Insurers go all-out on mobile, but what comes next is elusive

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Insurers have been operating under the assumption that less paper, more digital is preferred by most customers, and the statistics back up the urgency.

Catherine Smola, president and CEO of the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations, says in a video on Gore Mutual's site that 74% of Canadians begin their insurance research journey online, with 25% of those using a smartphone only. Further 61% of this segment will immediately abandon a broker’s website if not considered mobile-friendly, and a full 50% of Canadian consumers believe that if a company does not have a mobile website it does not care about that customer’s business.

A January 2018 Pew Research Center study drives this home, noting that as smartphones and other mobile devices have become more widespread, 77% of Americans go online on a daily basis, 43% go online several times a day and a full 26% (up from 21% in 2015) of American adults now report that they are online “almost constantly.”

That five-percentage point jump is significant, because as insurers try to determine the best possible marketing spend for the greatest return, many are doing so by second-guessing the behaviors of consumer segments that have become a moving target. For example, by being online constantly, can we assume this applies to older adults in retirement?

In fact, the opposite is true, Pew finds, noting that although there is an increase in online behavior across all age groups, “younger adults are at the vanguard of the constantly connected: Roughly four-in-ten 18- to 29-year-olds (39%) now go online almost constantly and 49% go online multiple times per day. By comparison, just 8% of those 65 and older go online almost constantly and just 30% go online multiple times per day,” says the report. “Americans ages 30 to 49 are now about as likely as younger adults to use the Internet almost constantly (36% versus 39%). The share of 30- to 49-year olds who say this has risen 12 percentage points since 2015. Meanwhile, the share of constantly online Americans ages 50 to 64 has risen from 12% to 17%.” Finally, “among Americans who go online but not via a mobile device, by comparison, 54% go online daily and just 5% say they go online almost constantly.”

These revelations force insurers to avoid assumptions and look further into the various segments in order to reconsider demographics that include lifestyle, employment statistics, income and related buying preferences. And if you broaden the mobile channel to comprise an overall digital approach, it’s easier to apply a Marketing 101 tenet: finding the most powerful, effective digital channel depends on the group you are targeting.

Let’s start with the Millennial segment, born between 1981 and 1996 and projected to overtake the Baby Boomers as the largest living adult generation soon. Pew projects this generation to peak in 2036 at 76.2 million, and by 2050 there will be a projected 74.3 million Millennials. In terms of the numbers describing online behavior above, a healthy percentage of Millennials fall into the “constantly online” category. Yet it’s the online channel they are choosing that matters most.

In the past year, 70% of Millennial YouTube users watched the YouTube channel to learn how to do something new or learn more about something they're interested in, according to a Google/Ipsos Connect study. Says Google’s Product Marketing Manager Matt Anderson: “Forget books and instruction manuals—Millennials have video.”

When it comes to retaining information (learning), insurers face another moving target, because some people are visual, and therefore rely on the written word; others learn more via audio/visual stimulus. Novarica’s Tom Benton posits his description of Amazon-Alexa and other digital audio/voice assistants as a way for insurers to educate and engage people in a way that is convenient for them. Yet even in this milieu, YouTube has its place, and several leading insurers are already using it to attract, engage (read educate) and retain potential customers.

And while insurers try to stay ahead of the marketing communications’ curve, they must reassess their best possible marketing options. They can’t assume that a potential customer who is online is automatically choosing the YouTube channel, right? Yet YouTube’s growing popularity proves that it’s an Internet channel that is now among those (Alexa) that are relied upon for everyday living, and therefore, must remain part of the larger online marketing strategies employed by winning insurers.

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Mobile technology Digital distribution Customer data Customer experience Customer-centricity