Life insurance has yet to broadly enter the direct to consumer (D2C) market. Instead, agents sell to clients, serving as the main driver of new business for insurers.
Agents typically focus on affluent customers, as carriers have found it difficult to get the economics right for less moneyed segments. However, recent US population growth in the middle and low income segments remains underserved.
Ignoring this market leaves a $12 trillion gap in protection for US middle market consumers. Insurers who focus on this market stand to gain revenues of $12 billion and profits of half a billion dollars annually.
The key to tapping this $12 billion market is to sell directly to it, eschewing the traditional agent-based model for this customer segment.
Some insurers balk at the D2C approach, feeling it will cannibalize their agents’ existing business, causing an exodus of some of their best revenue producers. It will not. Direct models such as those set up by MassMutual and MetLife show promise.
As insurers enter the digital realm, they must redesign the product mix for an audience that may not fit their traditional client profile. Fortunately for insurers, recent advances in digital technologies foster selling a more complex, customized mix directly to consumers—allowing tailoring not only to varying segments, but to very individual needs.
This market will not remain untapped for long. Speed is of the essence. Among key first steps are:
Microsegment the middle while keeping targeted products simple. The niche approach works if complications are at a minimum.
Combine digital and physical over the breadth of the value chain, driven by analytics.
Force agility with a stand-alone D2C operation.
Drive greater customer engagement with regular communications. The digital approach requires it.
Insurers looking to tap the middle market should move quickly, as their competitors look to partner in ecosystems that span sales channels; these are, even in their nascency, changing the industry.