Consumers’ digital experience is king to leapfrog e-commerce for insurers

By Marcus Chew, 22 February 2017 926

By Marcus Chew, Chief Marketing Officer, Income

With mobile penetration at 156% in Singapore, of which 55% shop on-line, the power of consumers has grown tremendously. And insurers need to cater to today’s consumers’ preferred mode of contact. Mr Marcus Chew of Income, a Singapore-based life, health and general insurance cooperative, shares his experiences in e-commerce through Facebook, Facebook Live, Instagram, ‘live’ chats, as well as its website. 

Technological innovations and advancements coupled with the willingness of the millennial generation to embrace such changes at lightning speed have lop-sided the power shift to consumers. 

They are used to getting access to a range of services and products with the click of a button on their mobile devices today. It is, thus, natural that more will expect products, including insurance offerings, to be available digitally – customised to their needs and available for purchase easily.

In Singapore, mobile penetration is at 156%, of which 55% shop on-line. This indicates the vast potential that the digital sphere holds for the insurance industry particularly when it remains a relatively ‘white space’ today. With mobile growth trending strongly upwards, it has never been a more exciting time to make our mark. 

Strong digital presence is a must

To lead as a digital insurer, anchoring on a strong social media presence is key. The Income Facebook page now boasts almost 70,000 followers. We engaged consumers vicariously with peer travellers’ content through ‘Travel Made Different’ on Instagram and website, a move that saw double-digit growth in our travel insurance business. 

In 2015, Income launched Adviser Connect to facilitate financial advisory via ