There's no question that the digital economy is drastically altering the way insurers are reaching out to their customers. Social media, the Web and mobile devices are just some examples of channels that now dominate the interaction cycle between insureds and insurers. But we're only just starting to understand how this can all work.

In a recent article, Peter Dahlström and David Edelman, both of McKinsey & Company, say developments being seen today — “the growth of mobile connectivity, better-designed online spaces created with the powerful new HTML5 Web language, the activation of the Internet of Things in many devices through inexpensive communications tags and microtransmitters, and advances in handling big data” — demand new understanding and rethinking of the way companies reach their intended audiences.

In the near future, get ready for consumer interfaces powered by “image, voice and gesture,” the authors predict. We are entering a world in which consumers can “automatically participate with others by taking pictures or making transactions; and discover new opportunities with devices that augment reality in their field of vision (think Google glasses).”

To prepare for this brave new world, Dahlström and Edelman have the following recommendations:

Design interactions across the consumer decision journey: While companies have been successful so far at interacting with customers across new and existing channels, organizations need to start to delve deeper into the process. “What they need to be designing is the entire story of how individuals encounter a brand and the steps they take to evaluate, purchase and relate to it across the decision journey,” Dahlström and Edelman state.

Make data and discovery a nonstop cycle: Collect and analyze data that better understand on-demand customers. “Data lies at the heart of efforts to build that understanding — data to define and contextualize trends, data to measure the effectiveness of activities and investments at key points in the consumer decision journey, and data to understand how and why individuals move along those journeys.”

Deliver with new skills and processes: Marketing or IT departments cant handle this new level of engagement alone. Members from all disciplines across organizations need to collaborate to better “manage campaigns and communities, measure performance, provide customer support, and interact with outside agencies.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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