It should come as no surprise that consumers prefer to shop online — for just about everything and anything. Not because they want to but because they have to. Information overload dictates that busy consumers take every opportunity to save every second possible. It's almost an imperative for young, hard-working, multitasking families.
See also: How Technology Breaks Down Silos
So perhaps we should have expected McKinsey & Company to report that, soon, “Leading digital carriers will go further by digitally enabling their sales forces, interacting with consumers and intermediaries in real-time omnichannel environments and offering remote and robo-advice at any hour on any platform.” (See McKinsey & Co., Harnessing the Power of Digital in Life Insurance
What does this mean?
We are being warned by the oracle of consulting firms that life insurance consumers want to interact by computer, so insurers should immediately respond by offering them remote, real-time, always-on “robo-advice.” Where does that leave the seasoned insurance professional? Will the agent finally be replaced by the algorithm? If you think this is science fiction, think again. This technology is already here.
According to a recent industry study, 88% of consumers of all ages already research life insurance online before they buy (see LIMRA, 2016 Insurance Barometer Study
). Of those who buy insurance online or offline, 17% purchase directly from an insurance company after researching online, and a further 22% research and complete the purchase entirely online. In other words, of the 88% who research online, 44% of these consumers are currently bypassing any meaningful back-and-forth planning process with experienced life insurance advisers. In support of these statistics, venture capital-backed insurtech investments rose from $800 million in 2014 to $2.6 billion in 2015 — and that number continues to climb (see KPMG, Pulse of Fintech
See also: This Is Not Your Father’s Life Insurance
The fact that consumers are busy and markets are adapting should in no way imply that the result is better for either the consumer or the insurance agent.
Hybrid sites such as Lifester.com
may offer the best of both worlds.
Like other online sites, Lifester is available to consumers 24/7. But Lifester doesn't sell insurance. Rather, Lifester instantly connects consumers and agents so that life insurance strategies and recommendations can be formulated and developed as digital “projects.” Consumers can then invite family, friends and personal advisers into their projects to contribute comments leading to important feedback and better decision-making.
As the pendulum swings from multiple-meeting-based selling to online fast quotes, services like Lifester may provide the most sensible approach. Consumers get free expert advice from licensed life insurance professionals and are even encouraged to seek the counsel of other decision-making advocates. All project members can review information, post comments and communicate using their computers — at any time of day or night, when it is most convenient. Perhaps the life insurance sales process is ready for yet another change — one that taps into the expertise of the agent yet empowers the consumer.