Tag Archives: John Cusano

A P&C Guide for Digital Distribution

Property and casualty insurers aren’t shying away from digital distribution. “[F]our out of five insurers either have, or are planning to set up, wholly digital sales processes in which humans are involved only when customers need advice,” Accenture global insurance industry Senior Managing Director John Cusano reports.

But taking digital distribution from concept to reality still poses major challenges for many P&C insurers.

Here, we look at some of the biggest challenges of implementing a digital distribution strategy and how to overcome them.

Everyone’s Going Mobile

In a 2013 article for Wired, Christina Bonnington predicted that the world would contain 24 billion connected devices by 2020 and that the Internet of Things would result in people doing ever more tasks from their smartphones.

We got there early: Statista estimates that the world of 2018 already contains 23.14 billion connected devices and that the number will be more like 31 billion in 2020. And more of these devices than ever are mobile devices.

It seems as if the insurance industry only just began to embrace the opportunities afforded by digital technology when customers’ attention switched to this highly connected, primarily mobile world.

Today, customers “expect the same intuitive experience from their insurance carriers as they do from their favorite mobile app,” says Rahim Kaba at OneSpan. And they’re not the only ones. “Even insurance agents are demanding better digital capabilities from insurers to increase their ease of doing business,” Kaba says.

See also: Is P&C Distribution Actually Digitizing?  

Putting Numbers to the Scope of Mobile’s Impact

Mobile is an essential consideration for insurance companies, according to Andrew Sheridan at DialogTech, who cites several statistics that illuminate the opportunity available:

  • 40% of customers’ time researching insurance was spent on mobile, and 51% of these customers purchased insurance as a result of their research.
  • 25% of insurance shoppers do all their buying via their mobile devices.
  • 66% use a specific insurance company’s app.

Yet going mobile poses some challenges for insurance companies. For one thing, customers expect to be able to do everything from pay premiums to file claims, get driving tips or find a repair shop via a mobile app. That’s a lot of work for an app to do — and the more an app does, the slower and thus less appealing it is likely to be

Another challenge is the integration of older technologies with new ones. As Parmy Olson notes at Forbes, older telemetrics devices like Progressive’s Snapshot are starting to give way to smartphone apps that perform similar tasks, measuring speed, distance and other driving-related factors that can affect premium calculations.

These apps can seem more convenient to customers, but they can also make certain measurements or calculations more difficult. For instance, telemetric devices installed in the vehicle itself can more easily detect a crash and call for help, says Jim Levandusky, vice president of telemetrics at Verisk Analytics.

Embracing Industry Shifts

One solution? “Collaboration with the disrupters,” says Trevor Lloyd-Jones at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Embracing mobile tools like telematics can make mobile apps easier for customers and more effective for insurance companies, and when these tools are approached through software as a service (SaaS) or similar providers, concerns about security or analysis are often addressed as part of the platform.

Companies that dismiss disruptors in the insurtech sphere do so at their peril, says Nikolaus Sühr, co-founder and CEO of KASKO. The era of relying solely on historical data may be coming to an end. “Disruption in other industries is actually changing user behavior and the nature of risk, so there is no relevant historical data anymore,” Sühr writes.

When moving into mobile for customers, agents or both, don’t be afraid to A/B test mobile apps, try new things and to innovate, says Amir Rozenberg, director of product management at Perfecto. While experimentation must account for the tight regulatory world insurance companies inhabit, trying out options in the mobile sphere allows P&C insurers to better understand how their customers use mobile — and how the company can use what it learns to attract and keep better customers.

Within this process, however, it’s important to keep mobile in perspective. “Even with this trend, companies need to ensure a mobile app supplements the overall experience and doesn’t dominate it,” says Rodney Johnson at Kony.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

“With customers using more devices in more ways, there are new options for customer engagement,” stated a recent Incom Business Systems white paper. There are also plenty of challenges. Mobile devices feel personalized to customers, and with companies in other industries extending that personalization to their apps, insurance companies are feeling the pressure to personalize, as well.

A hallmark of in-person or traditional channels has been their one-size-fits-all approach to customers, according to Shashank Singh in an article at Insurance Nexus. Many P&C insurers have attempted to transfer this approach to the digital world, only to discover it doesn’t work.

Data and analytics offer insurers an unprecedented opportunity to understand and respond to each customer as an individual, from recommending products to calculating risk.

