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Consumers are using the Internet to research and purchase their insurance. This trend provides forward-thinking carriers with tremendous growth opportunities, if they can drive the right consumers to the right offerings.
Digital technologies have changed the way consumers go about shopping for and purchasing insurance products and services. Consider that 43 percent of consumers, who plan to acquire an insurance product in the next 12 months, intend to do it online.1 In responding to this shift in consumer behavior, traditional carriers will need to address the traditional conflict between the direct digital channel and more traditional agency channels, as well as acquire new digital capabilities and technologies.
Some agent-based carriers have reignited growth across all channels, direct and indirect, by deploying a digital ecosystem that enables relevant consumer interactions at key moments of truth throughout the purchasing process—generating more leads, allocating those leads to the right channels and enhancing close rates within each channel. Traditional carriers can deploy such an ecosystem in a test-and-learn fashion, galvanizing support among rank-and-file agents and employees.
By cultivating a relevant, robust digital ecosystem of skill, technology and infrastructure, a carrier can gain new and enhanced capabilities and customer approaches that lead to high performance.
Inconceivable 10 years ago, the Internet and social media have morphed into a dynamic, booming marketplace of some two billion people. They are generating some 50 million Tweets per day and 34,000 Google searches per second.2 In the U.S., 71 percent of households are online3, and nearly 155 million Internet users will consume some form of user-created content by 2013.4
Beyond the sheer volumes, digital technologies have utterly and fundamentally changed the way people interact, buy and consume information. Consider that one in three people would rather talk on Facebook and Twitter than in person.5 Fifty one percent of consumers search the Internet before making a high-value in-store purchase.6 More than one in four college students take courses online.7 One in five new relationships now begins on an online dating site.8
53 percent of Twitter users recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets; 48 percent of them deliver on their intention to buy the product.9
The digital revolution is giving consumers more information, more choice and more power. And, the impact has extended to the relationship-dependent business of insurance. Today, insurers’ relationship with consumers increasingly begins online. Thanks to digital media—the Internet, social networking, blogs, video, smart phones and others—consumers have broad and convenient access to a wealth of information. They are using that access to search for, learn about and get advice on products, services and providers. More Americans now use the Web to engage with insurance companies than use telephones.10 In essence, digital channels are becoming the first go-to source in determining which products and services to buy.
Consider that in the $158 billion U.S. auto insurance segment (one of the largest in the industry):
72 percent of consumers use the Internet to learn about auto insurance11
67 percent of consumers who shopped ‘within the past 12 months’ received a quote online,12 helping to generate 38.8 million quotes in 2009 in the US alone.13
A small but rapidly growing critical mass of U.S. consumers now purchase their auto insurance policies online, driving a record 2.8 million online policies in 2009.14
Furthermore, Accenture research shows that 67 percent of consumers who are planning to purchase insurance “in the next 12 months” intend to renew or buy insurance through agents, with 43 percent15 intending to buy online.16
This shift in consumer behavior has transformed the digital channel into the primary ground for influencing costumer choice. Direct carriers who noticed this shift and became digital leaders doubled their market share over the past decade.
According to the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, direct response writers have expanded their share of personal auto to nearly 16 percent with each point of share worth hundreds of millions of premium revenue. In 2009, while others saw their premiums decline, direct writers actually grew premiums by $2.3 billion—on top of $1 billion growth in 2008.17
Despite their increased reliance on the digital channel, online consumers still prefer to buy insurance from an agent or broker. This preference is creating a new class of consumers that exhibits a hybrid behavior (shopping online and purchasing offline) and generating a significant opportunity for traditional agent-based carriers as direct competitors struggle to offer a face-to-face, agent-driven purchasing experience. This new class of consumers seeks and rewards seamless, relevant multi-channel interactions which traditional carriers, with their large agent networks, are better positioned than direct carriers to provide.
Thus, the key question for agent-based carriers is: how do we win the battle for customer choice in the digital space and re-ignite growth across the agent, digital and call center channels?
Capitalizing on this opportunity requires a digital ecosystem that helps carriers effectively influence consumer choice in the digital space and resolves the conflict between digital and agent channels, integrating them in a way that enables a consistent and relevant multi-channel shopping and purchasing experience. This digital ecosystem will:
Generate more leads. Driving more leads is a direct function of providing relevant content, product offers and experiences at key moments of truth throughout the customer buying process.
Allocate leads to the right channels. Using rich consumer profiles and advanced analytics, a robust digital ecosystem will infer a consumer’s channel preference and allocate that lead to the right channel. In addition and within the agent channel, it will apply match.com-like analytical capabilities to find a better match between prospects and agents.
Increase close rates and retention rates. Enhancing the consumer experience and continuously testing new experiences across all channels, the digital ecosystem will drive close rates and retention rates. A digital ecosystem that provides for high performance exhibits six defining features: relevance at scale, continuous optimization, full integration, global standards, support for multiple platforms and self-diagnostics.
Relevance at scale
At the heart of an effective digital ecosystem is the ability to understand a visitor’s intent and profile, and use this information to assemble meaningful, digital experiences that resonate with the visitor, drive engagement and increase conversions. Accenture’s experience suggests that most carriers deliver one-size-fits-all experiences in online search, one of several channels through which visitors express intent.Though carriers today cover a good portion of visitors’ search intents, they are presenting generic advertising copy and landing pages which equate to missed opportunities to drive relevant interactions at two key moments of truth.
