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Reinventing the Wheel is Compromising Retail Innovation

December 21, 2023
5 min

Why Brands Should Embrace Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) for a Competitive Edge

In a challenging retail environment, it has never been more important to optimise every aspect of the customer experience. But with the phenomenal pace of both technology innovation and customer expectation, how can retailers not only deliver an amazing, personalised experience but also ensure every interaction is secure?

Brands relying on in-house developers will struggle to achieve the speed of innovation required. How many potential customers will be deterred by a continued reliance on password-based security when the rest of the world is fast evolving towards the far more secure passkey approach that also delivers a better, cross channel experience? How many brands will find vital global expansion plans compromised by an inability to deliver a seamless experience in every geography that complies with the multiple diverse regulatory demands? And when the younger generation expects a one-click buying approach via mobile social platforms, how many new customers will be deterred by a brand offering merely the traditional log in, navigate and tortuous check out process?

Jean-Christophe Bouvenet, Head of Product, ReachFive explains why brands still relying on in-house developed applications rather than implementing tried and tested technologies such as Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) to create the perfect customer experience quickly and effectively are not only wasting time and resource but rapidly falling behind the competition.

Innovation Overload

Retail success and failure is increasingly defined by the quality of technology innovation. From real-time supply chain optimisation to innovation in customer engagement and seamless global expansion, effective utilisation of technology, including artificial intelligence, is underlining the growing gap between market leaders and the rest.

While this is hugely exciting for retail technology experts, it is also enormously challenging, especially for brands that have traditionally relied heavily on in-house development to create differentiation. The pace of technology innovation is placing serious pressure on internal teams to both understand and embrace new technologies and tools that can transform retail performance and also determine if and how it is possible to build these features into existing legacy platforms.

At the same time, in-house retail IT teams are being tasked with ensuring compliance with the continuously evolving global data protection regulation landscape. They must also address the constantly changing security threat and embrace vital enhancements to protect both the business and customers. Even without the global pressure on skilled IT expertise, is it really possible for any brand’s internal IT teams to effectively handle this ever-expanding remit?

Building Fallacy

The answer is no. Despite extensive work over the last decade, personalisation remains an elusive goal for far too many retailers – and the difference in experience between market leaders and the rest continues to grow. Why are brands dedicating internal resource to hand crafting solutions to enable customer access, for example, when there are so many excellent and proven CIAM solutions on the market? Essentially, this strategy expects stretched internal resources to compete head-to-head with software developers that are totally dedicated to creating a state-of-the-art solution that is continually optimised and improved. Clearly, an impossible task.

Rather than wasting time, energy and money on building technologies that already exist, there is tangible value to be gained from dedicating that expertise to build on proven technology to create a truly relevant and personalised customer experience. From improving the customer proposition to maximising the effectiveness of skilled IT expertise, the Return on Investment from the buy versus build approach is compelling.

Plus, of course, through in-built consent management, these solutions can help to fast-track compliance to global data protection regulations, such as GDPR, as well provide a seamless route to embracing the latest security technology. For example, a CIAM solution will offer a toolbox of security options, such as passkeys, multi-factor authentication and biometric identification, that enable brands to pick and choose the best approach for their customer base.

Speed is Imperative

With customer expectations continuing to increase at an extraordinary pace, brands are discovering their in-house built innovations in engagement and experience are already out of date by the time they are delivered. Gen Zs expect an instant buying experience via social providers – obviously on a mobile device. They have zero tolerance for a brand that expects them to log in, navigate and endure a tedious check out process. The first sign of friction and these customers will rebound immediately to a better competitor experience.

The result is not only a lost sale – and customer – but a risk of negative comments from disaffected consumers. This risk is exacerbated for brands failing to keep up with the changes in security. When customers no longer rely on passwords to authenticate their mobile devices, how can a brand inspire any confidence when they have failed to embrace biometrics and passkeys? Consumers want a far more secure online experience and are now actively looking for brands that use passkeys to provide that level of security and control. Allowing consumers to sync access to existing Apple, Microsoft or Google accounts is not only more secure but, by enabling cross-channel interaction with one sign up, is also a better user experience.

With the continual evolution of dedicated CIAM solutions, and their interoperability with most existing ecosystems, brands can not only ensure a seamless integration phase, improving overall ROI - but they can also build on this cross-channel interaction with an extension to improve the experience in-store. With a unique customer identity, brands can achieve hyper personalisation, using detailed accurate customer data to ensure every customer receives the same, consistent, known interaction through every channel. Critically this model must work in any geography if brands are to achieve seamless global expansion. With a single solution that can scale across all markets, while also complying with each local data protection requirement, brands can ensure expansion plans can be based on business opportunities, not defined by technology limitations.


At a time of significant economic challenge, when retailers need to make every possible effort to attract, engage and retain consumers, questions have to be asked as to why the vision of a truly compelling and secure experience is still to be achieved by the majority of global brands. While a handful of successful retailers have, by default, become technology innovators, the rest are attempting to go head-to-head with dedicated software developers – a battle they will never win.

When there are so many opportunities to deploy proven technology to transform the quality and security of the customer experience, why are brands still wasting time, energy and money on in-house development? When in-house IT efforts would be far better spent on exploring the power of deep toolsets to create customer experiences that are truly differential, surely it is time to stop reinventing the wheel.


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