As consumers become increasingly expectant of end-to-end digital purchasing experiences, having purchase fulfillment as part of your product roadmap is increasingly important.
Indeed, many insurance products are available as end-to-end digital experiences already. Travel, warranty, tenants, condo, auto, etc. have made their way online, with companies like Kanetix Ltd. offering many insurance products for purchase online via their marketplaces.
However, most of these online experiences still default to closing a sale over the phone, or even via a paper application. There remains an element of human interaction that has long been considered a vital part of the customer journey, but with so many other experiences moving to fully developed digital purchasing strategies, it only makes sense that insurance—something that is mandatory and legally required in many situations—moves fully online too.
How do today’s brokers and insurance companies move towards a buy online strategy—and how do we do it while continuing to provide the human experience and trust factor that our customers are used to?
There is a perceived customer aversion to purchasing insurance online, when in fact consumers are increasingly open to the idea of fully transacting online.
“We’re entering an era of consumer-centric insurance that will likely be marked by a surge in new digital offerings and serious efforts by insurers to improve the auto insurance shopping experience,” said Tom Super, Director of the Property and Casualty Insurance Practice at J.D. Power, in a press release about the company’s annual Insurance Shopping Study.
He continued, “Auto insurers looking to differentiate and win new customers are making big bets with digital—such as in personalization—that meet customers’ growing expectations for improved interactions.”
Additionally, the insurance marketplace has not yet moved to a conventional buy online model as seen in other industries. Many of us are still trying to figure it out, and while we’re beginning to include it as part of our product roadmap, there is not yet an industry standard in place to base these models.
This has resulted in trial and error on our part and that of our peers. However, change is inevitable and there is a lot to be learned from those who have ventured into the online insurance movement, and those, like us, who are moving towards it.
Early adopters are laying the foundation for innovative solutions that simplify the insurance buying process, but these are still early days.
Two companies that have received industry attention for simplifying the process of buying insurance online are Sonnet and Lemonade. Sonnet, a subsidiary of Economical Insurance, utilizes an interactive interface to facilitate and simplify the insurance buying process. Lemonade, an American not-for-profit insurance company, has developed an online user experience that mirrors a chat experience for customers to purchase home and tenant insurance.
Both companies launched digital buying solutions with home and tenant insurance. By strategically starting with an insurance product with easily pre-filled and proxied data points, both companies have been successful in modifying the purchasing process without having the customers physically speak to someone to fulfil the purchase. They’ve also strategically rolled out their products, with Lemonade taking a state-by-state rollout approach and Sonnet adding auto insurance after a beta period with property insurance.
However, it should be noted that despite the industry attention paid to these companies, brand recognition remains imperative. In the same J.D. Power study referenced earlier, less than six per cent of consumers surveyed were aware of alternative insurance models such as Lemonade. It’s important that the Buy Online strategy you implement fits into your value proposition.
Your Buy Online strategy must align with your product offering and suit your consumer base. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but rather consider adding another part to your existing wheelhouse.
The Solution: Develop a Purchase Fulfilment Strategy
Your business may not be there yet but starting to take the necessary steps to move in this direction is beneficial to your strategy now. Moving to a Buy Online proposition will force you to examine your process and resources now, helping you to identify potential gaps in your existing roadmap that can be address along the way.
The first thing to recognize is that many consumers want to purchase insurance online. A report by Accenture called these customers “nomads” while another report from PwC called them “digital natives.” In both reports, these customers represent the next generation of consumers who are ready, willing, and in some cases already making insurance purchases online.
There are a few key areas that require consideration when developing your purchase fulfilment strategy.
Customer Service and User Experience
Are you positioning your Buy Online to a group that will have a positive experience and engagement with a digital journey? Is it priced competitively? Will the segment written be profitable? Do you have a mechanism to re-underwrite and maintain the customer experience digitally or with minimal friction? Is the service experience digital? If not, can you marry your online and offline processes?
