Sweeping Changes Require Rethinking Marketing and Distribution Models

It is now an “own the customer” insurance world where transparency is rampant and customer choice is ubiquitous. It’s those insurers who are able to consistently engage, influence and satisfy the customer’s shopping preferences and product needs, that have the best shot at winning – in both the short and long term.

According to a recent survey by Adobe, 76 percent of marketers think marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the past 50. Respondents noted that “reaching the right customer at the right time with the right message” was among their top challenges. Every industry is affected by this shift, including insurance.

So why is it so challenging to reach customers these days? For starters, shopping habits have changed dramatically – the sales funnel insurers adopted decades ago and used to design traditional marketing and distribution models no longer reflects consumers’ transformed buying behavior. eCommerce, mobile technology, and social media have given customers power and they’re using that power to determine how, what, when and where they want to buy.

In today’s omni-channel shopping environment, that single sweet spot in the sales funnel where insurers could capture the buyer has been replaced by dozens of potential touch points throughout the buying cycle – each touch point representing an opportunity for an insurer to engage the customer and influence their next step.

Successful retailers like Amazon and Zappos have figured out how to interact with the empowered shopper and deliver an astonishing omni-channel, consumer-centric shopping experience – redefining and elevating customers’ expectations. Customers now expect a seamless, convenient and easy one-stop insurance shopping experience that offers choice and flexibility across all channels, including direct, agents and call centers.

Delivering the “wow” customer experience that will give insurers a better chance to win sales, market share, and customer loyalty requires rethinking traditional marketing and distribution models. Creating the best customer experience requires understanding exactly what impacts a consumer’s purchase decision, and meeting all their needs at the moment they’re ready to buy. Also, bearing in mind that consumers may need multiple insurance products – compounding the complexity of their research, decision-making and buying process.

The information customers receive just before buying has a big impact on their purchase decision. In its “Consumer Decision Journey,” McKinsey refers to this influential pre-purchase stage as the “Active Evaluation” phase, a period when the omni-channel shopper is actively researching their purchase decision using primarily online resources. Google Shopper Sciences notes that, on average, insurance shoppers use 11.7 sources of information to research their insurance purchase during this phase. What’s most valuable to customers at this stage is information they can use to weigh their options – Internet reviews, product comparisons, and social media recommendations, among a myriad of others. Insurers that want to make an impact during this critical stage of the buying cycle should offer customers easy access to this information across all channels and provide customers with a variety of ways to interact.

With insurers needing to be able to connect with customers who can buy any way and through any channel (or combination of channels) they prefer, the insurer’s challenge is to seamlessly engage with the customer across channels during a single transaction, and capture the customer data once through a single entry point. Fair warning to the insurer that requires the customer to enter their information multiple times – buyers won’t tolerate this much longer.

The key to creating a “wow” customer buying experience is to meet all the consumer’s needs when they’re ready to buy. If the insurer isn’t prepared to sell the customer what they want, the customer will go to the competition to satisfy their multiple coverage requirements. In order to offer customers what they want to buy, the most successful companies today – those that are growing market share – offer not only their products, but their competitors’ products as well. While a few short years ago selling competitor products was unthinkable, the goal now is to own the customer relationship by offering them what they want, when they want it – ensuring that the insurer’s brand gets the credit, not to mention the underwriting income and fees that come with it.

The winning strategy of giving the customer what they want is well illustrated in Progressive Insurance’s ranking “Among the Best” for Overall Satisfaction, Policy Offerings, and Price in JD Power’s 2013 U.S. Household Insurance and Bundling Study (Homeowners).  Quite an accomplishment given that Progressive doesn’t offer its own home insurance products.

Insurers that integrate these key components into their customers’ shopping experiences will reliably find themselves able to connect with the right customer at the right time with the right message. Finding the sweet spots in the insurance sales cycle is really about offering processes and products that respond to how and what the consumer wants to buy rather than how and what the insurer wants to sell.

It is now an “own the customer” insurance world where transparency is rampant and customer choice is ubiquitous.  It’s those insurers who are able to consistently engage, influence and satisfy the customer’s shopping preferences and product needs, that have the best shot at winning – in both the short and long term.

Tim Attia // Tim Attia is the senior VP, sales and marketing for Bolt. He has over 20 years of experience in the IT and Insurance industry. Prior to joining Bolt, Attia was the Worldwide Vice President of Sales for Exigen Insurance Solutions; a San Francisco based Software Company selling core systems to property and casualty insurance companies globally. Attia also held various senior executive and senior sales positions over 8 years at Camilion Solutions, Inc, a Toronto based enterprise insurance software company that worked with some of the largest commercial lines insurance carriers in the US and Europe. Attia was Co-founder and CEO of Ajengo that was a startup organization focused on product innovation for large commercial carriers in the US.

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