How SAML Supports A Frictionless & Secure Customer Identity Management Strategy

More than ever before, marketers and product development leads are joining forces with IT teams to reach, engage with, and convert audiences at scale. The proliferation of data makes it possible for companies to personalize user experiences and target audiences with highly relevant marketing messages and recommendations.

It’s no surprise that marketers and product leaders are looking for innovative and aggressive ways to reach their audiences — we want to reach audiences with the right messages at exactly the right times in their buying journeys. The technologies required to achieve these goals are often complex.

But audiences don’t care about your technology stack and whether it’s the most innovative solution out there. Your website’s users, first and foremost, want a simple, secure, and reliable user experience. That’s where Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) comes in — it’s a concept that is foundational to your product and marketing team’s core UX goals.

What Is SAML?

SAML is an Extensible Markup Language (XML) standard that helps secure websites and services to exchange user authentication data seamlessly. The technology dates back to 2001 and has become a core part of today’s most popular third-party web applications including Google Apps, Zendesk, and Salesforce.

Companies use SAML to simplify data management, streamline user flows, and keep customers on your website, longer. It allows businesses to identify who users are and communicate information about them. Businesses can use this data to tell a rich, compelling story about each individual user profile.

How SAML Is Used

Enterprise service providers often rely on multiple service providers to connect the dots between different systems and processes. Instead of building customer support platforms, payment gateways, and content integrations in-house, businesses are collaborating with trusted vendors and partners.

To the end user; however, these integrations seem like one continuous experience on the same website. Casual observers may not realize that they’re being redirected to Zendesk for customer support — or The Discovery Channel to authenticate subscriptions from their cable providers.

You can think of SAML as a “handshake with an upgrade.” Companies are relying on SAML to consolidate audience experiences in a secure and user-friendly way — it’s how you can guarantee audiences the best possible experience with third-party service providers.

Adding Structure to Data

Within the past 5-10 years, the rise of ecommerce, social networks, mobile and connected devices has created the need for businesses to develop an external identity access management (IAM) strategy to keep up with the flood of identity data being created as consumers connect across channels.

SAML is used to add a layer of security structure to the process of communicating high-volumes of information between systems. Here is a hypothetical example for how a membership-only television site can use SAML to better understand and track their customers.

As another example, Comcast XFINITY customers can stream content online. Comcast uses SAML to authenticate users, and then to provide authorization information regarding whether the user’s subscription includes access to Discovery’s online video content.

SAML can help bind social and other unstructured profile data with internal profile data attributes through a trusted connection. This structured approach to organizing, analyzing, and using data provides the input to build predictive analytic capabilities, web personalization models, and marketing automation systems.

Final Thoughts

SAML, as a technology, has many moving parts, and is becoming a necessity for creating a frictionless, secure customer identity management strategy that powers seamless user experiences. You can download our new white paper, SAML as an SSO Standard for Consumer Identity Management, to learn more.

By Ritika Puri