Digital distribution can also make it easier to capture a growing segment of the P&C insurance market that has changed its behavior as it finds itself priced out of coverage. “Rethinking distribution is key to successful inclusive insurance,” says Peter Wrede of World Bank Group USA. “Low distribution costs make insurance affordable for low-income people.”

A 2017 article by in The Street noted that 18 million adults in the U.S. currently cannot afford auto insurance, so they go without, often turning to public transportation or rides from friends instead. As a result, “personal automobile insurance is in a crisis,” said Dave Delaney of Owner Operator Direct. “Rates have been increasing steadily since 2011, and there is no end in sight.”

By turning to a digital distribution system to reduce costs, however, insurance companies gain the opportunity to make coverage more affordable, recapturing some of the 18 million customers who currently believe auto insurance won’t fit into their household budget.

See also: The Future of P&C Distribution 

Lack of Support Systems

Personalization of the digital customer experience, leveraging tools like mobile apps, presents a profound opportunity to understand and respond to customers’ needs better than ever before, said Ash Hassib, senior vice president of insurance solutions at LexisNexis. But “data availability isn’t the issue,” Hassib said. “It’s how you use it to underpin sustainable and profitable growth that’s the real challenge for insurers.”

And for many insurers, this challenge arises the moment they try to use that customer data within their current organization.

“Insurers have focused on digitalizing the front end, with insufficient focus on the systems that support distribution,” said a May 2017 report from the Insurance Governance Leadership Network. Additional challenges in retention have resulted, with insurance companies noting that customers leave because the system doesn’t provide adequate support for their experience.

Customers who use multiple channels to communicate with insurance companies are more likely to face problems caused by insufficient systems inside the organization itself. Perhaps this is why, relative to other industries, insurance company employees rated their companies 9% lower on providing a high-quality customer experience, according to Tom Bobrowski at The Digital Insurer. P&C companies were also rated 8% lower than average at “good cooperation between functions,” allowing the company to meet the customer’s needs effectively.

One option is to take a hybrid approach, says Sasi Koyalloth in a Wipro Ltd. white paper. A hybrid approach focuses on incorporating human agents into the digitization process, focusing on giving agents and employees the digital tools necessary for seamless communication throughout the organization.

Regardless of approach, “a single view of the customer is crucial,” says Robert Paterson at Afinium, noting that software as a service (SaaS) providers already exist with the tools and support needed to help P&C insurers move to a single platform for managing information.

And the systems’ cost needn’t be onerous. “Another key driver for adoption of SaaS solutions is its use in developing pricing models that can be directly related to system usage,” Paterson says.

Final Thoughts

The switch to digital is now or never for P&C insurers. Working with knowledgeable insurtech providers can help companies address concerns about data security, analysis and customer experience, allowing insurers to take full advantage of the digital world to build more personal and long-lasting customer relationships.

How to Prepare for Self-Driving Cars

For decades, privately owned, privately insured cars have been so common that few people have questioned these models of transportation and the associated risk.

Property and casualty insurers deal with thousands of individual vehicle owners and drivers as a result. Insurers deal with those drivers’ mistakes, too. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that human error plays a role in 94% of all car accidents.

The entire auto insurance industry is built on this humans-and-their-errors model. But autonomous vehicles stand to turn the entire model on its head — in more ways than one.

Here are some of the biggest changes self-driving cars are poised to make to the auto insurance world and how P&C insurers can prepare for the shift.

Vehicle Ownership

Most conversations about self-driving cars and insurance focus on questions of fault, compensation and risk.

In a 2017 article for the Harvard Business Review, however, Accenture’s John Cusano and Michael Costonis posited that an even bigger disruption to P&C insurance practices would be a change in patterns of vehicle ownership.

“We believe that most fully autonomous vehicles will not be owned by individuals, but by auto manufacturers such as General Motors, by technology companies such as Google and Apple and by other service providers such as ride-sharing services,” Cusano and Costonis writes.

Indeed, companies like GM and Volvo are already exploring partnership with services like Lyft and Uber, as keeping self-driving vehicles on the road as much as possible amortizes their costs more effectively.

Paralleling the autonomous vehicle/ride-sharing partnership trend is a decrease in vehicle ownership. Young adults and teens are less interested in owning vehicles than their elders were, Norihiko Shirouzu reports for Reuters. Instead, they’re moving to more walkable areas or using ride-sharing services more often, already putting pressure on auto insurance premiums.

