Insurers are looking to connect to customers in new ways. As mentioned in my previous blog, they need to increase customer touch points in ways that provide useful information and advice in real-time. Digital marketers can lead their companies in this area, taking advantage of key trends to connect with customers in unique ways that help to drive both sales and loyalty.

In this blog, I will focus in on two of the key findings from our 2014 Technology Vision report that can strengthen the digital marketing efforts of insurers:

  • Apps are becoming the preferred means for interacting with data and driving value.
  • Boundaries are blurring between organizations and the outside world.

Where is the app for that?

From Digitally Disrupted to Digital Disrupter
View the report.

Insurance affects the very things that matter most—home, family and transportation. With the abundance of information available to insurers, designing apps that add value to their customers’ lives is a strategic way to both drive customer loyalty and gather additional data.

While some insurers have made progress in this area, such as apps for filing claims or digitally cataloging household items for property coverage, providing useful apps to help make decisions on the edge can open up multiple and frequent touch points with the consumer. The city of San Francisco, for example, has installed smart, connected parking meters. These meters provide drivers with a visual heat map of parking areas, denoting where parking is more and less congested. Once a driver parks, the meter sends an alert when time is running out and money can be added to the meter via the driver’s phone. Thus, drivers in San Francisco have a more pleasant experience and the city gains valuable data on consumer behavior that can be analyzed against numerous factors such as day, time, weather and events. Future planning efforts can then tap into that information to create an even better experience for San Francisco drivers.

Insurers offering similar apps that provide on-the-edge decision making have a unique advantage in building customer loyalty. Apps for assessing area safety or outlining the safest driving or walking routes, especially for frequent travelers, might be useful. Alternatively, since many insurers now offer roadside assistance, an app that automates that process would be of immense value. The app could establish location, assess driver safety, determine tow truck availability in an area and then communicate the expected time of tow truck arrival to the driver. It could also track duration of service, delivery location and customer satisfaction at the end of the process. This data could then be incorporated to better manage and improve the roadside assistance experience. Given enough volume, insurers might even want to consider selling their insight to roadside service organizations to enhance their planning efforts.

The world is my workforce

The world of apps is unlimited and ideas don’t have to derive just from those inside your company. Why not have consumers participate in designing an app? This is where the blurring of boundaries is an advantage. Organizations are now reaching outside of their own walls to tap into the ideas of the very people they are trying to serve. Numerous examples show that consumers worldwide are enthusiastic about participating in helping organizations to create ideas, solve problems or select market outreach options. Consumer input is not just being sought on small projects. It is also being used in multi-million dollar decisions.

Take the latest Super Bowl advertisements, for example. With each ad costing approximately $4 million per 30-second time slot, the decision on which ad a company should run is critical. This year, two companies let consumers decide. Intuit let online voters decide which one of the ads created by four of its small business customers would be played during the Super Bowl. Doritos took a slightly different approach, allowing consumers to create their own ads for Doritos. The ads were then submitted for an online vote and the winning video was played during the Super Bowl. Both companies were using interactive marketing to drive brand awareness, give customers value and collect vital information about customer preferences. They also drove brand loyalty by making consumers a part of their companies rather than just recipients of mass marketing efforts.

This trend is called “crowdsourcing” and companies are using it worldwide to tap into consumer needs and involve them in critical processes. One company, Local Motors, took advantage of crowdsourcing to design a car for a very specific type of customer. Car enthusiasts from all over the world participated in the design process. The car is now in production and Local Motors has a built in supply of customers for the product. The process was so successful that BMW has hired the company to manage a similar online community for developing and testing new car interiors. Thus, Local Motors not only designed a popular product and generated a loyal customer base before the car was built, it was able to capture and sell its process to other organizations.

Companies are also tapping into large pools of consumers through “crowdfunding” platforms like Kickstarter. These platforms use Web-based collaboration, social media and microfinancing to raise money for various ideas, products and small businesses. Visitors to the site can choose to invest in any of the projects featured, essentially voting with their money for the most popular ideas. Strategic organizations are beginning to use crowdfunding platforms to assess product viability and pricing tolerance. In essence, if people are willing to vote with their own money, they feel strongly about the idea. In some cases, the process has created product advocates and an initial pool of buyers.

In my first blog of this series, I mentioned that companies have three years to get their digital strategies in place. Across all industries, consumer demand for personalization is up and new entrants are threatening established companies once thought to have a stronghold on the market. This is especially true for the insurance industry where barriers to market entry are eroding and customer loyalty is low.

As an insurer evolves, putting into place a data supply chain and a strong technological infrastructure to support it, the abilities of its marketing department will also expand. However, this is not the time for marketers to sit back and wait for the infrastructure to be completed. Instead, marketers need to be involved in the digitizing process, working closely with IT and business stakeholders to design a system that allows them to innovate and expand on their digital marketing strategies. Since going digital is a dynamic process, many of the strategies outlined in this blog series can be implemented today. The key is to let customer-centricity drive ideas for connecting with consumers, including reaching outside of traditional boundaries to include consumers in your design or validation processes. Smart marketers will use these touch points to drive sales, strengthen customer loyalty and gather data for enhancing the customer experience in the near future. Those that truly understand the power of digital marketing will change the dynamics of the insurance industry as a whole. That is what it means to be a digital superpower.

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