What was the last big or meaningful purchase that you made? Think through the experience. How did the company help you make the decision? Did it offer tools? Did it reach out to help you? Did it make you feel empowered and confident as you went through the buying experience? Did it help you feel good about your buying decision?

For the best companies out there today, the answer to all of these questions would be “yes.” They look to engage the customer before the customer even realizes they need the product, and then they carefully guide them all the way through the buying experience.

Now think of how carriers sell small commercial. For the most part, carriers don’t even consider you a customer until the agent sends across the application, and from there they simply provide price and coverage for the customer to decide.

This is changing as small commercial goes digital and carriers have the ability to create compelling experiences across the buying spectrum. Think back to Progressive in personal lines. Part of its success comes from the creation of compelling buying experiences for different types of shoppers. These include a comparative shopping tool to entice people to start with their site; a name-your-own-price function to allow the buyer to feel in control of the sale; and multiple discounts to allow buyers to feel like they got a deal. Every aspect of the experience is designed to help at the different steps of the buying decision.

How does small commercial compare? Let’s look at the main steps a customer goes through today and the role that the carrier plays, versus the role digital carriers can have in the future.

Customer experience step Today Digital future
Recognition: Buyer recognizes they need insurance based on perceived need or crossing a legal threshold. They now need to purchase it.


A few difficult-to-navigate websites and articles. Active identification of small business owners based on their digital activities with ready advice for their business.
Research: Buyer does initial research on what type of insurance they need. They are met with a flood of information.


The same few difficult-to-navigate websites and articles. Analytics-based tools and advice to help the customer understand their needs based on the size and type of their business.
Reflection: Buyer reflects on what they have learned and makes a preliminary decision on what they need and how they will pursue a purchase. Website to help a customer find an agent. Chat bots or active customer service to provide warm transition to direct or agency channels to help the customer start the sale.
Support: Whether through an agent or through a direct purchase, a buyer looks for support for the complex decisions in deciding coverage, price, and carriers Agent handles this. Online tools such as ratings, analytics, and reviews to help the buyer feel confident in their decision.

Make no mistake, as small commercial insurance begins to become more digital, customers are going to expect and move to more compelling experiences around the buying process. What remains to be seen is who will provide those experiences. Online agencies, start-ups, or competitive carriers that embrace digital in the customer sales experience first will be at a distinct advantage here.

If you’re interested in learning more about building a digital customer sales experience in small commercial, I’d love to hear from you.

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