Tag Archives: generation x

Digital Survival Tools for Agents

Whether the majority of your business is online or in-office, it is crucial for you to have the right tools to help you capitalize on the insurance market and get ahead of the competition in a changing landscape.

It does not matter what type of insurance you are selling, whether it’s employee benefits, life insurance, group insurance, voluntary benefits or property and casualty. While your role may not be directly affected by things like legacy system transformation, robotics and big data, there will be ripple effects. Besides obtaining new clients, presenting renewals and marketing, changes in regulation and advances in technology are all things that agents will have to contend with.

Here are three elements that savvy agents and brokers will want to consider.

Multi-generational marketing

Global populations are now categorized (albeit loosely) into four categories: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. Although Baby Boomers are still the largest population, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts Millennials will outnumber Boomers by 2019.

These differentiated markets make targeting sales much more difficult. Fortunately, there are online tools that can support you. The trick here is diversifying your presence. Ensure that you have a presence on multiple channels so that you are able to meet your customers where they are.

See also: 10 Essential Actions for Digital Success  

Update your agency website with a live chat feature, and ensure it is easy to contact you online. Examine whether it makes sense to use Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you do, you’ll need a strong content strategy that provides real value to pull in visiting prospects.

Don’t just surf the web, observe the web. Set up Google alerts and analytics and Hootsuite streams to follow partners and competitors. Watching for trends will keep you ahead of the game.

Administration tools

A strong agency management system can provide you with everything you need to support your customer lifecycle. When looking for the right one for you, think about CRM and marketing automation. Determine what will make it easier for you to track leads, nurture prospects, close deals and obtain commissions.

Once you’ve sold a policy, a high-quality microphone and webcam will enhance consistent communication with customers remotely on Skype, WebEx, GooglePlus Hangouts or even Facebook.

Get comfortable with automation

As you get comfortable with a new and diversified way of connecting with your customers, you’ll want to consider that insurance carriers are doing the same thing. Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018 report revealed 82% of insurance carriers agreed that their organizations must innovate faster just to stay competitive.

In a world where customers are shopping around for options and prices all the time, retention itself becomes a valuable commodity. Help carriers help you by learning what tools their new systems have to offer so you tap into all the resources available.

Do your insurance companies offer broker portals? Do they offer online quoting capability for immediate results? Can you generate a proposal or immediately sell a policy? Can you offer that functionality on your own website? The carriers that invest in your success by improving sales, underwriting and admin functions for quicker turnarounds and smooth renewals are doing themselves a favor, too.

See also: Agents Must Become ‘Discussion Partners’  

Think strategy

As you determine the best way to move forward, sit down with others on your team, start a Google doc and plan your strategy for the year ahead. As Yogi Berra wisely said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”

What free tools will you use? Which ones will you invest money in? How will you track progress to determine ROI? What tools are working for you?

The best agents and brokers will be nimble enough to exploit the tools available to them and prepare for new ones as they arrive. The sooner you start, the more likely you’ll find yourself ahead of the digital curve.

How to Embrace Workforce Flexibility

Because of the economic crash in 2007, many people were left scrambling for work, any work.

Those who were determined, but still came up short, looked inward to their skill sets and assets to find relief.

The answer quickly became obvious; what is now referred to as the flexible workforce or sharing economy, is made up entirely of freelancers and independent contractors.

This new group of freelance workers now makes up more than 35% of U.S. workers and earned more than $1 trillion last year.

This information is found in a recent survey, “Freelancing in America: 2016,” which was published by Upwork, one of America’s largest freelance workplace platforms.

The Gig Economy: A Brief Introduction

The gig economy is a term that describes a portion of the U.S. economy that is made up of freelancers. It is often used, interchangeably, with “sharing economy,” “collaborative consumption” or “access economy.”

This growing army of gig workers has become an integral part of the workforce, available on an on-demand basis.

This has allowed innovative businesses to pivot and remain nimble. Indeed, in an era where consumers are increasingly more interested in access over ownership, flexible workforces have become powerful tools for businesses.

Although many believe this segment of the workforce may be a fad that will soon to be diminished when unemployment numbers eventually plummet, a closer look at available data indicates otherwise.

Reportedly, the gig economy has grown every year over the past five, and there are solid indications that this trend will continue.

