Data breaches made a few too many headlines last year. Accordingly, consumer trust in the affected brands diminished. Governments around the world are responding with data and privacy regulations that seek to increase transparency and responsibility. Brands, too, are examining their practices and seeking to make corrections to prevent another big breach.
Janrain is a customer profile and identity management service that has been working to improve the security of consumer’s personal information. It partners with brands to create customer identification platforms that keep hackers out and data private. Janrain was purchased by Akamai, a major content delivery network, on January 25. The merger is part of Akamai’s effort to make the internet a safer place through Janrain’s expertise in identity management.
We recently spoke with Todd Etchieson, Vice President of Product for Janrain (or Akamai, now). Etchieson provided valuable insight into how Janrain’s work impacts the loyalty space.
What is the biggest challenge that your clients face in driving deeper customer loyalty?
I think about, when we work with some of the customers that have loyalty programs, “Why is it that they engage with us or what are their key issues when engaging with us?” Because a lot of things about loyalty are well beyond what we do, but everything starts with security. Keeping that engagement between a user and a brand secure is first and foremost, and we don’t have to go very far back now to see a pretty major hotel company that had a major security issue which eroded a lot of trust and probably impacted some loyalty. So, everything starts with security.
The next thing, I would say, in terms of engagement with their customers, is ease of engagement, giving customers seamless and smooth access. As a consumer, if I have insecurity or difficulty, I can move on from a brand pretty quickly.
Those are probably the two big things from an end-user facing standpoint. There’s a number of others internal to customers to make it all easier which is scalability, which we provide. Getting rid of silos, so you have a single cloud-based identity or an identity cloud. Omnichannel access, so having a single identity, which then can be accessed no matter what channel you’re on. Not to mention compliance, and we’ll get on this again in a minute here, but a lot of the compliance requirements, especially around data compliance with GDPR, CCPA, and a bunch of others are talked about, as well. That’s another one that, that’s kind of hidden from the end-user itself, but important to customers, to our customers when they’re thinking about these programs.
What is the future of customer loyalty?
At the end of the day, I guess our view is that people’s identities will become even more tied to the brands and companies they are involved with and that the identities that they have under brands become more and more valuable to each party, really.
To brands, having a rich profile of their users is an incredibly valuable asset, whether its for marketing purposes or sales purposes, or just management of that user’s interactions. I think for people on the other side, knowing that when they’re engaging with a favorite brand that their data is secure, that it’s easy to access with their preferences and other things. So that, from our point of view, those are probably the big things.
How important is personalization?
I think it’s interesting; my first experience with personalization was when I did a short stint with Nike, and they were doing NikeID, where you could design your own shoe, and you see that more and more, customized clothes. There’s a web app that you can embarrassingly take off your shirt, and it will take pictures of you, and pretty soon, a week or so shows up a shirt cut specifically to fit you.
I think customers or consumers are expecting personalized experiences wherever they go, whether it’s a shopping experience, whether it’s looking at their profile, whether it’s just knowing what their preferences are when they are shopping, or when they want to be communicated with. Let’s call it ‘tables stakes’ for engagement with customers these days.
Their preferences towards those personalized experiences are being reflected in data privacy regulations, so GDPR is an example; CCPA is an example. The ability to manage their data is important, but also with brands, I think their ability to personalize the interactions with consumers goes a long way towards building that loyalty.
So, a great example: I’m sure you are aware of the Share a Coke campaign that’s been going on for some time. They had a great success when they launched it. This was before my time here at the company, but I think they launched it in Australia first. It was pretty much the most successful campaign they ever had, and I think you’d probably say that Share a Coke deserves to be called one the most successful marketing campaigns ever, but if they wanted to scale that out they needed a scalable identity solution, so that they could personalize across their digital sites. They could have a single profile that they use for rewards campaigns and programs that all the different brands and channels could use, so they needed that to be at a global scale. It needed to be multi-channel. It needed high-availability, and they needed the ability to do deep integrations with other platforms to enable some of this personalization.
That capability, all the way up to and including personalized TV ads in real time, has driven a huge amount of loyalty. When you think about it, in the past, not that long ago, you ever thought of registering for a consumer packaged good like a soft drink? Probably not, but the ability to have a personalized experience, whether it’s as a reward for an employee or whether it’s walking up to a vending machine and it knowing your preferences up to and including, I think, mixing of drinks and all of that, is really key, and that to me is just a perfect example that’s driven a huge impact for them as a company.
Our hosted login or identity central product that streamlines this identity management for our clients to make it easier for them to get up and running quickly and simply so that if you have a whole bunch of sites you just need to get out there, brand sites, loyalty site, whatever, and you just want to get people registered and logged on, we can help make that simple. If you want to do something much more custom and sophisticated, in terms of user interaction, you can do that as well with our API. What we’re trying to do is streamline deployment and the implementation of this, so they can for best practices, to benefit their end-users.
It’s fascinating to hear Etchieson’s take that, because of increased personalization, consumers’ identity is more tied to brands than ever before. This represents an opportunity to drive loyalty, but there’s an inherent challenge as well. Personalization that misses the mark could leave a more negative impression on consumers than ever, too.

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