You may have noticed when signing into your Barnes & Noble online account, or when you put an item of clothing in your basket on ASOS, a new addition to the usual "Enter your username and password" command. Signing in with social media is gaining traction among consumers as a way to allow users to engage with a site in a brand new way. By logging in to your favourite websites using Facebook or LinkedIn, for example, you keep all your information in one place and reducing the need to remember multiple passwords.
For businesses, meanwhile, social logins can increase registration rates by as much as 90 per cent and provide permission based access to first-party user data, allowing a company to create a completely personalised experience for their user. With more than 800 million social logins recorded in 2013 alone, it's a key player in the battle for consumer identity on the web.
Gigya is one of the leaders in this connected consumer management industry, and upon catching up with CEO Patrick Salyer and its director of marketing communications at Gigya, Victor White, it's clear that it's a lucrative business. Tapping into a number of technological trends, social logins allow brands to understand and connect with today's mobile and socially connected consumers.
"I think in the future," says Salyer sagely, "much more about the relationship between business and consumers will need to be transparent; a relationship where there is a handshake; where the user is willing to grant permission to access to their information because they benefit from increased personalisation. But there needs to be clarity on what's happening, and I think that social logins are a big part of that."
Salyer points to the airline KLM as an example of a business that's leveraging social logins to bolster its customers' experiences through its "Meet and Seat" scheme. Fliers can log in using their Facebook or LinkedIn profile details to see not only where they'll be sitting, but who they'll be sitting next to, before their plane has even left the ground.
The service allows passengers to find out "interesting" details about their neighbours for a flight, such as whether they'll be attending the same event at their destination or whether they have similar interests. According to Salyer, "Meet and Seat" is "taking an offline connected experience and leveraging identity to create personalisation relevant to the customer."
Of course, in the post-Snowden era the idea of any personal data being given out to a stranger tends to set the alarm bells ringing. White, however, is quick to wade in and stifle the clappers. "The fact is that by and large companies are doing the right thing when it comes to social network data," he assures me. "It's just because of a few bad actors in the past that there is the occasional concern of what's going to happen to my data, but really it's more of a communication gap and companies are doing the right thing."
And the right thing seems to be changing our preconceived notions of the relationship between social media and business. "Social media has been viewed to date as another marketing channel for a business," says Salyer. "The difference is that now social media has become a better way to understand who a business's customers are.
"That's the biggest business imperative, to understand who your customers are, that's the foundation for any marketing strategy. So social media is moving away from being something just on the side to something that if you don't do you will be behind your competitors because you won't be able to understand and engage with your customers."
Clearly, communication sits at the heart of the social login phenomenon - but how do we take it further? White is keen to point out that not only does the technology enable you to engage more effectively with your customers, but it will be the key to unlocking one of the biggest developments of the next few years: The Internet of Things.
"One of the criticisms of the Internet of Things has been that most of these devices are not really talking to each other at the moment," says Victor. "Your nest thermostat isn't talking to your Nike Fuel band, and you may ask why would you want that anyway? But if I'm on kilometre 5 of a 6km run, I might want my Nike Fuel Band to talk to my thermostat and say 'Hey I'm coming back, I'd like my apartment to be cooler than normal'. So what we envision is that identity and social login powering identity will be what connects these devices and gets them all talking to each other."