When building an application, user management is a critical component that you cannot overlook.
It's important to have a system to authenticate and authorize each user before allowing access to your app's data and functionality. However, how you manage this access can vary depending on the nature of your business – whether business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C).
For a B2C company, user management might only require tracking basic information like a user's email address. However, for a B2B company, you may need to track more detailed information, such as the user's job title, department, or role.
In this blog post, you’ll find the key differences between B2B and B2C user management. You'll also look at why security is much more complex in B2B. But let’s first understand what user management is.
What is user management?
User management, also known as customer identity and access management (CIAM), allows you to control and manage user identities, access levels, and personal data. CIAM helps ensure security and privacy in your application while offering each user a personalized experience.
CIAM should not be confused with identity and access management (IAM). The latter is mainly intended for internal staff (employees, freelancers, and service providers). It doesn't really provide a comprehensive solution for customers.
Why do you need user management?
User management solutions offer a complete access and security package, so you don't have to run between solutions to manage access while ensuring data security. Seamless and robust user management has many benefits.
- Faster onboarding: User management helps reduce churn and noticeably increases logins and registrations, regardless of your business model.
- Less stress on support: Better self-service means users have more in-app freedom and don't have to constantly open tickets.
- Flexibility: You benefit from multiple authentication methods, including single sign-on SSO, two-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication (MFA), passwordless, biometric, and social logins, to name a few.
- Compliance: With a centralized platform to manage users, you can view all of their activity (think audit logs) and eliminate blind spots and comply with the strictest regulations.
- Less stress on developers: User management solutions also free up developers to focus on innovation since they don’t have to worry about tasks and password server maintenance.
User management in B2B vs. B2C
Both B2B and B2C companies need to pay special attention to securely storing confidential data, such as identities, user information, passwords, and payment information. Consent management is another key regulatory requirement today. Let’s look at the key aspects of user management in B2C and B2B and how they differ.
B2C user management
User management in B2C encompasses the processes and procedures related to managing interactions with customers and employees, including registration, user authentication, billing, data collection, communications, and more. Businesses should have effective user management systems in place to ensure a positive, secure, and consistent user experience.
Here are some of the action items in B2C user management:
- Onboarding: Creating user profiles, account verification, customizing user dashboards
- Access control: Managing user access rights, assigning roles and permissions
- Authentication: Implementing authentication protocols and technologies to verify user identities
- Data privacy: Ensuring user data is stored in compliance with regulatory standards
- Customer support: Providing customer service and support to users
- Security: Implementing measures to protect user data and accounts from malicious attacks
Overall, user management in B2C is a critical part of running a successful business, helping companies create better customer experiences and optimize their operations.
B2B user management
Things are much more complex for B2B. They go beyond general access control and privacy.
In addition to the user management a B2C company needs, user management in B2B includes controlling access and permission levels for multiple employees and external stakeholders, such as freelancers, agencies, and partners.
Security is inevitably essential given the many use cases for B2B user management. Many security challenges accompany B2B companies, especially as their infrastructure scales.
- Complex ecosystems: The B2B machine has many moving parts as employees access dozens of third-party apps daily. Employees also have access to sensitive information that needs to be protected.
- Multi-tenancy: Multi-tenant architectures save valuable development time and enable rapid scaling. However, they also pose numerous security risks since all tenants use the same environment. A data breach can result in all tenants being compromised, as can downtime and availability.
- Passwords: Despite the advent of passwordless authentication (social logins, biometrics, and so on), passwords are still widely used in the B2B space. In fact, fifty percent of users use the same weak passwords for all accounts. This increases the security and exploitation risks.
- User experience considerations: You can throw single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA), and magic links into the mix to enforce high-security standards, but the result will be dissatisfied and frustrated users who keep requesting password resets. B2B companies without self-service often compromise security to find the right balance.
- Scalability: B2B companies today need to be able to scale quickly. The competition is fierce, and customers expect nothing but the best when it comes to onboarding. Many B2B companies struggle to build the right infrastructure and securely develop user management capabilities. There is often no time to test and enforce security.
As you can tell by now, enforcing optimal security in B2B business environments is much more difficult. That's why you need a robust, scalable, and end-to-end solution for your user management needs.
Implementing user management in B2B vs. B2C
When implementing user management into your application, a clear understanding of your target audience and their needs is key. B2C companies may have a relatively easier path to success when researching and understanding customer needs. B2B companies need to work much harder to track and monitor customer activity and derive actionable insights.
Here are some more areas that differentiate implementing user management in B2B and B2C.
- User experience: User management directly impacts the user experience. While managing the user experience for B2C environments might not be that difficult, B2B companies have many more personas, stakeholders, and roles to consider. They need more customization and flexibility.
- Zero-trust policy: B2B companies require more robust measures like MFA and SSO than B2C to tackle sensitive information.
- Hardware: B2B environments are more complex than B2C with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) considerations, remote teams, and customers in different geographic locations. The user management platform needs to be more flexible for B2B use cases while complying with multiple regulations.
- Multi-tenancy: With B2B companies, adding new customers means creating new environments and building in more roles and permissions. The hierarchies are also increasingly complex.
That said, user management in B2B companies, especially at large scale, requires a high level of multi-tenancy and self-service.
Simply put, user management provides security and personalized user experiences. When implementing a CIAM, consider your target audience’s needs and preferences. B2B companies require higher levels of security due to the sensitive nature of their business and the higher number of use cases.
Finding the right balance between practicality and security is key, whether that’s for B2B or B2C user management. A good user management solution should be able to adapt to your requirements and not the other way around.
Only a self-served and multi-tenant platform can help B2B companies scale securely today. The same is true for B2C companies, but B2B companies must proactively build on this foundation. Anything less just isn't enough.
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