Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) solutions enable organizations to securely capture and manage user identities and control customer access to apps and services. CIAM is a customer-facing use case of IAM and hence has some unique requirements in comparison to typical (Internal) IAM.

In contrast to IAM, where user identities are often internal identities such as firm employees, in CIAM, user identities can be any external identity such as a customer, consumer, partner, or contractor.

In other words, while IAM focuses on an inside solution (for employees), CIAM is a solution that focuses on the outside world (for external customers). Also, in a CIAM, users manage their own accounts and profiles. The CIAM Stores user data in a centralized cloud directory for maintaining customer profiles and data associated with it.

CIAM (Customer Identity and Access Management) Solution

Essential elements of CIAM?


CIAMs are highly scalable and streamline the customer experience through simplified login. CIAM also enables the user to have greater control of their information across every platform and application, website, app, and more – enabling a frictionless experience that isn’t impacted by device or location. 

Acquire & Retain Customers:

It helps organizations understand their customers and their behavior to drive more revenue via online interaction.

Single Sign-On:

Single Sign-On simplifies the user’s onboarding process allowing users to register by signing up or using social registration. It allows users to log in to multiple applications by using just one set of credentials.

Multi-Factor Authentication:

Multi-factor authentication keeps data and systems secure by adding an extra layer of security to such applications using a one-time PIN sent to the user’s mobile device, an email, or a biometric credential like a fingerprint or face recognition.


Why is CIAM important?

Unlike workforce identity solutions that support thousands of end-users like employees, customers, partners, etc. and each requires a different balance of security and user experience.

When customers approach a brand, generally they expect two simple things:

  1. Great user experience: Users expect that brands will thrill by providing great user experience and functionalities.
  2. Protection from fraud: Users believe that the brand will protect them from fraud, breaches, and privacy violations on their platform (About 70% of users believe so).

High-volume brands often handle millions of customers’ accounts simultaneously, and the customers expect zero friction. Hence an Identity solution deployed in such scenarios must be able to handle this load with little to no latency is needed. 

If an identity management system gets sluggish or fails to handle the load, it hampers the user experience. Ironically, effective campaigns generally produce load peaks and increased consumer traffic, implying that a sluggish identity management system is actually working against purposeful and hard-won business efforts.

Dedicated CIAM solutions can help organizations overcome the limitation of typical IAM in the customer-facing applications and help an organization obtain maximum value from their customers and heavy in-coming volume by providing a means to enhance user experience and help organizations better understand their customers.


Key Features of CIAM


Key Features of CIAM (Customer Identity and Access Management)


  • Cloud Hosting:

    The hosting of CIAM solutions on the cloud allows organizations to leverage it across different environments and devices. Also, loud hosted solutions are easier to upgrade and patch. 

  • Platform-based functionalities:

    The platform combines multiple features and services into a single user experience that is simple to understand and use.

  • Strong authentication:

    Protocols like MFA, SSO etc. enable the solution to detect identity theft and prevent dangerous bots from sending fake traffic to a website.

  • Scalability & Integration:

    Customer-facing apps see tens of thousands of users and the number keeps on growing as business scales, hence the solution should be able to adapt to new integrations and fast-growing user volume. 

  • Support:

    Downtime in customer-facing applications can be disastrous for a company’s bottom line. As a result, features such as extensive documentation, well-organized FAQs, self-service, and 24-hour telephonic help are critical.

  • Interface customization:

    This allows for modifying and delivering a personalized and user-friendly experience to customers.


How is CIAM different from IAM?

In terms of security, scalability, and high availability, CIAM and IAM are very similar. Both solutions match the above three objectives for a great user experience, however, CIAM goes above and beyond the typical IAM method in terms of user experience, personalization and performance.



The aim here is to reduce risk and improve efficiency.  The aim here is to attract and retain customers.
Used for managing user identities of corporation employees only. Used for Managing External user identities like a customer, consumer, partner or contractor etc.
Users are registered by the corporation and allocated their user identity. Users register themselves and generate their own identities.
User/Identity authentication is done against internal directory services. User/Identity authentication is done against public services like social media as well as external credentials verification services.
Users are known and have only one identity. Users are unknown (until registered) and may have multiple identities.
Users’ profile data is collected for administrative and operational purposes. Users’ profile data is collected for business-critical purposes (like transactions, marketing, analytics and business Intelligence).
More tolerance towards latency and poor performance. Very low tolerance towards latency and poor performance.


Misconceptions about CIAM

A widespread misconception about CIAM is that as the technology necessary for CIAM (Customers Identity and Access Management) is the same as that required for traditional IAM (Identity and Access Management), traditional IAM solutions can be extended to manage external customers too.

This approach underestimates the differences between employee and customer identity management, as well as the complexity of managing customer IDs for a company’s public-facing digital sites. Because CIAM has different — and considerably more difficult — criteria than workforce IAM, reusing workforce IAM solutions might be troublesome.



Although CIAM and IAM solutions share the same building blocks, the traditional IAM solutions cannot be extended to replace/act in place of a CIAM solution. The unique requirement of a client-facing application needs a flexible and scalable Identity and Access Management solution that requires a dedicated solution built on top of IAM features.

By exploiting identification data to gain and retain consumers, CIAM generates revenue growth. CIAM systems are intended to supply, authenticate, authorize, collect, and store consumer information from a variety of sources.



Further Reading

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