Consumers and advisors have easier access to more information than ever, casting insurance education efforts in a newly competitive light. Insurance Networking News asked Ian Lundahl, research manager, insurance, retirement and asset management for Corporate Insight, about technology-enabled efforts to reach, educate and motivate consumers.

INN: What technology trends have you noticed for educating advisors and consumers?

IML: Insurers are dealing with much-more-informed advisors, prospects and customers, so there's a real need for them to deliver accurate and digestible financial education that targets all of those groups.

Video games and interactive quizzes are reaching a much broader consumer base, and gamification is trending in the banking industry, especially abroad.

BBVA Spain released a game app on Facebook that combined financial education with giveaways, and within two months the bank drew more than 37,000 new users.

In the United States, insurers are releasing games focusing on life insurance education, most notably AXA Equitable's "Pass It On!" A player travels cross country facing financial choices, managing expenses and making decisions about life insurance.

In Allstate's "Life's Unpredictable" game, users dodge obstacles and collect tokens to use at a virtual Allstate office. And Northwestern Mutual's "9-Hole Challenge" quiz uses a golf theme to quiz participants on insurance and retirement concepts.

Gamification is a trend worth watching in financial services; it speaks to brand recognition and marketing.

INN: What tools are insurers using to target consumers online, and what new technology plays a part in this process?

IML: Multimedia videos work great for explaining basics, such as the features of life insurance products, or differences between permanent-, term- and universal-life products, for example.Northwestern Mutual effectively uses video to explain the concept of using cash value within a life insurance policy.

Interactive life insurance and retirement consultation calculators and estimators also are effective for enabling users to explore product nuances, such as death benefit estimates and survivor needs.

Most of the content that is available to consumers on insurer's public website is available on mobile devices as well, enabling consumers to explore educational resources on their devices.

As insurers have redesigned and updated their websites, they're implementing design features that look good on mobile platforms. But these resources don't replace brochures, news articles and commentary; they simply complement that educational content.

INN: How have insurers been using social media to focus on financial education?

IML: The insurance industry was later in adopting social strategies than banking and credit card firms, but there's been tremendous improvement. Large insurers have a social media presence and mid-size and regional insurers know it can be an important part of their branding strategy.

One crucial element for insurers to understand is which social medium is most appropriate for their message. Twitter is the best conduit for linking to educational articles, new product updates and financial commentary.

Facebook is a bit trickier and speaks more to general branding and corporate marketing. MetLife has been really successful in acquiring Facebook followers and using its Peanuts-themed campaigns to garner interest. Insurers also can use Facebook to post videos and host tools and calculators, offering another platform to engage with consumers and familiarize them with insurance products and services. Social media democratizes a brand, however, so it's important for insurers to monitor their online presence and implement guidelines to prevent PR disasters.

INN: What effect do these developing technologies have for insurance advisors?

IML: Advancements in site content, social media and mobile all speak to expediting the learning process for advisors and consumers. Having product information on a smartphone or tablet enables advisors to keep abreast of product information and changes on the go. Should an advisor need to brush up on product specifications before meeting a client, they can do so without returning to their office or sifting through a pile of materials.

Videos on advisor-facing Websites also help the education process, especially when new products come to market. A well-designed product video can be a great benefit to advisors as a sales tactic or an education piece.

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