Consumer identity - 7 things you need to know

07 July 2015

 View Richard Mardling’s profile on LinkedIn



Consumer identity is the management of a consumer's digital persona when they engage with a provider through whatever channel.

The consumer (user of products and services) and provider (deliverer/maker of products and services) relationship is a delicate one which requires trust in order to ensure that the right amount of personal characteristics and preferences are shared and used for an agreed and transparent purpose to support a positive consumer experience.

Consumers will have different requirements for the means by which they wish to engage with providers, depending on the context. A mutuality of benefits needs to be built through a willing buyer and willing seller dialogue.

This blog will explore a number of topics that need to be considered prior to engaging a consumer identity programme.

Individually owned identity

In a world where a consumer will want the option to use a single identity to access a variety of services from multiple providers, they will want to control and manage it. Whoever they ‘lodge’ their identity with will have the responsibility to verify who they claim to be, and will ask the consumer to ensure that everything is kept up to date and require any changes to be communicated promptly. The onus for managing their identity will lie squarely with the consumer.

Users will want to control what they share

When a consumer connects to a service they will want to control what they share – date of birth, address – and for how long the service can retain the information. Organisations who recognise this will be more attractive to users than those who don’t consider the user’s privacy to be paramount.

Context is key

What information is required to authorise a transaction or request depends upon the level of the transaction and various environmental factors. This context is vital to protecting both the user and the provider from fraud and account misuse. Using an unknown device from an overseas location may prompt for additional verification to be provided. Providing enhanced levels of security based upon increasing uncertainty (location, device, time of day) will provide comfort to the user without seeming to be burdensome.

Organisations who design privacy will be trusted more than those who don't

Determining the minimum amount of information required to undertake a transaction will increase the trust between the consumer and the provider by reducing the amount of information that the consumer is exposing. The provider should also inform the consumer what they will do with the information once the transaction is complete, how it will be protected, how long will it be retained or will it be shared with other parties? Privacy considerations should be considered at all stages of a service. Do they need to retain address, date of birth, place of birth, current location, device used, other than in a well secured audit log? The user should be offered the option to approve the use of additional information and then how long it can be used for.

Consumers will want to choose their persona

In the digital world as in real life, consumers will wish to present different personas depending upon the environment and the nature of the transaction. In real life we can choose to be anonymous by paying with cash, and to reveal elements of our identity through the use of intermediaries such as PayPal and various debit and credit cards. How we present ourselves socially as opposed to professionally will also vary. At the same time consumers may wish to use more than one identity to separate the different parts of their lives and to compartmentalise who knows what about them.

Consumers will demand more control over their data and the extent of the consent that they give

In recent times there has been an explosion in the amount of data that is collected, whether it’s how long you’ve slept, where you’ve been lately, and it will only increase to include measures such as heart rate, blood pressure, etc. An increasing amount of data is collected about the consumer so they will start to demand greater control over who has access to it and for what duration. Organisations who provide the consumer with choice and options concerning their data will be more trusted and therefore will command a greater share of the consumer’s time, money and IPR.

Consumers are now more aware of their digital footprint

Consumers are more aware of their digital footprint and so want to have better control on how and who their data is shared with. Having ownership of their digital persona will reap rewards whether it be through a more fulfilling digital experience or financial remuneration for the use of their data.



Nice blog, but the commercial pressures on sales people in organisations and the search for baddies by officials in governments still tempts a lot of accountables and responsibles to take a blind eye on some basic privacy principles.
Consumers and citizens are interested in transparency and power to decide what happens with their personal data inside organisations. That's why it is always recommended to never allow organisations to share your personal data with their "partners".
Anyway, the new EU data protection regulation has already just by announcing its principles created a lot of awareness globally. Now let's see how obvious privacy violations will be dealt with...

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear until the author has approved them.