See also: Time to Put Self-Driving Cars in Slow Lane?  

U.S. roads are likely to be occupied by a combination of human-driven and self-driven vehicles for several decades, Cusano and Costonis estimate. As ownership trends change, however, P&C insurers’ focus on everything from evaluating risk to branding and outreach will change, as well.

Connected closely to the question of ownership is a second question: Who is at fault in a crash?

Fault Ownership

NHTSA’s statistics on human error as a crash factor imply that reducing the number of human drivers behind the wheel would reduce accidents. A McKinsey & Co. report agrees, estimating that autonomous vehicles could reduce accidents by 90%.

Taking human drivers’ mistakes out of the equation means taking human fault out of the equation, too. But questions of human fault stand to be replaced by even more complex questions regarding ownership, security and product liability.

Several automakers have already begun experimenting with approaches that upend traditional questions of fault and liability. Concerned over the patchwork of federal and state regulations in the U.S., Volvo President and CEO Håkan Samuelsson announced in 2015 that the company would assume fault if one of its vehicles caused an accident in self-driving mode.

The statement appears to apply to Volvo’s vehicles during the development and testing phases, according to Cadie Thompson at Tech Insider. It is too early to tell whether the company will extend its acceptance of fault to autonomous Volvo vehicles that function as full-fledged members of the transportation ecosystem. Nonetheless, the precedent of automakers accepting liability has been set — and, as automakers continue to explore partnerships or other models of fleet ownership, accepting liability or even providing their own insurance may become part of automakers’ arsenal, as well.

Ultimately, Volvo seems unconcerned about major liability shifts. “If you look at product liability today, there is always a process determining who is liable and if there is shared liability,” Volvo’s director of government affairs, Anders Eugensson, told Business Insider. “The self-driving cars will need to have data recorders which will give all the information needed to determine the circumstances around a crash. This will then be up to the courts to evaluate this and decide on the liabilities.”

Meanwhile, in Asia, Tesla is trying another method: including the cost of insurance coverage in the price of its self-driving vehicles, according to Danielle Muoio at Business Insider.

“It takes into account not only the Autopilot safety features but also the maintenance cost of the car,” says Jon McNeill, Tesla’s former president of sales and services (now COO of Lyft). “It’s our vision in the future we could offer a single price for the car, maintenance and insurance.”

Doing so would allow Tesla to take into account the reduced accident risk of the autonomous system and to lower insurance premium prices accordingly. This might reduce the actual cost of the vehicle over its useful life.

The NHTSA has already found that accident risk in Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot are 40% lower than in vehicles without, and the company believes insurance coverage should reflect that, according to Muoio.

If P&C insurers don’t adjust their rates accordingly, Tesla is prepared to do so itself.

Future Ownership

Property and casualty insurers seem torn on how self-driving cars will affect their bottom line.

On the one hand, “insurers like Cincinnati Financial and Mercury General have already noted in SEC filings that driverless cars have the potential to threaten their business models,” Muoio reports.

On the other, 84% don’t see a “significant impact” happening until the next decade, according to Greg Gardner at the Detroit Free Press.

Other analysts, however, believe the insurance industry is moving too slowly in response to autonomous vehicles.

“The disruption of autonomous vehicles to the automotive ecosystem will be profound, and the change will happen faster than most in the insurance industry think,” KPMG actuarial and insurance risk practice leader Jerry Albright tells Gardner. “To remain relevant in the future, insurers must evaluate their exposure and make necessary adjustments to their business models, corporate strategy and operations.”

KPMG CIO advisory group managing director Alex Bell agrees. “The share of the personal auto insurance sector will likely continue to shrink as the potential liability of the software developer and manufacturer increases,” Bell tells Gardner. “At the same time, losses covered by product liability policies are likely to increase, given that the sophisticated technology that underpins autonomous vehicles will also need to be insured.”

See also: The Unsettling Issue for Self-Driving Cars  

Major areas of concern in recent years will likely include product liability, infrastructure insurance and cybersecurity.

Meanwhile, the number of privately owned vehicles — and individually insured drivers — on the road will likely continue to drop, placing further pressure on auto insurance premiums.

