Consumers perceive your enterprise as a single entity and expect you to treat them like a single entity. If you have multiple websites and mobile apps under the same company umbrella, there’s no reason you can’t meet this expectation.
One solution is to eliminate the need to use multiple passwords. Instead, you can use a centralized authentication method to get the job done seamlessly using a web-based single sign-on (popularly known as Web SSO).
Web SSO is a part of Single Sign-On that brings everything together. Each consumer has one account and one set of credentials that they can use anywhere to interact with your brand.
Before we explain the web counterpart of SSO, let’s start with the basics.
Single sign-on is the process of authentication that allows consumers to access multiple applications and websites with a single login credential and an active login session.
It prevents the need for the consumer to log in separately to the different applications/websites.
The following are two examples of the Single Sign-On environments:
- Consumers access multiple applications of the same provider: Consumers don't need to create and remember separate credentials for each application; they log in once and access various applications of that provider. Example: Google, Youtube, Gmail, etc.
- Employees access numerous applications daily: Employees don't need to create and remember separate credentials for each application; they can log in once and access various applications used in the organization. Example: HR Portal, Resource Portal, Organizational Account, etc.
Furthermore, SSO can also facilitate the following for a developer:
- Allow consumers to authenticate across multiple applications without re-prompting them to log in.
- Allow consumers to log in to all their SaaS applications by only typing the credentials once.
- Align SaaS applications with organizational IAM policies.
Note: With SSO implementation, the SLO (Single Logout) is also required, i.e., if a consumer has logged out from one application, they should be logged out from other linked applications too.
As already mentioned, consumers want to log into a single place and access all of their favorite sites and services using their preferred login credentials.
It simplifies the authentication and login process for enterprise consumers. Here's how SSO works:
- When consumers land on a page included in the SSO grouping, the first step is to check and request access to the site or application.
- The site checks to see if your identity has been authenticated with the SSO provider. If the SSO session was not present, it either goes into the logout function or redirects the page to the logout URL. Here, consumers redirect to the authentication interface where they can log in with credentials. (i.e., username and password).
- Consumers enter their login credentials.
- The SSO solution requests authentication from the identity provider your company uses.
- The identity provider confirms the consumer's identity to the SSO solution.
- After confirmation, it is redirected to the original website and redirects consumers to the site.
- As consumers navigate the website, the site tracks page to page using tokens, reauthenticating the identity. If consumers go to another website or application, that site will check the identity with the SSO solution. Since consumers are already logged in, their identities are automatically verified with the new site, and they don't need to log in again.
- Service Provider: They are applications a consumer visits for service—for example, eCommerce applications. In the SSO ecosystem, the SP is considered a Slave.
- Identity Provider: The service provider receives the consumer authentication status from the Identity Provider. In the SSO ecosystem, the IDP is considered a Master.
Your organization can implement SSO in the following ways:
- Web SSO: When a single sign-on is required between two or more web applications.
- Mobile SSO: When a single sign-on is required between two or more mobile apps.
- Federated SSO: When a single sign-on is required between third-party applications.
In the next section of this blog, we are going to discuss only the Web SSO.
Web SSO is a method of browser-based session management that utilizes browser storage mechanisms like sessionStorage, localStorage, Cookies to maintain the consumer's session across your applications.
A centralized domain is used to serve the authentication on request, and this centralized domain shares the session with authorized applications.
So that consumer's logged in to a single application automatically log into another application, independent of the platform or domain the consumer is using.
Single sign-on directly benefits your organization by gathering a wealth of consumer data and credentials securely in one spot for your services, teams, and applications to use.
Failing to use SSO will make your consumers notice you in a bad light as they try to navigate your apps and services.
By contrast, product managers who bring an SSO solution to their organization will stand out because of the many benefits that single sign-on provides for your business:
Relatively speaking, a single point of access minimizes the time consumers spend dealing with password-related issues/concerns and resources. With a single sign-on, you can:
- Reduce support calls: Consumers with just one password to access all their apps won't require assistance as often.
- Improve consumer experience: Since there's no need to hop between multiple login URLs or reset passwords, consumers reduce the time between 10 to 15 seconds on every sign-in.
- Mitigate security risks: Without risking the security, employees can use SSO functionality for login with their single set of credentials on any device, in any web browser.
As we can see, the ability to increase the productivity of consumers is one of the most significant benefits of single sign-on.
A few misconceptions regarding the SSO solution implementation, like it weakens the security in case if a master password is stolen, all associated accounts will be compromised.
This appears to be true in theory, but with common-sense practices, we can reduce password theft with the help of SSO.
Since consumers only need to remember one password for multiple applications, they're more likely to create a stronger (harder to guess) passphrase and reduce risk by minimizing lousy password habits.
The following section will discuss how a single sign-on strategy can also be combined with multi-factor authentication (MFA) for extra security.
As mentioned earlier, SSO gives your consumer one "key" to sign in to multiple web properties, mobile apps, and third-party systems using one single identity.
For even more security, you can combine SSO with risk-based authentication (RBA), where organizations and their security team can monitor consumer patterns.
This way, if you see any unusual consumer behavior, such as the wrong IP, or multiple login failures, an organization can ask for extra verification of identity; if the consumer fails at this point, the organization can block or suspend their access to the account.
By using this effective combination, organizations can prevent cyberattacks on their websites or apps. They can feel safe from cybercriminals from stealing data or draining IT resources.
Cybercrime can be prevented. Security professionals demand a unique password for every single application. It means that the average consumer must remember a lot of passwords for office and personal usage.
Unfortunately, this often leads to "password fatigue." How does password fatigue hurt enterprises? In short, more passwords, more problems.
If consumers are experiencing a challenging time signing in, they'll leave the organization's app or site before the conversion.
A recent usability study by Baymard Institute proves this point. In this study, Baymard tested existing account consumers at two e-commerce sites (Amazon and ASOS) and found that 18.75% of consumers abandon their carts due to forgotten passwords or password reset issues.
This is the considerable benefit of web SSO that it's only one password for consumers to remember for all of the enterprise's applications and websites.
As repeated logins are no longer required with SSO, consumers can enjoy a modern digital experience. The benefits for enterprises include consumer satisfaction, an increase in loyalty, and higher conversion rates.
In this article, we talked about the functionality, concept, and how Web Single-Sign-On can enhance business ROI. We learned how it increases agility, security, convenience and streamlines the experience for your business and consumers alike.
However, before implementing any functionality on your website, analyze and consider the pros and cons from every possible angle.