Whether or not insurers are ready, consumers are open to change when it comes to shopping for and buying insurance products. According to research from Accenture, 67 percent of insurance customers would consider purchasing insurance from organizations other than insurers; 23 percent would consider buying from online service providers such as Google and Amazon; and 52 percent would prefer to apply for or purchase insurance products online.

Consumers’ openness to new distribution channels is a manifestation of several emerging technology trends, Accenture said, including the blurring of the digital and physical; the increased availability of data; the rise of the borderless enterprise; and advanced hardware and apps. Insurers, on the other hand, largely have adopted digital distribution channels and grafted their digital strategies onto legacy systems, business processes and business models, Accenture explained. Rather, insurers should plan for a more thorough business transformation that leverages emerging technologies.

“[Insurers] that ride the digital wave brought on by trends such as crowdsourcing, advanced analytics and visualization, intelligent devices, hyper-scale computing and modular business apps will be able to stave off competition from would-be disrupters and redefine the industry on their own terms,” Accenture said.
Devices such as embedded sensors in home security systems, insurance telematics, wearable consumer products, including fitness bands for monitoring health and other emerging technologies, offer examples of the blurring of the digital and physical. Such products have the potential to drive new revenues and profits in industries and customer segments where insurers have not traditionally competed, according to the report.


These devices, which fall under the rubric of the Internet of things, potentially could be lever- aged by insurers to offer more accurate pricing, Accenture said, and alter the nature of interactions between consumers and insurers.

To unlock the value of the resulting data, insurers must treat data more as a supply chain, Accenture said, enabling access to the data and allowing it to flow through the organization, and eventually to partners as well. That’s why insurers are implementing big-data tools, investing in advanced analytics and purchasing data visualization tools.

“The supply chain ends with a valuable insight as its output,” Accenture noted. “Guiding this movement is a federated data services platform, which unifies data from multiple systems into a single view and enables business users to interact with the data in a standardized way.”

With improved access to information, the path to discovering new insights is changing, enabling data scientists and less technical users to do analytics more easily and intuitively, Accenture said. When data is manipulated as it passes down the supply chain, value can be added and obtained in ways that previously were impossible, because data discovery techniques enable businesses to discover answers to questions they may never have known to ask. There also is a shift toward simpler, more modular and analytics-enabled apps as insurers push for greater operational agility, Accenture said. Insurance apps will draw on data and services from multiple sources to offer single-screen solutions to customers for risk advice, risk cover and complementary services; this will simplify and accelerate information-gathering and decision-making, and potentially result in more sales.

“Now, the next wave of software innovation has arrived, promising even more flexibility and simplicity,” the report said. One of the benefits to insurers is that apps can help increase customer retention and reduce the size and frequency of claims by encouraging risk-friendly behavior, Accenture said.

Users, on the other hand, can be rewarded with lower premiums, discounts, coupons from partners or loyalty points for participating. The increasing usage of tablets and mobile phones is another trend amplifying the importance of the move to apps.

“The choice for most insurance carriers is this: transform yourself into a risk manager, advisor and value aggregator at the center of a digital ecosystem that delivers high-value services to customers every day, or be pushed to the periphery as an interchangeable commodity service provider with limited control over your destiny,” Accenture said.

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