See also: 9 Impressive Facts on Sharing Economy  

What the Feds Report

Well, they haven’t quite caught up yet – although they’re getting there.

The labor experts in D.C. minimize the gig economy by referring to gig workers as “contingent workers” (any position not expected to last longer than one year).

The feds report that that this segment makes up about 4% of the total workforce.

Looking more closely, however, one can easily determine that the most recent survey numbers used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics refers to data accumulated more than 10 years ago.

I don’t feel like we need to delve into why that’s an issue, correct?

How the Gig Economy Is Growing

The gig economy continues to increase as traditional companies look for solutions to workforce issues.

Although “outsource” is a term that consumers and traditional employees detest, no one has a problem with a temp in the workplace.

But when you use the word “outsource” (which is what a temp employee is), many Americans think of good American jobs being sent overseas where workers will work for pennies on the dollar.

The gig economy is growing because entrepreneurial gig workers now have the means to share with others how they can become freelancers and realize their dreams of being self-employed.

Platforms such as Upwork, Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit, WeGoLook and many others seamlessly connect this new freelancer class with those who have paid work available.

This entire process is all facilitated by innovative mobile technology and apps.

What’s not to love about that?

It’s certainly not for everyone, but for those who even feel a mild burn of the entrepreneurial spirit, they can use their skills or assets to become part of the gig economy.

Why The Gig Economy Is Growing

The gig economy (flexible workforce) continues to grow because America needs it to grow.

Companies can access skilled on-demand workers for one-off or continuing tasks.

Thanks to on-demand worker platform, businesses can now access expert freelancers to perform critical functions that are temporarily needed.

According to Jobshop, nearly one-third of B2B companies plan to hire gig workers over the next five years.

Further, a report by Fieldglass indicates that 95% of B2B companies not only understand, but recognize, the need to incorporate the gig economy into their business models.

The American workers are changing. Many regard employment as a job totally unrelated to what their life goals may be.

Goals that were formed in their minds at a young age and continue to burn deep in their hearts.

Even highly skilled workers earning terrific incomes imagine what it would be like to do what they love to do rather than what they have to do.

Although born out of necessity, gig work has become a compromise for millions of hard-working Americans.

Freelancing allows them to choose to do what they love and what they are best at. It provides the flexibility to work the hours of their choice, spend more time with family and become highly skilled experts in a field they love.

Embracing the Flexible Workforce

The insurance industry can embrace this growing flexible workforce made up of skilled freelancers in a number of ways.

For starters, insurance carriers can use skilled gig workers to create efficiencies across many channels in their organization.

Although major insurers have embraced technology, they continue to fumble the ball streamlining their processes and supply chain.

Similar to the federal government, large insurers have many layers of bureaucracy that at times put the breaks on workflow, innovation and even communication.

The result typically frustrates the consumers they have committed to serve.

In the digital age where consumers crave access, convenience and timely services, cumbersome policies and bureaucracies will fade. Quickly!

Areas that need rethinking and refocus are those where consumer interaction is critical.

Communication

There are many critical areas of communication that need not be assigned to full-time workers.

These tasks are generally performed on-demand and for specific reasons and following certain events.

Using a skilled freelancer who can be available on an as-needed basis for a short period makes more sense than using a highly paid (when you consider compensation plus benefits) full-time employee.

See also: Benefits: One Size No Longer Fits All  

Claims

Streamlining the claims process is a priority for every insurer because it’s not only a profit-earning department, it has many functions considered menial to an experienced licensed adjuster.

Tasks such as consumer visits, picture taking, damage verification and more could easily be assigned to a local gig worker.

Why maintain a network of thousands of field employees nationwide when you can access hundreds of thousands of on-the-ground gig workers when you need them?

Although claims activity can be forecast to a certain degree, many insurers are caught off guard with the arrival of events such as a natural disaster.

This often leaves carriers scrambling to recruit independent contractors, who sometimes are unwilling to perform many of the tasks that a freelancer can provide.

Marketing

Because marketing is about communicating with various market segments, it makes sense to contract with gig workers who specialize in that particular demographic.

For example, millennials communicate differently than Generation Xers, who talk differently than Baby Boomers.

