You’ve probably heard the statistics about why Medicare is the largest growth market in insurance: 10,000 people turn 65 every day. In fact, by 2030, one in five U.S. residents will have reached retirement age, and, for the first time ever, adults 65-plus will outnumber children. Considering that over 90% of Medicare enrollees have some form of supplemental insurance, it’s no wonder that this growth potential is attractive to carriers, agencies and investors looking to make big bets in the supplemental health insurance market.
But along with this potential comes a curse of riches. During annual enrollment period (AEP) for Medicare, a flood of potential customers request quotes from brand sites and comparison shopping domains. With each passing day, insurance marketers and sales teams take in and call on leads, nurturing existing quotes and ensuring that the customers they’ve acquired make their first premium payment without defecting, all while trying to shield their existing customer base from their competitors. Friends in these positions have told me they’re running for their lives from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 every year.
So how do we seize the sizable opportunity in Medicare without stepping on the landmines: spending time and money on the wrong people, not spending enough time and money on the right ones, missing multi-product sales opportunities, churning more customers than you’re acquiring? The answer is deceptively simple: Know who your prospects and customers are, understand when they are shopping and be ready to meet them in the market at that time with a relevant and timely message that will help them make the most informed decision.
How do you do that? Well, more and more, Medicare shoppers are researching their options online, meaning there is measurable insight (i.e., behavioral data) into who is on a buying journey versus who isn’t, who is just starting versus who is accelerating the buying process and who still needs the white-glove treatment post-sale.
Teams that harness this data to power their focus during AEP are winning. Instead of spreading their efforts across all consumers, they are successfully addressing only the ones who need attention. This leads to better performance across every stage of the customer buying cycle: acquisition, placement, cross-sell and retention. But these comments are much easier said than proven empirically. So, Jornaya’s data science team set out to do just that.
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Jornaya’s Research Findings
We analyzed more than 1.3 million Medicare supplement consumer-driven online shopping events that occurred during the annual enrollment period in 2018 to better understand the buying journey from start to finish. The results of that research, Understanding the Insurance Consumer Journey: Auto, Life & Health, shine the light on several areas:
- The Journey Begins Early: The buying journey begins well before a quote is requested. Of the 1.3 million shopping events that were analyzed, 46% of consumers were shopping in the Jornaya network before they requested a quote, and the average consumer began shopping on health insurance domains 72 days before asking a brand about Medicare supplement insurance. Another 18% began shopping more than 90 days before ultimately filling out a lead form.
- Consumers Shop Around: On average, consumers initiated 3.4 health insurance shopping events before submitting a request-for-quote. 93% visited a different health insurance web domain than the site where they ultimately requested a quote. Those consumers visited 3.5 different sites before requesting the quote, beginning their shopping journey 72 days before they filled out a lead form.
- Consumers are comfortable shopping on multiple devices, including mobile. 53% of consumer shopping events that Jornaya analyzed were initiated on a mobile device. And, while only 16% of consumers began their journey on one device and requested their quote on another (e.g. started shopping on their phone but requested the quote via desktop), this segment shopped almost twice as frequently, on twice as many sites, as their counterparts who began shopping on one device and requested the quote on the same device.
- Shopping activity intensifies once consumers request quotes: More than half, 59%, continued to shop after they requested their first quote (versus the 46% who were shopping before the quote). On average, they returned to market 26 days after the initial lead submission. And of those who returned to market within the first 30 days, the average shopper initiated 2.7 additional health insurance events post-quote. A quarter of consumers continued shopping more than 90 days post-quote, averaging 3.2 health insurance shopping events during that time.
- Consumers are shopping for multiple insurance products at once. Of the 1.3 million leads that we analyzed, 21% of consumers were simultaneously shopping online for life insurance, and 30% of consumers were in-market for a mortgage.
Implications for Carriers
Knowing that these trends exist, what can insurance marketing and sales teams do to improve? How does this information change their engagement strategy? Here is a high-level summary of the playbook that insurers are using to capitalize:
- Know who your customers are. Use the data and tools available to you to segment your portfolio. Craft plays for each of these segments and be ready to run them when the consumer exhibits buying signals. If you feel ill-equipped to do this with your current infrastructure, explore data and technology vendors who can help you with this.
- Market to your segments as early as you can. This research shows that consumers are beginning their Medicare supplement buying journey several months in advance of AEP. You must comply with the marketing guidelines set out by CMS. That said, you need to meet your prospects and customers in the market when they are interested in learning about their options throughout the year, not only during AEP, when your prospects and customers will be inundated with marketing messaging. Being first in line and top-of-mind when the consumer begins the journey has proven to substantially increase conversion likelihood.
- Assume your prospects are getting more than one quote. Given that the price of supplemental plans is highly regulated, insurance providers must primarily compete on customer experience. Jornaya’s research indicates that consumers are educating themselves, across multiple devices, prior to requesting quotes. Differentiate yourself by using behavioral data to understand where the consumer is in her buying journey and creating value as an adviser to her during that stage. Clearly explain what makes your offering different from other providers she may be considering. Provide consumers with a direct number to call should they have any questions. Tell them you will be following up with them (and when) to help them make the most informed decision.
- The sale is only just beginning post-quote. Jornaya’s research shows that shopping activity intensifies after the initial request-for-quote. 59% of consumers returned to market post-lead. They are doing so for two reasons: 1) They have not yet made a decision, or 2) they made a decision that they are now unsure of. Either scenario is an opportunity/risk that must be considered. A winning strategy takes a data-driven approach to creating multiple touch points over weeks (not days), even post-sale, to ensure a complete and optimal customer experience.
- Identifying parallel buying journeys can differentiate your marketing from your competitors. Consumers are looking for guidance on all major life purchases; not just Medicare supplement insurance. Use behavioral data to identify opportunities to assist them with more than just Medicare. Ask questions that prompt the prospect to think about all his needs. What else is going on in his life that is worth considering? Having this data allows marketers to create personalized offers that appeal directly to the buyer, which trickles down to more positive interactions for agents and the brand over time. Those who take the time to truly help their clients feel at ease about life’s big decisions are much more likely to secure multiple policies per customer, at the point of initial sale and throughout the customer lifecycle.
See also: 8 Questions on Medicare Set Aside
Consumers now spend as much time engaging with digital content as they do sleeping. It’s no wonder they expect brands to personalize their shopping experiences, across multiple devices, especially for major life purchases like insurance. To seize the substantial opportunity in Medicare supplement, insurance firms must seek to better understand their prospects. Leveraging behavioral data to drive early, timely and relevant interactions with prospects and customers is the key to winning (and keeping) a consumer’s business.