April 20, 2020
Pulse of Insurance Shopping During Crisis
by Jaimie Pickles and Jeff Piotrowski
Online shopping has actually risen during the pandemic, and customers are more responsive to inquiries.
As insurance carriers and agencies continue to adjust to new ways of working due to COVID-19, we are working with them to better understand the challenges and opportunities they are facing, including how:
- consumer behavior is trending;
- advertising is changing;
- carrier and agent personnel are distributed;
- digital capabilities are doing more of the heavy lifting; and
- product development and innovation are advancing.
Carriers want to stay well informed, and we’re providing an additional, broader perspective to help guide their marketing activities and campaigns with greater levels of confidence. We would like to take this opportunity to provide a high-level overview on the pulse of insurance.
Trends by Segment
Overall, the current state of insurance online shopping activity remains strong and has trended higher than normal (for this time of year). Providers have reacted quickly and are still aiming to achieve or surpass their 2020 growth plans and, in most cases, leaning into the performance marketing ecosystem to capture more mid-funnel prospects to fill excess capacity. Consumers are home and in a “money-saving” mode, and reports are that they are more responsive to inquiries (e.g., contact rates are up).
Here is a look by segment:
P&C entered the pandemic from a position of strength. We expect consumers on the preferred end of the risk spectrum are shopping more than usual for auto and home insurance. Non-standard consumers face difficult financial decisions on where to cut expenses (expect less shopping activity and higher than average churn). Overall, even with the discounts—refunds and relaxed payment requirements that carriers have announced—shopping levels are above what we typically see this time of year. Carriers are spending less on traditional advertising campaigns and, consequently, seeing fewer organic inbound inquiries; therefore, many are spending more on leads, clicks and calls. Most disruption will be in commercial lines because of increased claims and difficult coverage decisions in the business interruption, event cancellation, workers’ comp and travel insurance policies. Overall, P&C remains strong and stable.
Carriers are navigating through a revised process or product mix to fulfill demand, investing in resources to fulfill underwriting or shift to “automated underwritten” products. Consumer demand is high. Never has there been more unsolicited interest in acquiring life insurance, particularly in younger age segments. Fulfillment is hard because critical underwriting data, such as that gleaned from medical exams, are paused. Carriers are driving higher-volume policy sales with lower face amounts or shorter-term products with simplified issues and no medical exams. We expect carriers and agencies are reducing or pausing direct mail where the economics are not supported by policies that have a lower lifetime value.
We’ve seen similar increases in shopping activity across health insurance. In the under-65 market, record unemployment is driving shopping, as those without coverage investigate COBRA and other options. Additionally, reduced-hour workers are much more sensitive to what once were manageable premiums. Eligible consumers are considering STM (short-term medical) plans as a viable alternative, now that federal regulations permit plans as long as 364 days in some states. In the senior market, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has relaxed regulations that govern out-of-network costs for Medicare Advantage. Increased uncertainty about what Medicare does and does not cover regarding COVID-19 has driven seniors to educate themselves. Rapid changes in the economy, uncertainty about the future and research about the current state are causing marked increases in online shopping activity in the health space.
Adjustments Carriers Are Making
We’re also seeing brands contend with the obvious sensitivities of marketing during this time. It’s a fine needle to thread as consumers want help and guidance from a trusted source. Insurers have the opportunity now to build trust and improve the customer experience with thoughtful, well-timed, engaging conversations.
See also: Business Continuity During COVID-19
Insurers can lead with data to better understand how behavior drives decisions so they know where to focus their time and dollars. Now more than ever, it’s critical for marketers to be thoughtful. It’s important to understand where consumers are in their buying journey to send the right message at the right time while mitigating compliance risk all along the way.