user base that is stored in one well-secured application. As mentioned earlier, no sensitive data is sent when user logs in using SSO. In our current times of GDPR-related oversensitivity and growing customer concern about data breaches, this particular advantage cannot be overestimated.

From the business point of view it's also important that SSO makes it easier to nurture B2B leads, and then manage them once they've converted. Thanks to the aforementioned single customer profile various departments in your company can use - and update - data on a customer in one place which will certainly translate into greater effectiveness of your sales and retention-related activities.

And finally, here's an interesting fact: using SSO significantly increases the chance that a user will place an order in your online store. If he or she can log into it, e.g. using Facebook or Gmail account, the risk of an abandoned purchase decreases. In one study as many as 18.75% of respondents admitted that they had abandoned their shopping cart simply because they forgot their password to the store!

When Should You Implement SSO?

It's best to take care of it at the very beginning, when creating your online store. Why? Because it will immediately create order in your customer database and - once you're ready to launch e.g. a mobile app - your users will not have to create another account to be able to use it. You will simply connect each new platform to the existing SSO, keeping a clear picture of your customers and avoiding duplication and fragmentation of data.

Here's an example of SSO implementation and development in your eCommerce:

  1. Stage 1: You set up the first platform (e.g., an online store) AND a SSO system that you integrate with the platform. You have an organized database for your online business and excellent foundations for its further development.

  2. Stage 2: As your eCommerce grows and new platforms are built (e.g., a website, a mobile app), you integrate the existing SSO with them and your users/customers can log into all your services using one account.

  3. Stage 3: Having a seasoned eCommerce and a variety of touch points with your customers, you create a single customer profile, i.e. a place that aggregates all their behavioral and transactional data. This is your gold mine - using it skillfully will allow you to sell more and build customer loyalty.

  4. Stage 4: You add supporting applications to your eCommerce ecosystem, e.g., a marketing automation platform or other analytical/BI (business intelligence) tool. It helps you manage marketing communication that is ideally suited to an individual client based on his or her single customer profile, also taking into account your omnichannel strategy.

Here's an example of an architecture that could be built around a SSO system:

Which Single Sign-On Solution Should You Choose

As in the case when building an online store, when implementing SSO you can choose from several models:

  • SSO as a plug-in - when your online store has been built on a ready-made cloud service. The implementation is not expensive but you'll not own the code or the system.

  • SSO as an open source solution that you can adapt to your needs. This offers good value for money and you'll own both the code and the system.

  • SSO as a dedicated solution that is created from scratch and is fully tailored to your needs - and is also owned by you 100%.

Bear in mind that you need a high availability system to fully take advantage of SSO benefits. However, using solutions offered by, e.g., Amazon Web Services or Auth0, you can significantly reduce the implementation costs. This makes SSO accessible even to smaller eCommerces. What's more, the use of SSO based on a global standard, such as OAuth2, will allow you to easily integrate with Login with Google or Login with Facebook, making it easier to use your online store by virtually everyone.

Get Started Today!

As you can see, Single Sign-On is a very powerful tool for ambitious eCommerce entrepreneurs who plan to launch multiple platforms (online store, website, mobile app) and offer a loyalty program (both online and offline). Implementing this solution at the very beginning of your eCommerce adventure will help you to create an excellent user experience. But more importantly, you will be able to build customer loyalty that will be envied by your competition.

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