Although each category can have similar insurance product needs, they prefer to learn about it, and make the purchase, in different manners.

Whether you are an agency or an insurer, outsourcing your marketing needs to a gig workers can make more sense than loading your payroll with different personality types so that you can accommodate the preferences of the various market segments.

Or, many companies are electing to leverage gig workers to augment their current full-time staff. Gig work isn’t a full-time or part-time discussion – they can be complimentary.

Whether you designate this growing on-demand labor force as the flexible workforce, gig economy, freelancers or outsourcing, there is no doubt that this workforce can provide skilled on-demand workers to the insurance industry.

These are workers who are doing what they know best and are passionate about.

Principals in the insurance industry should look to this flexible workforce to streamline processes that affect consumer satisfaction and save payroll dollars in the process.

As the gig economy continues to grow as a viable employment alternative for many, traditional insurers can get ahead of the curve by leveraging them and embracing flexibility.

The Unique Skills in Each Generation

Based on when we’re born, we’re automatically a member of a generation, a group that’s generally been exposed to the same influences, events, and pressures. For those reasons, those groups, or generations, often exhibit shared characteristics. Luckily, each generation has something different and valuable to offer the workplace.

Take the youngest people in your office: They’re called millennials. They’ve never known a world without computers or smart devices, making them extremely technologically savvy. They also tend to be more socially responsible and in search of work-life balance.

At the other end of the age spectrum are silents. This group, the last of whom was born in 1945, are marked by their loyalty and work ethic, among other traits.

How will the various groups affect your company, and how can you mix them with success? Use this graphic to find out.

graphic

This image was originally created by AkkenCloud and can be found here.

Demographics and P&C Insurance

The way people and companies interact with each another is tremendously different from the way they conducted business just 10 years ago. Technology is pushing the boundaries of how and when business is conducted between businesses and their customers. That being said, the insurance industry’s customer journey over the last 100 years has not evolved or diverted from its basic business model: Brokers and agents are still the primary means for insurance companies to market and sell their products. This broker-dependent model served the industry well and remained the same while other industries have evolved their delivery channels. While there are some exceptions—such as Progressive and Geico, which use direct channels quite successfully—the industry’s most prevalent delivery channel remains with agents and brokers.

Given the insurance industry’s stability and profitability over time, the notion of a distribution chain realignment or agent disintermediation seems quite unlikely. This is bolstered by the fact that many large and successful companies played by the old business model quite profitably. Accordingly, there had been little incentive in the past to alter this business model. Today, however, insurance distribution is ripe for technological disruption, and carriers that ignore this trend are doing so at their own peril. We are on the verge of the perfect storm; the magnitude of technological availability and shifting demographics in the U.S. has the potential to disrupt and reorganize almost all aspects of the insurance customer journey.

Technology’s Adoption and Diffusion: Its effects on the general population

During earlier periods of technological growth, technology created more efficiency within the brick-and-mortar framework. Businesses were able to cut costs, automate design and streamline processes. The ultimate consumer did not necessarily enjoy lower prices or a better buying experience as a direct function of improving economies of scale. Moreover, consumers did not have additional access to pricing information, product research, reviews or product promotion pieces in real time. Instead, the average consumer bought through the retail channel that businesses sold through without any alternative.

Today, access to information is widely available in real time. If you want a product review on something you are interested in at your local store, you Google it. Then, if the review is satisfactory to you, you can go to a brick-and-mortar location and purchase it, or you can log on to an online store and purchase it from your sofa. The average consumer has more information and power at his disposal than ever before. He can search for prices at no cost to him and then make purchases. According to the U.S. Census in 2013, 84% of U.S. households reported computer ownership, with 79% of all households having a desktop or laptop computer and 64% having a handheld computer. 74% of all households reported Internet use, with 73% reporting a high-speed connection.

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Complementing this growth in computer home ownership is the increasing popularity of tablets. In just three short years (between 2010 and 2013), tablet ownership increased from 3% to 34%. With this advance in personal technology there comes access to information.

All these statistics raise the question, “Why is technology growth at the individual level important to the insurance industry?” Because many products offer information on the web just by clicking, there is a fundamental shift in buying behavior because of the speed of information. There is a certain convenience factor individuals currently enjoy by using digital channels for research. Convenience is a key factor along the customer journey. As an example, when buying an airline ticket, do you call the airline or simply log on to a travel site to research options and make a purchase?

