There is a growing disconnect between consumer expectation of the online experience and the reality. With 96% of individuals receiving information or promotions that are not relevant, according to a recent UK survey undertaken on behalf of Janrain, there is a growing risk of disenfranchised user communities.

Yet with 78% regularly providing inaccurate information to organisations when registering for a web site, the lack of accurate promotion and relevant engagement is not surprising. In contrast, the majority of consumers are keen to exploit social log in; exploiting trusted, familiar Facebook and Google identities, for example, not only for the ease of use and improved security but also to share profile information in order to enable a better online experience.

With Gartner predicting that 80% of discretionary buying from consumers will be driven through effective digital marketing, it is time for organisations to focus on the core requirements: social login exploits the proven security expertise of social networks, removes barriers and, critically, provides a platform for truly effective user engagement.

Customer Acquisition

Organisations continue to increase investment on online customer acquisition. Growing numbers of sites, from retail to media, now demand user registration in order to capture key customer data, improve understanding and drive better interaction and engagement. But what value is actually being derived? According to a recent survey, not only is this information inaccurate but the registration process is actively deterring customers.

The figures from Janrain reveal that 7 in 10 UK users avoid creating new user accounts and 78% have given incomplete or incorrect information when asked to register, effectively compromising the CRM system and fundamentally undermining the investment in online customer acquisition.

In contrast, when consumers are offered a social login option – the ability for consumers to use their social media identity such as Facebook, Google or Linkedin logins, for example, to register and log in to a brand’s website – the response is extremely positive. More than four in five consumers have come across a web site offering social login in recent months and over half (53% have used it). Indeed 85% of consumers insist social login should be offered by websites.

Secure and Effective

The appeal of the social login goes beyond simplifying processes; consumers are keen to exploit the benefits of social networking to share experiences and information, and receive more relevant promotions based on profiles. For businesses, not only will offering a social login option increase customer acquisition and transform engagement opportunities but it also removes the need for expensive security investment to manage and store customer usernames and passwords.

This latter point is key. Organisations are currently spending money on security that is not core to their business and, critically, is not good enough: it is these smaller web sites that are hacked, not Google or Facebook which have entire teams dedicated to ensuring security, privacy and data integrity. Add in password fatigue and the prevalent consumer habit of using the same username and password across multiple accounts, and the risk of exposure is significant.

It is becoming increasingly clear that retailers and media companies should not be in the password business. Not only do they have to invest heavily in providing security, but the on going support costs associated with consumers forgetting usernames and passwords is significant; and the risk of negative publicity and civil suits associated with information compromise is high.

In contrast, leveraging the social login model provides immediate access to multiple social networks via a single, open application programming interface. Users are highly unlikely to forget their Facebook or Google logins and, if they do, the question goes back to the identity provider, not the organisation, providing both cost and privacy benefits.

Consumer Profiles

However, while compelling, social login is about so much more than easing the process for consumers. Having completed the initial registration process, users can grant organisations permission to access certain aspects of their social profile information, transforming the opportunities for engagement via effective and relevant promotions – a fact that appeals to businesses and consumers alike.

Almost 6 in 10 (57%) of respondents to the Janrain survey like the fact that social login offers the choice to have a more personalised experience when visiting a website without needing to re-enter preferences. In addition to eliminating the clutter of receiving ads and promotions for products or services that have no relevance – hence overcoming a problem cited by 96% of respondents; sharing a profile enables the site to transform the way it engages. Two thirds (64%) are more likely to return to a website if the experience is personalised, while 54% will recommend the websites to others.

When considered alongside recent research from ExactTarget that reveals teens prefer sharing information on Facebook over email, the Janrain study raises interesting questions for brand demographics and customer profiles.

Effectively exploiting this information enables organisations to deliver relevant content to consumers based on a profile that has been explicitly created by that individual. This approach is proven to build a strong relationship and an enriching online experience.

Consumers are also keen to share their experiences to build on the essence of social networking by creating stronger bonds with those sharing the same interests – with 45% finding the ability to comment about or rate a site, article purchase or company useful. The benefits of this model are tangible; with each ‘share’ typically generating 13 referrals or new visitors to the site and providing a highly effective route to customer acquisition.

Conclusion

Organisations need to beware. Investment has shifted radically from traditional to online media over the past decade, yet consumers are clearly growing tired of an online environment that has failed to evolve to meet their needs. They are tired of being targeted with inappropriate advertising or offers; tired of having to repeatedly create new user names and passwords to register for each site; and tired of having to contact the organisation each time the log in details are forgotten – the vast majority (82%) simply leave the site for good.

Consumers want to be engaged – and they are willing to share their profile with organisations in order to improve the online experience. It is those brands that are on the leading edge, that are innovating and providing a truly engaging consumer experience that are building stronger customer relationships and achieving a tangible increase in market share.