What should P&C insurers to do prepare? Cusano and Costonis recommend the following steps:

  • Understand and use big data and analytics. As Eugensson at Volvo notes, autonomous vehicles will generate astounding quantities of data — data that can be used to pinpoint fault. It can also be used to process claims more quickly and efficiently, if insurers are prepared to use it. Building robust data analysis systems now prepares P&C insurers to add value by analyzing this data.
  • Develop actuarial frameworks and models for self-driving vehicles. As Tesla’s insurance experiment and NHTSA data indicates, questions of risk and cost for autonomous cars will differ in key ways. P&C insurers that invest the effort into developing and using more sophisticated actuarial tools are best-prepared to answer these questions effectively.
  • Seek partnerships. The GM/Lyft and Volvo/Uber ventures demonstrate how partnerships will change the automotive landscape in the coming years. Insurers that identify and pursue partnership opportunities can improve their position in this changing landscape by doing so.
  • Rethink auto insurance. Currently, P&C insurers’ auto work involves insuring large numbers of very small risks. As our relationship to vehicles changes, however, insurers will need to change their approach, as well — for instance, by moving to a commercial approach that trades many small risks for a few large ones.

Autonomous vehicles are poised to become one of the most profound technological changes in an era of constant change. Fortunately, the technology to manage this change is already available for insurers that are willing to embrace a digital future.

How to Adapt to Driverless Cars

There is little doubt that the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles will have a huge impact on the automobile insurance industry. Research and computer modeling conducted by Accenture in collaboration with the Stevens Institute of Technology indicates that as many as 23 million fully autonomous vehicles will be traveling U.S. highways by 2035 (out of about 250 million total cars and trucks registered in the U.S.)

This rapid growth of autonomous vehicles will involve a major shift, not only in our driving habits and patterns, but in the ownership of vehicles. We believe that most fully autonomous vehicles will not be owned by individuals, but by auto manufacturers such as General Motors, by technology companies such as Google and Apple, and by other service providers such as ride-sharing services. Unlike individual car owners – whose vehicles typically sit idle most of the time — fleet owners can send autonomous vehicles out on multiple trips on a 24-hour basis, amortizing the cost of ownership.

Automakers have already begun to experiment with fleet-based ownership of autonomous vehicles, with GM announcing an autonomous vehicle partnership with Lyft, Uber announcing a similar partnership with Volvo, and many others exploring similar avenues.

Since insuring privately owned vehicles is what the auto insurance industry has been all about, insurers have every reason to be concerned about their future growth and profitability.  With fewer individual owners, there will be lower overall premiums. And since as many as 94% of accidents are attributed to human error, the number and severity of accidents and insurance claims will drop, also leading to lower premiums as insurers learn to price in accordance with real risk.

Our forecast shows that the drop in individual premiums – due both to decreased private ownership vehicles and to safer vehicles — will begin in 2026, as large numbers of autonomous vehicles begin to appear, and could be as much as a $25 billion loss for insurers by 2035.  This is significant for a roughly $200 billion market.

In addition to autonomous vehicles reducing the need for individual auto insurance, other trends, such as urbanization, ride-sharing, and a general lack of interest in car ownership among young drivers, are also cutting demand and putting pressure on premiums.  And, while our research was focused on private passenger vehicles, it is worth noting that large commercial fleets such as UPS, FedEx, and other trucking businesses will likely move to autonomous vehicles at a rapid pace.

However, auto insurers have one factor weighing in their favor: The shift to fully autonomous vehicles will be gradual. It will likely be years before fully autonomous vehicles appear on U.S. highways in significant numbers, and they are likely to coexist with traditional “driven” vehicles and a host of semi-autonomous variants for decades.

See also: Who Is Leading in Driverless Cars?  

The Stages of Autonomous Vehicle Adoption

If we look at autonomous vehicle adoption as a spectrum – with zero representing a universe consisting exclusively of traditional vehicles and five representing a world of fully autonomous vehicles – we are somewhere between zero and one right now.  Automakers are currently moving aggressively to Stage 1, which is the adaptation of some autonomous features.

At Stage 2, at least two features (such as braking and cruise control) will be automated, and at Stage 3 the car will be partially autonomous, although a driver will still be needed for monitoring.

We consider Stage 4 as vehicles having full autonomy, with a “human option” for the driver/passenger to take over at any time. And Stage 5 would be full autonomy, with no human option – meaning no steering wheel, brakes, or accelerator pedals.

We believe the transition through the stages will be gradual, and insurers will have some time to adjust and react.  But our forecast says that by about 2050, there will be many more autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles on the road than traditional vehicles.

Finding New Sources of Revenue

While the pace of adoption of autonomous vehicles is not easy to predict, it is clear that individual auto premiums will decline in a significant and likely escalating manner. This means that auto insurers need to create new revenue streams that offset the decline in individual premiums. Fortunately, new opportunities for insurers are emerging as well.

With help from the Stevens team, we have identified three areas with significant potential for insurers in the period from 2020 to 2050:

  1. Cyber security. As cars become more automated and incorporate more and more hardware and software, insuring against cyber theft, ransomware, hacking, and the misuse of information related to automobiles can generate as much as $12 billion in annual premiums.  This can be even more critical to entire fleets, for example, if Amazon deploys fleets of autonomous vehicles to deliver packages.
  2. Product liability. Auto-related sensors and chips are expensive, but the real risk for manufacturers is the potential for failure through software bugs, memory overflow, and algorithm defects, and the resulting massive liability.  Insuring against this is a $2.5 billion annual opportunity.
  3. Infrastructure insurance. Cloud server systems, signals, and other safeguards that will be put in place to protect riders and drivers offer an annual revenue potential of $500 million in premiums for property and casualty insurers who underwrite the value of the hardware and software in play. The need to secure and insure the public infrastructure is likely to be vast and much larger than $500 million, but governments often “self-insure” these risks so the opportunity for commercial insurance is likely to be lower.

In the aggregate, these areas can generate $81 billion through 2026 ($15 billion per year from 2020 to 2026, with some fluctuations) and can more than offset the losses in premiums expected through 2050.

Planning for the Driverless Future

In a future dominated by autonomous vehicles, auto insurers will face some stark strategic choices. They can continue to conduct business as usual, fighting for pieces of a shrinking pie – or they can change their thinking and their business models and adapt to new realities.

The speed of the conversion to a driverless environment is impossible to predict exactly, but carriers should start creating the actuarial models that determine risk and pricing for different stages of autonomous vehicles.  At the same time, they should be developing new product offerings in areas including cyber insurance and product liability for software and sensors.

We see four key steps that insurers can take now:

First, they can build expertise in big data and analytics.  Playing effectively in the AV market means being able to control data generated by AVs and by the communications and software systems that support them.  Market participants who can collect, organize and analyze this data will have inherent advantages over those with less developed capabilities.

Second, they can develop the needed actuarial framework and models.  We have already seen partially autonomous safety features such as automatic emergency braking systems change the safety profile of newer vehicles.  Insurers should be using sophisticated actuarial and modeling techniques to be ready as vehicles add more and more autonomous features.

Third, they should explore the partner ecosystem.  Insurers will need to collaborate effectively with automakers, providers of communication and software systems, governments at multiple levels, and many other organizations.  Insurers not doing so already should be actively identifying and mapping out ecosystem partners.

Finally, they should think about new business models.  Currently, insurers whose revenues derive primarily from personal automobile policies have an expertise in insuring thousands of small risks.  Such insurers may have to transform themselves into large commercial insurers writing policies on a small number of very large risks.  Insurers remaining in the personal lines market will have to re-think areas including product development, policy administration, and distribution.

See also: Driverless Vehicles: Brace for Impact  

It is also worth noting that decreasing premiums industry-wide may lead to an increase in mergers and acquisitions. There are many smaller insurance carriers that could end up being bought as larger carriers seek to maintain revenue.

In short, change is inevitable for auto insurers, but the change can be positive.  Insurers that vigorously pursue the short- and medium-term opportunities presented by cyber insurance, product liability insurance, and infrastructure insurance – while making careful strategic decisions about their partner ecosystems, operating models, and value propositions – are most likely to thrive in a driverless environment.

This article originally appeared at  Harvard Business Review.

Why More Don’t Go Direct-to-Consumer

According to McKinsey, the goal in establishing a sound digital strategy is to simply meet customers’ expectations.

What sounds straightforward and easy to a digitally advanced industry, such as retail, is a major undertaking for property and casualty insurers, particularly those that sell exclusively through independent or captive agent forces.

As insurers prepare to go direct-to-consumer, they face a unique set of challenges, including the question of where to start.

First, You Have to Know What the Customer Wants

Creating a direct-to-consumer strategy that meets customers’ expectations requires P&C insurers to first understand who the customer is. For them, it’s a task similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece is part of an array of distributed and disparate systems, and there is no easy way to gain a single view of the customer without painstakingly assembling the picture piece by piece.