Many in the insurance industry state that insurance products’ complex nature will require that consumers use agents and specialty advisers to assist with product selection. Many would agree with that statement, with some qualification. For large commercial and other extremely complicated risks, the agent and broker channel will exist, but for small commercial and personal lines the delivery channels will blur.

Some consumers will always pick up the phone or meet with someone to get a better understanding of risk products. That preference, however, may be a generational one. People born in the 1960s and 1970s did not have computers and tablets from a young age. The millennial generation is used to the convenience and the speed that digital technology affords.

As an example, a 24-year-old told the story of his first experience purchasing automobile insurance. He called a national firm’s local office to inquire about a policy. The agent was friendly but was not available to meet with him for several days. Thinking that was ridiculous, he declined the appointment and used a website to research, evaluate and price a policy. Following that, he spoke to a customer service representative who explained coverages and what they were. At the conclusion of the phone call, he paid for the policy and was done. His primary goal was to 1) get information quickly, 2) evaluate the coverages, 3) determine that the price was fair and 4) purchase his policy. This was also accomplished after business hours when it was convenient for him, not the agent. All told, using digital channels first and later interacting with a call center was the optimal delivery channel path for him.

Technology and New Channel Formation

With the widespread growth of personal computing devices in the U.S. increasing each year, insurance companies have begun to take notice. It’s not uncommon to see websites that outline the company’s products. As a general rule, however, when it comes to pricing policies, insureds are still referred to agents. Consumers of insurance products demand information on multiple channels. Many want the ability to research and evaluate products on their own, without an agent (this is an evolutionary change), but this does not mean they might not want to BUY insurance from the agent. The agent will be there to answer any final questions and to fit the product into the overall financial situation of the consumer. The real challenge for most agents is remaining relevant and finding a way to create value within the digital customer journey. To that end, agents must find a way to help expedite how information is distributed and consumed. If agents relegate themselves to becoming just order-takers, they will quickly become irrelevant and will add very little value to the process. In other words, the agent’s role must evolve to avoid obsolescence. The agency distribution channel is not dead.

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While there will always be agents representing insurance companies, their roles and their interactions with the industry and insureds will change over time as new distribution channels manifest themselves. The questions of “where” and “how much value” are what is changing. Some customers will use channels differently, but it is up to agencies and brokers to understand their target market’s preferences for channel selection. Agencies who do not use an omni-channel strategy will lose business to other agencies that do. Also, agencies need to create value through content, creating a clearly defined holistic- and flexible-guidance value that resonates with customers. Those who are able to evolve will continue to thrive, but those who do not will either continue to lose business or will close their doors. If you look at the travel agent industry, the number of travel agents has declined markedly, but there are still agencies in business that provide value to their customers. These agencies simply evolved and realigned their value proposition and targeted their customer segments quite successfully. The result is that there are far fewer agencies than there were 10 years ago. The same will occur with the agency channel.

The Rise of Omni-Channel Delivery

Under the old insurance distribution model, consumers were expected to shop for insurance with their agent, who would also be there for their subsequent questions or for submission of claims. Today, consumers increasingly expect to interact with their insurance provider on the consumer’s schedule through omni-channels. Subsequently, the agency delivery channel’s role is changing.

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Perhaps, spoiled by a streamlined customer experience in other industries, consumers now want to research their purchases online and then decide whether to buy online or through brick-and-mortar stores. Blogs and consumer reviews are also important to today’s consumer. The way people shop is evolving at a rapid rate, and insurance companies need to recognize that. Carriers like Plymouth Rock, for example, are experimenting with an “option direct” delivery strategy. It allows prospective insureds to quote policies and, at their option, bind the business directly with the company. If the prospective insured does not purchase the policy online, it is released to an “agent exchange” where an agent purchases the lead and then follows up to cross-sell, up-sell or quote other companies. Using this approach, Plymouth Rock allows for a direct distribution channel with an option to work with an agent for coverage advice.