The average-performing carrier responds to very specific online visitor intent with generic advertising copy that leads to a generic landing page. In contrast, high performers deliver meaningful advertising copy and landing pages in similar online situations which helps them to outpace the industry. Delivering this type of relevant interaction is relatively straight forward for a handful of key search terms. However, consumers express intents in many different ways. Thanks to the freeform nature of online searches, consumers use thousands of keyword combinations to search for insurance. An effective digital ecosystem uses analytics and software to catalogue the wide range of intents expressed in the search channel and other channels
It also takes advantage of first- and third-party data sources to build rich visitor profiles that include contextual, environmental, behavioral, demographic and CRM-type data, among others. The combination of visitor intent and profile fuels the ability of the digital ecosystem to deliver relevant interactions at scale and in real time.
Once relevance at scale is achieved, the digital ecosystem sustains it over time through a process of continuous optimization. Continuous optimization acknowledges the fact that visitor preferences evolve over time and that yesterday’s optimal digital experiences might not be relevant today. Continuous optimization differs from multivariate testing (MVT) and A/B testing in at least two aspects. First, MVT and A/B testing take significantly longer to setup, run and draw conclusions than continuous optimization.
Accenture’s experience suggests that it takes at least three months to run an MVT or A/B test while continuous optimization allows changes to the user experience as warranted. Second, while MVT and A/B testing does provide the ability to segment traffic, the segmentation is typically focused on time of day, day of week and traffic source type parameters. Continuous optimization, on the other hand, builds upon rich visitor profiles and intent to drive optimization to the visitor level of detail, enabling sustained relevance, at scale, over time.
An effective digital ecosystem integrates upstream into the media cloud (e.g., social, mobile, display, search and so forth) and downstream into the agent and contact center channel. Upstream and downstream integration enables relevant interactions consistently throughout the entire customer buying process. From the time the visitor is exposed to an advertisement, through the quoting process, and to the moment of binding, the customer maintains a consistent experience, be that online or through an agent.
Downstream integration includes the use of advanced analytics to infer a visitor’s preferred channel and allocate the lead to the best channel. Within the agent channel, advanced analytics are used to match the lead to an agent who shares an affinity or interest, providing a greater chance for the agent to build a relationship with the lead.
An effective digital ecosystem is “glocal,” providing global standards with local control. It is delivered through a single, integrated technology platform, which allows for the creation and enforcement of standards and lowers total cost of ownership. At the same time, the ecosystem is local in that it allows local regional managers to use pre-approved creative marketing assets to adjust the visitor experience with the touch of a button in a way that more closely responds to local conditions.
Support for multiple platforms
The digital ecosystem that fuels high performance takes a holistic approach to digital. It goes beyond the web and includes mobile and social platforms. In doing so, it enables visitors to have a seamless experience across all digital channels and provides multi-channel transaction processing. To this end, the ecosystem uses a single customer data repository, multichannel processes and session management technology, among other capabilities.
Deploying digital ecosystems for high performance
Relevant digital interactions with consumers and existing customers will continue to be fertile ground for insurers to increase wallet share and revenue. Carriers that work to bring agility and intelligence to their digital ecosystems can expect significant and measurable results—from better conversion rates and lower cost to growth in customers and revenue.
Deploying a high-performance digital ecosystem cannot be accomplished overnight. It requires sustained support from multiple stakeholders across multiple budget and planning periods. Accenture experience suggests that a phased, incremental approach to implementation is most successful. Such an approach uses pilot programs and campaigns to test new capabilities and gain internal support before rolling them out across the entire enterprise.
Digital technologies have fundamentally transformed consumer behavior across many industries, including insurance, creating both a challenge and a tremendous growth opportunity. Despite the opportunities, few agent based carriers have capitalized on the power of the digital realm. Those insurers who take action and begin delivering relevant cross-channel consumer experiences at scale are likely to leapfrog their competitors, grow their business and drive unprecedented levels of customer intimacy—creating a durable competitive advantage for the digital age.
1 Accenture Multi-Channel Distribution Insurance Consumer Survey 2010
2 “Google Tops Worldwide In 2009,” comScore, Inc., January 22, 2010
3 “US Internet Users, 2007-2012,”eMarketer, January 2008
4 “User-Generated Content:More Popular than Profitable,” eMarketer, January 2009
5 “‘Can't Face Your Family?’ Survey,” nydailynews.com, April 9, 2010
6 “The Future of Retail Online Merchandising: A Review of Google Product Search,” toptenwholesale.com, January 17, 2011
7 “Study: Online Education Continues Its Meteoric Growth,” U.S. News & World Report, January 26, 2010
8 “2010 Online Dating Study,” match.com and Chadwick Martin Bailey, April 2010
9 “S-Net (The Impact of Social Media),” ROI Research for Performance, June 2010
10 “Insurance Consumers Buying More Often Online,” Insurance Journal, May 3, 2010
11 Global Auto Insurance Survey, comScore, March 2010
12 Global Auto Insurance Survey, comScore, March 2010
13 U.S. Online Auto Insurance Report, comScore, Inc., April 2010
14 U.S. Online Auto Insurance Report, comScore, Inc., April 2010
15 Multiple mentions were permitted so the total exceeds 100 percent.
16 Accenture Global Multi-Channel Executive Survey, 2010
17 2009 Property-Casualty Insurance Market: Opportunities & Competitive Challenges For Independent Agents & Brokers, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, February 2011
18 Accenture Global Multi-Channel Survey, 2011
November 25, 2011
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