Samantha Chow, senior analyst at market research firm Aite Group, in an interview with Informationweek said that insurers have data they can’t make heads or tails of because of data integration problems and lack of data governance.

Many of the processes that incumbent insurers use to run their business still operate on legacy technology. Chow says that some top-tier carriers are running as many as 27 aging policy administration systems to support their products. To make matters worse, data across these informational silos is often inconsistent.

See also: 9 Elements for Customer Portals  

It seems that insurers have the wrong type of data, as well. According to Mark Breading, partner at Strategy Meets Action, insurers are limited by a customer view that delivers only “an awareness of the current and former products owned by the customer, the performance of those products, information related to product needs of the customer and perhaps some relationship information like the agent involved.”

In direct-to-consumer distribution, insurers need to expand their data sets, tracking consumer activity across products and channels as well as gathering information from third-party sources to gain a broader understanding of the customer, their lifestyles, purchasing preferences and buying behavior.

A single view of the customer is essential to respond to their complete coverage needs in real time and is a primary component of D2C engagement.

Setting up the Online Storefront

Amazon set up shop in 1994 as an online book and music seller, but rapidly evolved into an international retailer of just about everything.

The fact that Amazon’s sales last year topped $135 billion underscores the effectiveness of the strategy: Make it easy for customers to find and buy the things they want, when they want them.

As customers enter Amazon’s site, searching for products is fast and simple. They can easily compare pricing and then select the items that meet their needs. In many cases, purchasing is accomplished in a single click.

When insurers try to recreate this type of environment in insurance, they run up against some impressive obstacles. For one thing, rapidly quoting, binding and issuing products that our housed in separate silos requires a central point of access. Only a handful of insurers have this today.

Then there is product diversity. Consumers expect insurers to meet their coverage needs, but what happens when they can’t? The Amazon experience would dictate that the insurer offer products from other carriers to augment their own selection, similar to Amazon’s army of third-party sellers.

“It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Eric Gewirtzman, CEO, BOLT. “Insurers who position themselves to meet more of the needs of their customers, even if it means offering products from other carriers, will be recognized as customer-first organizations.”

Customers Still Need Agent Support

Our research of top carriers indicates that 77% are seeing demand for D2C engagement, but providing online access to products and services also means setting up agent support for digital channels.

A customer with a leading D2C insurer recently needed to obtain insurance for one of her vehicles in another state. Her daughter was registering the vehicle where she was attending college, but, given the significant cost advantages, the customer wanted to keep the teen-aged driver’s coverage bundled with the original policy.

Unique situations like these often require support from an agent licensed in the specific state. In this example, much of the transaction was started online. Because all information was available to the agent, digital paved the way for a faster and more efficient response to the customer.

Committing to a D2C strategy means providing agent support to field questions and issues from direct channels. For insurers that work exclusively through independent or captive agents, that means setting up or gaining access to licensed resources to support D2C channels and ensuring they have streamlined access to information customers enter online.

Despite Challenges, Now Is the Time to Move

Looking into insurer’s thoughts on the future, John Cusano of Accenture remarked on the company’s research with 563 insurance executives.

“In our survey, we found that 87% of insurance respondents agree that we have entered an era of technology advancement that is no longer marked by linear progression, but by an exponential rate of change,” Cusano says. “What’s more, 86% say that their organization must innovate at an increasingly rapid pace just to keep a competitive edge.”

See also: Why Customer Experience Is Key  

Part of that innovation is advancing toward an omni-channel strategy that includes direct-to-consumer capabilities. Eric Gewirtzman of BOLT, in an interview with McKinsey, said, “Insurance customers are already moving between various channels.” Now insurers need a strategy that fulfills the customer’s demands for direct-to-consumer purchasing.

Disruption from outside forces and continuously evolving consumer expectations is forcing the industry out of its protective shell and onto the cusp of change. Despite the challenges, the insurers who realize the greatest wins in the changing environment will be the ones who begin now to evolve into highly competitive digital institutions of the future.

What P&C Insurers Are Missing

Twitter feeds of industry influencers lit up about ZhongAn’s recent $1.5 billion stock offering. There was a feeling in the air that the P&C insurance industry had finally turned a corner, reaching for direct-to-consumer distribution with open arms.