Time will tell if Plymouth’s model is successful, but, given the demands for omni-channel availability, it certainly makes sense that the company tests the model’s efficacy. This test presents an interesting business practice. Testing new distribution channels is a must. No one person—or expert—truly knows how distribution channels will evolve over the next few years. What is widely known, however, is that these channels exist and that they are viable alternatives with lower cost structures to insurance carriers. Also, what doesn’t work this year may work quite well five years from now. These new channels may just be a step in the customer journey, or they may turn out to be the point in the customer journey where purchases are made: i.e. the moment of truth. Either way, understanding target customer preferences is critical in an omni-channel world. Successful insurance companies will constantly test their channels to determine what the most effective strategy is for sales conversions.

Omni-Channel and Commoditization

With the proliferation of multiple distribution options, insurance companies are increasingly forced to compete on price instead of features. The growth of price comparison sites and aggregators makes buying insurance based on price even easier for the consumer. These channels provide a list of insurance policies ranked in ascending price order. On the surface, this presents challenges. From the carriers’ perspective, this is not the optimal solution because price alone does not explain the value of a policy or a company’s ability to pay claims. From the consumers’ perspective, buying solely on price potentially subjects them to improper or incomplete coverage. Yet, despite these challenges, over the last decade insurance product commoditization has occurred (e.g. personal auto).

To counter commoditization, insurance companies need to position themselves effectively to differentiate their product offerings. Evaluating the demographic preferences and buying habits allows insurance companies to more effectively target their customer base and not rely on price alone as the distinguishing factor. Deciding on a differentiation framework is even more important today given the changes in the market. Companies can compete on service (e.g. fast, no hassle claims), 24/7 accessibility, customer experience, unique product offerings, speed to market, leadership in the industry, etc., but they must fight to make sure these differentiators are made known in the midst of increasingly commoditized interfaces, distribution and thinking. To counter commoditization in the digital era, it might behoove insurers to select strategies other than price to compete and stand out from the competition and, secondly, to make sure these strategies are obvious and well understood by the consumers who might tend to look first at price.

The Importance of Millennials and their Preferences

The demand for omni-channel customer journeys is in its infancy. Consequently, there are fundamental differences in Internet use and shopping behavior by millennials, as compared with other generations. As baby boomers and Generation X age out, millennials and the subsequent generations who have experienced technology from an early age are going to drive market behavior on a larger scale. They are comfortable with an omni-channel approach and expect to find information available on the Internet so they can research their purchases. These consumers have skills, beliefs and requirements that previous generations did not have. (How many children help their parents and grandparents with their online challenges?) If one were to summarize some of the millennials’ characteristics and their digital preferences, a number of the following points deserve mention:

  • Based on their familiarity with technology, they are open to using digital channels as an option for purchases;
  • Millennials currently make up 25% of the population but will make up 75% of the population in 2025. Some of them are going to rise to the management level;
  • Convenience and ability to purchase goods and services 24/7 is important to them;
  • Online reviews and blogs are widely used in their decision making;
  • Millennials interact with brands on Facebook and other social media sites;
  • Opinions of others—particularly friends and family—influence buying decisions.

The power of insurance customers to voice their opinion is particularly strong with digital channels. A dissatisfied customer has the ability to vent his negative experiences to a massive audience. Online reviews and blogs are a powerful information source for current and potential customers, and these

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sources can—and do—influence customer behavior. This shift in power drives home the importance of customer experience. With today’s social media, a negative experience could go viral and give a company a public relations nightmare. Conversely, publishing success stories that prove alignment with customer needs is an excellent way to demonstrate a company’s core values and reinforce its positioning as an insurer that fosters an excellent customer experience.

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As stated earlier, over time, millennials’ buying preferences will become more and more important to numerous industries, including insurance. Because the millennials’ demographic will make up 75% of the workforce in 2025, many insurers will need to evolve their distribution channels and their customer interaction strategy to better serve this demographic. As far as personal lines are concerned, this demographic group will influence distribution channels more immediately because millennials are now at the age where they need to purchase insurance products. What is not clear today is which omni-distribution channel is the most effective for insurance distribution. Recognizing that, providing omni-channel delivery ensures that all options are covered and that marketing opportunities for customer touch are available.

It is the prevailing wisdom that the more an insurance company interacts with its customers, the more likely it is that customers will renew their coverage. In the old agency model, the only touch points for an insurance company are the claims and billing processes. To accomplish additional touch points, publishing content works quite well. Today, content- and information-sharing is one of the main avenues for adding value to customers. As an example, some homeowners insurance companies send out text warnings to areas in the path of a hurricane or tornado to guard against loss of life and property. Others use content quite differently. Topics that are relevant to a customer base (that are not insurance-related) work equally well. As another example, one insurance company sends out gardening suggestions based on demographic data.

Because insurance is a low-interest category to most consumers, insurers that publish content that interests their customers will create engagement and, consequently, develop a connection with their insureds. Only a small percentage of consumers actually file claims, and most insureds have little or no contact with their carrier. As a result, a content strategy allows insurers to interact with the majority of their customers other than just in claims or billing situations. This greatly increases customer touch and provides the opportunity to improve the customer experience. In the near future, however, content will become commonplace and expected, while user experience will determine the winners and losers in the marketplace.

Additional Demographic Shifts

The U.S. of 2050 will look very differently from that of today: Caucasians will no longer be the majority. The U.S. minority population, currently 30%, is expected to exceed 50% before 2050. No other advanced country will see such diversity. In fact, most of the U.S.’s net population growth will be among its minorities, as well as in a growing mixed-race population. Latino and Asian populations are expected to grow threefold, and the children of immigrants will become more prominent. Today in the U.S., 25% of children under five years old are Hispanic; by 2050, that percentage will be almost 40%. As a direct consequence, insurance companies need to start their long-term planning for these demographic shifts and must have strategies to serve these segments. In addition, the number of women in the workplace is increasing. As women grow in the management ranks, their influence on buying decisions will increase accordingly. Currently, women are responsible for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from autos to healthcare. Farnaz Wallace—the founder of Farnaz Global, a strategic consulting firm—said, “In the New World Marketplace, women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future economically and culturally, and companies must find ways to stay relevant in a world different than the one taught in textbooks.” He also said, “Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history—gender-neutral and colorblind—transforming business norms.”

Conclusion

Throughout business history, products have fulfilled human needs. Think about how the automobile, air travel and the microwave oven changed the way we live. All these innovations took place on the company side of the value chain. In the past, these products disrupted other products. What makes disruption more likely in the insurance industry today? The major shift in the customer journey. Today, information is available to consumers on a massive scale and is virtually free. The agent is no longer the sole channel for information and product delivery. This disruptive cycle is substantially different because it empowers customers to use different channels during the purchase journey, channels that never existed before. Additionally, a generation of insurance purchasers are coming online with a major predisposition for utilizing omni-channel approaches. Companies that ignore these shifts are taking a major risk with their future viability because these shifts have already occurred and will continue with tremendous momentum.

life insurance

Selling Life Insurance to Digital Consumers

When we started PolicyGenius, an independent digital insurance broker, last summer, we braced ourselves for a high-speed education on the finer points of the consumer insurance market–and boy did we get it. We previously consulted for the industry, but even that doesn’t prepare you for all the work that happens on the ground, like filing for licenses on a state-by-state basis, or spending a holiday manually preparing and sending out illustrations because of a last-minute surge in quote requests. (Or dealing with fax machines.)

But learning all the nuances, even the bewildering ones, has been an amazing experience. It’s exciting to be involved in an industry right at the start of its transformation into the next phase of doing business.

We hung out our digital shingle in July 2014, and thanks to our smart shopping and decision-making tools, as well as some extremely positive exposure from the national media, we’ve enjoyed 30% month-over-month growth in our user base.

In the process, we’ve had 12 months to learn a lot about the modern digital insurance customer. Here are six takeaways that agents and carriers can benefit from.

1. Babies are still the No. 1 trigger for buying life insurance–which means there’s still plenty of opportunity to educate consumers about other equally important life events.

It’s no surprise that having a baby motivates a person to buy life insurance. Our own data shows that among customers who take our Insurance Checkup (our online insurance advice tool), the number of those who already have life insurance jumps by 20% if the customer has a child.

In a survey we commissioned last year, we found that consumers place insurance fourth in line behind saving for retirement, paying off debt and following a budget. Life insurance should be a key part of any long-term financial strategy, but a lot of people still don’t realize that. The survey also suggests people don’t recognize the financial challenges that accompany other big life events like marrying, buying a home, starting a business or becoming a caretaker for aging parents.

Our takeaway: Buying life insurance for your baby is a given. Now we need to focus on bringing these other invisible triggers to our customers’ attention.

2. Couples do it together.

A State Farm survey a few years ago found that 74% of people rarely talk about life insurance, in part because it’s an uncomfortable subject to bring up with one’s spouse. But we’ve repeatedly seen one half of a couple begin a life insurance application with us, and then shortly thereafter we get an application for the other half. In fact, around 20% of our life insurance applications have a partner application associated with them.

Our takeaway: Once an applicant sees how easy we’ve made it to shop for a policy, she decides to take care of her partner’s policy while she’s at it. It saves time, and it prevents couples from having to talk about the subject too much or revisit it again any time in the near future.

3. Digital insurance consumers are thoughtful shoppers who appreciate honest advice.

Our average customer spends 9 1/2 minutes exploring her PolicyGenius Insurance Checkup report. According to Adobe’s Best of the Best Benchmark report from 2013, the average time spent on a site in the financial services category is just more than six minutes!

Our takeaway: If you give the customer intuitive educational tools and advice tailored to her financial needs, and you don’t ask for anything intrusive in return (like a phone number), she’ll become more engaged.

We’ve seen this later in the shopping cycle, too, when customers look into the reputations of prospective insurance companies. But more on that below.

4. Digital insurance consumers are happy to do most of the work on their own.

If you’ve been a part of the insurance industry long enough, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Insurance is not bought; it’s sold.” In other words, industry veterans believe that you have to sell (and often pressure) consumers, who wouldn’t otherwise purchase on their own.

We founded our company on the theory that this isn’t true, and now we know that there are people out there who independently come to the conclusion that they need life insurance. We’ve found that customers who come to our site want to go all the way through the application process on their own, with no agent intervention. They self-navigate through decisions about coverage and carrier selection on our site, using the jargon-free content and tools we’ve built to make the path easy. It may not be as easy and fast as buying a pair of shoes from Zappos, but we’ve worked hard to make the process reliable and trustworthy.

But not every self-serve life insurance experience is smooth, which is why it’s important to have human help when needed. One client told us in a follow-up thank you that it was “comforting to have someone on my side in evaluating different insurance carriers and working to get me approved when the first insurer turned me down.”

Our takeaway: If you make insurance easy to shop for, you don’t have to focus so much on the hard sell.

5. Digital insurance consumers are not just Millennials.

Everyone likes to talk about the Millennial consumer these days, but we’ve discovered that the digital insurance consumer isn’t defined by any one generation. It’s true that Millennials (< 35) make up about 50% of our user base; however, Baby Boomers (50+) make up 20% of our user base, and Generation X (35-50)–who spend more online than Boomers do, according to a recent BI Intelligence study–fill out the rest.

Our takeaway: To reach such a wide range of online consumers, we have to focus on values that have universal consumer appeal–honesty, speed and self-service that’s backed by amazing customer support.

6. Insurer financial strength and reputation are important.

When you’re shopping online, you’re used to seeing reviews and ratings. It’s one of the ways online consumers compare products or services that they can’t see face to face.

Customers frequently ask us for insurance company ratings and customer reviews. And they ask for help choosing a carrier when all the ones they’re considering have approximately the same rating, or if customer reviews are inconclusive. We’ve been asked, “Who is the largest insurer or has been around the longest? I don’t want anyone that will go out of business.”

They take financial strength ratings, brand strength and reviews seriously, and factor them in when deciding which policy to buy. It’s so important that we’ve added one-page “report cards” into our life insurance quoting process to help answer these questions.

Our takeaway: Insurance companies don’t have to worry about digital platforms like ours commoditizing their policies and encouraging consumers to shop only on price. While price is important, it’s not the only factor that consumers consider when buying a life insurance policy.

As an industry, we still have a lot to learn about selling insurance to the digital consumer. And as an online broker, we’re still learning valuable customer insights from fellow brokers and agents throughout the industry. It’s true that everything we’ve learned in the past year has helped us confirm many of our initial propositions, but it’s also helped us better understand how to win over today’s insurance shopper. We can’t wait to see what the next 12 months brings.