They have definitive user profiles, even if their real-life identities are sometimes anonymized as they work their ways across the marketing ecosystem. With logged-in users, marketers don’t need to layer on possible behaviors, attributes, or purchase histories, or make suppositions about their offline lives, as they do with their unlogged fellow travelers.
Now, imagine a connected world where you are automatically logged in by your body, your behavior, or your device.
If a large number of users can login without remembering and using usernames/passwords, how will so much “gold” affect digital marketing?
The most likely marketing impact, Gigya senior vice president Jason Rose told me, would be major step-ups in the quality and use of personalization.
His company is known for its ecosystem supporting social logins, where a website asks if you want to login with, say, your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn credentials. Social logins save time, although the assumption is that you are already logged into one of those social sites. Gigya has also been investigating biometric logins, including Apple’s Touch ID.
Social logins can be useful to sites, because the user can be accompanied by his or her public profile on that particular social network. Websites are supposed to request your permission for which parts of your public profile you want accessible by the new site, although I find that those consents are not consistently presented.
Nevertheless, this kind of login is popular. Rose said that “a third of users who are offered social logins take it.” On the other hand, he reports that half of those who have forgotten their password choose to simply skip logging in, instead of employing password retrieval.
Given that usernames and passwords are what Rose describes as “a critical moment of friction,” a variety of developments are challenging the dominance of passwords (and their even more friction-full offspring, two-factor authentication).
They include fingerprint sensors via Touch ID, which currently has limited uses but could become more widespread, and Google’s Project Abacus, which employs machine learning to understand your characteristic patterns of voice, typing, walking, locations, and other factors that form a constellation of you. And biometric IDs like facial recognition could generate the equivalent of automatic logins in physical stores.
Added to social logins, where users leverage again and again their single sign-on for a given social network, it’s conceivable that what Rose calls “frictionless logins” could become commonplace in the not-too-distant future.
Logged-in users could become the norm for site and app visitors, as well as in-store visitors. If so, Rose said, expect to see highly refined — and widely available — personalization as the expected norm.
After all, if the corner restaurant knows you, you might expect they will bring you your favorite drink for that time of day, every time you sit down.
Similarly, users may well expect to be greeted by name, or immediately shown other forms of refined levels of personalization, when they enter any connected environment. The implicit exchange is that users sign in — even if it’s automatic — and get something of value in return.
It “raises the bar” for the expected levels of personalization, Rose said. It will also probably raise the level of definitive details about you, given that your logged in profiles will exist through the Web, the app-sphere, and the physical world.
Those profiles will likely be exchanged, sold, or shared between brands, even if anonymously, and they will be matched more authoritatively than currently between your various selves — online, offline, and in-between, like the self that watches cable TV.
Logging into a Procter & Gamble site
It’s not clear yet how that enhanced personalization might look, but it may be defined by a much wider, definitive understanding of your activities.
As Rose pointed out, brands that typically don’t get a high percentage of logged in users, such as the sites for makers of consumer packaged goods (CPG), could find themselves trying to add value to the influx of logged-in users.
Currently, there’s value in logging into Amazon or Netflix, such as seeing “products like this” recommendations that infer your taste.
There is less incentive in logging into, for instance, commodities-based sites from Procter and Gamble, or an electronics retailer’s, where your visits might be infrequent.
But, if the P & G site automatically logs you in, it can develop personalized benefits that you never considered before, like discounts on those diapers, toothpaste tubes, and chewing gum packs you always buy. Those buying habits can also become a definitive part of your profile, and extended to your automated login at the supermarket.
Frictionless logins, Rose said, can “open up new territory” for marketers. Like the bar in the TV series Cheers, every site, app, store, or restaurant could automatically know your name, plus your likes and dislikes — with only consent required on your part.
The unanswered question, of course, is whether you want to be that well known.