However, customer satisfaction studies from J.D. Power indicate that U.S. insurers aren’t quite there yet. While more consumers shopping for auto coverage use D2C channels for quoting, only 10% of those quotes turn into new business.

Consumers have high expectations when purchasing products through digital channels, so insurers need to provide more than a pleasant experience. They need to provide a wow moment.

We recently conducted a survey of P&C insurers. What we found is that the “wow” experience is eluding many. While 68% say they view digital distribution as the most important aspect of their future growth, fewer than 25% are fully happy with their efforts to date.

The elusive “wow” factor is holding many insurers back from realizing the benefits of going direct-to-consumer.

What are they missing?

Raising Acquisition Rates in P&C Insurance

Insurers that aren’t online are missing the chance to engage with nearly 70% of the market. That’s the number of consumers who prefer to use online channels to research coverage.

Turning a casual observer into a customer depends on the strength of your D2C capabilities. Some websites are off-putting. They speak primarily about the insurer, provide a complicated quoting process and fail to advise customers on coverage gaps. In this digital environment, the customer feels like a pawn, being moved through a complex series of maneuvers to determine product pricing or to purchase insurance coverage.

If we turn this scenario around to one where the website speaks to the customer, provides easy quoting of insurance products and advises the customer on coverage gaps, we see a more personalized shopping experience emerge.

See also: 3 Ways AI Improves P&C Economics  

In case you’re wondering how open consumers are to this type of digital advisorship, Accenture has an answer. It recently polled more than 32,000 consumers and found that 74% are open to advice about insurance from digital sources, and many find that it’s faster, offers greater convenience and delivers more impartial guidance.

A comprehensive direct-to-consumer strategy plays a strong role in acquisition rates. A leading D2C insurer expanded its digital capabilities and saw new business increase 8% in the quarter the enhancements were made.

Supporting Customers in their D2C Experience

While consumers are keen to embrace digital, what happens when they have a question that can’t be answered online? They are going to need an agent, but after experiencing the top-tier digital bliss of your D2C channel they aren’t going to be inclined to purchase if the agent is slow or less personal.

Industry influencer John Cusano said that to complement digital distribution channels, and remain relevant to their customers, insurance advisers need to use an array of digital tools to efficiently manage routine tasks as well as to service increasingly demanding and knowledgeable customers.

That means uniting siloed systems and giving agents a single view of the customer across products.

When insurers get this right, it plays a big role in generating new business, as is evidenced by a prominent insurer in the D2C space. This insurer recently enhanced the digital experience for its consumers and internal agency. As a result, conversion rates rose to 35%, and sales doubled year-over-year.

Customer Loyalty Is Possible in P&C Insurance

Bain’s recent survey of 172,000 insurance customers confirmed what many in the know have been indicating for a few years now. Frequent interactions generate loyalty.

Historically, insurance has been a low-touch business. Insurers send out renewal papers with a request for payment every six months to a year and, beyond that, only engage with customers if there is a claim.

Consumer demand for high-quality touch points goes back to digital pioneers like Amazon. They’ve constructed a business out of putting customer needs at the forefront and generating a “wow” experience from the first interaction.

As customers make their way across a site, they are guided by product recommendations and pricing comparisons. Each of these touchpoints make customers feel central to the buying experience, and they come back for more.

This is where D2C comes in for insurers. Digitizing customer information makes for more efficient data retrieval and better application of consumer analytics. The insights derived can pinpoint interaction opportunities, including cross-selling moments, all in real time.

According to Bain, the more touchpoints the better, as insurers that master the art see net promoter scores that are 15 points higher than other insurers.

D2C Adds up to Stronger Acquisition, Retention and Loyalty

In our survey, 77% of insurers are seeing demands for direct-to-consumer channels of engagement. That’s because consumers have grown accustomed to interacting through the channel that is most convenient in the moment, and they like the simplicity of purchasing online.

Insurers with strong D2C channels send a clear message to consumers. It says they are in touch and ready to put their customers at the center of their business strategy. Customers deliver loyalty in return, driving up retention rates and buying more products.

See also: P&C Insurers: Come Out of the Dark Ages  

To better serve customers and encourage retention, a top customer-experience leader recently improved its direct-to-consumer offering. Despite increasing its advertising budget, the insurer reduced its expense ratio and increased conversions 4% in a single quarter.

Are you still searching for a digital identity? If so, what are the main impediments you’re facing?