Let’s look at the wireframes for a Buy Online workflow from Kanetix Ltd. To ensure the process runs smoothly, we want to prep our customers with everything they need to know before they begin. This helps make the journey more seamless, sets user expectations, and speeds up the process of purchasing an insurance policy online.
After the user has run quotes and selected an option, we prompt them with a list of what they’ll need to move forward, including driver’s license, VIN number, banking information and vehicle leasing/financing information (if applicable):
A consumer may have questions throughout the process, so consider how you can make the user experience more human and familiar.
- Is there agent/broker chat intervention to assist consumers in working through challenges or answering their questions?
- Are your consumers confident in purchasing a high premium point product without intervention? Can you facilitate that confidence with information and education?
Upon showing the consumer a summary of coverage, we provide an option so they can proceed with the purchase or speak directly to a broker if they have any questions. This humanizes the process and puts the consumer in control. It lets them know that there are people standing by to help them and that even though this is a Buy Online option, it is not an impersonal one.
Buy Online paths need not be available for all consumer journeys. If more analysis and underwriting needs to be done, your roadmap should have seamless hand-offs into a broker or agent’s hands for a more traditional insurance interaction.
Personalization & Transparency
Throughout the customer journey, we personalize the experience by referring to the consumer by name throughout the entire process. There is also explanation why information is needed at each step and what its purpose is.
Integration with Third Party Data Centres
Buying most insurance products online would be unduly invasive and cumbersome if you don’t figure out ways to proxy and prefill information from third party data centres or vendors.
A driver’s licence number, for example, can get you a complete story about licensing history, insurance history, and vehicle details. What other data fields can you streamline, eliminate, or ease in their restrictions? Perhaps Google Maps information can help you prefill data on vehicle parking. If you’re an insurer, is predictive rating and pricing in your toolbox or on your roadmap?
Ongoing Trial, Error and Success
Kanetix Ltd. is continuously testing new ideas, aborting failed experiments and applying those lessons learned to our next test. A/B testing multiple quoting and buying experiences will ensure that you maximize conversions while also helping collect rating information in the most efficient and accurate way possible.
For a detailed look at A/B testing, check out our guide to building an effective A/B testing program.
Key Takeaways for a Buy Online Strategy
Buy Online strategies are the future of this industry, but that doesn’t mean they need to be a dramatic departure from what you’re already doing. Plan to succeed by taking the time to truly understand your market and their needs. Don’t be afraid to test, fail, and try again. By keeping the following takeaways in mind, you can begin to develop the type of end-to-end digital buying experience that today’s consumers expect.
- Define your strategy and target market. Make the purchase path match your market
- Facilitate agent hand-offs and interventions. Ensure you have captured all sales opportunities, whether fulfilled online or those that have moved offline.
- Humanize the experience. Work to gain trust and confidence in your experience and the product you are selling.
Keep going. Continuous monitoring, A/B testing, and optimization are compulsory ingredients to any digital experience, especially a new online purchase journey. Machine learning is optional…for now.
Need help or want to walk through your own thoughts on developing an online purchase strategy? We’d love to hear from you.
About the author:
As Vice – President and Principal Broker, Darryl May leads both the P&C and Financial brokerage divisions of Kanetix Ltd. With a focus on strategic growth through online channels and creating a true end-to-end digital experience, Darryl’s passion is leveraging technology to eliminate friction points in the customer journey and constantly improve engagement and value throughout the client life cycle. Darryl takes pride, through KTX, on nurturing mutually beneficial partnerships with over 20 of Canada’s largest insurers through profitable portfolio growth and access to digital customer insights and acquisition. Darryl joined KTX in 2006 and has over 15 years of experience in the insurance industry, progressing through a number of sales, underwriting and senior management roles. Prior to KTX, Darryl worked at TD Insurance as an analyst. Darryl holds a CIP, is a graduate of Queen’s University, and is currently a MBA candidate.