By
Ben Jackson
April 10, 2024
 |

The End of Passwords Is Just the Start of the Customer Journey

Let’s be honest. Those of us who work in the digital realm — whether in product, user experience, ecommerce, or marketing — love to talk about the “customer journey.” 

For good reason. We know that if we invest in creating a personalized experience, over time and across channels, we’ll inevitably earn more money from each customer.  

The sad reality, though, is that many of us have never fully committed ourselves — both money and time — to deliver on the promise of that journey. Because we, along with our customers, have been stifled by friction. 

Long before we can re-engage our customers with new perks, memberships, and loyalty programs, they need to make it through our account setup processes — which usually require forms, passwords, payment info, etc., etc. And we watch, horrified, as our top-heavy funnels hemorrhage potential customers at each step in the purchase process, until only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction complete a purchase. 

So, we spend more money and more of our limited time trying to lure new customers. And we never really have time to focus on the entire customer journey

Opening the front door (a.k.a. removing friction)

New authentication methods allow consumers to register, log in, and purchase their online products and services by simply unlocking their devices the same way they already do (over 50 times a day on average) — with their face or fingerprint. When we deliver the same experience to the web that we already do to unlock a phone or laptop, everything gets easier. 

So, what happens when we remove friction? Of course, we convert a higher percentage of visitors into new customers. An instant revenue injection

But that’s just the start.

One reason leading retailers are ditching traditional form-based account creation and passwords is the potential impact to the customer journey. Not just the first purchase — but the second, third, fourth, and everything that follows.

By obliterating the pain of form fields and removing a major source of friction in the checkout process, we also make it easier for our most valuable customers to come back. There are no passwords to remember. More on that in a moment. 

And with more customers in our database, we can finally justify putting more attention on the customer journey — beyond just a single purchase. 

We can finally unleash our creativity as builders of user experiences and as experts in engagement. From repeat engagement campaigns to loyalty programs, there’s so much new territory to explore and places to experiment. 

It’s the fun stuff. And it’s also where math becomes our friend.

Customer journey numbers that’ll make your CFO happy

"Your biggest opportunity isn't with the new customers you haven't acquired. It's with the loyal customers you already have." - Frederick Reichheld, creator of the Net Promoter Score.

Customer journey math can be fun, especially when there are direct revenue implications. So let’s talk briefly about revenue and the online retail funnel. 

You can find many different published statistics from online retailers, but undeniably, we know these two things are true:

  • Past customers are much more likely to purchase again, and spend more money per order, than someone who’s never purchased from your brand.
  • It's much less expensive (and takes less effort/time) to sell to existing and past customers than it is to acquire new ones. 

On average, acquiring new customers costs five to 10 times more than selling to a current customer, and current customers spend 67 percent more on average than those new to your business, as this article suggests

And when you’re a consumer brand with millions of monthly website visitors and a large loyalty program, you can start to do the math. 

That’s why the customer journey matters. Because what happens after people make their first purchase is where real profits are made. 

Keeping the door open

With so much focus on friction as a barrier to new customer acquisition, we sometimes forget about another kind of friction that stifles the customer journey. Logging back in. 

Kudos to your brand if you’ve got a large database of customers who created accounts, with passwords. Bonus points if you have invested time and resources to personalize various web experiences. 

However, if you’re sending promotions to these past customers, and require that they log back in by filling in forms or passwords, you’re probably earning only a fraction of what’s possible. 

One of our clients, a Fortune 100 Food & Beverage consumer brand, has a database with tens of millions of past customers. But before we started working with them, 75% of these past customers were considered “dormant” — they never returned to sign in after making an initial purchase. 

Why? Because we know the vast majority of people forget the passwords they set up. And, we also know very few will complete a password reset process to complete a purchase. And when you start multiplying fractions by fractions, you certainly won’t be impressing your CFO. 

Think about it this way: If you had a boutique storefront in a downtown area with lots of foot traffic, how would you make it as easy as possible for people to enter? Leave the door open. Both for returning customers — and for new ones. 

Unlocking the customer journey

Friction has been a four-letter word in our industry since the early days of e-commerce.  And for years, our industry’s best thinkers and designers have tinkered with optimizing details like form fields, button colors, UI language, and other digital attributes to increase conversions and sales by fractions of a percent.

It was valuable work — especially for the biggest retailers, which can host hundreds of thousands of transactions per day. A fraction of a percent increase, applied over thousands of transactions, adds up.  

However, with today’s passwordless tech, no one should have to fill out complex forms to sign up or sign in anymore. 

We shouldn’t be optimizing the consumer journey — we should reinvent it. And as our customers have shown, rethinking static forms and passwords is orders of magnitude more fruitful than incrementally optimizing a checkout process. 

Make signing in as easy as unlocking your phone. Leave the door open

Because the real revenue opportunity is to encourage and nurture repeat customers. To make it easy for them to sign up, come back, and regularly engage with the brands they love. And to serve them up with ongoing, targeted, personalized experiences they want without requiring them to dig up passwords or account information.

Because the end of the password is just the start of the customer journey — for customers and the people like us who serve them.

___________________________________________________________________

With over 20 years in GTM leadership roles, Ben Jackson is a recognized industry luminary and pioneer in Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM). As the SVP of Global Sales at Gigya & later as an executive at SAP, Ben became a driving force behind the early demands and adoption of CIAM solutions. Under Ben's leadership, Gigya experienced unprecedented success, culminating in their successful acquisition by SAP in 2017.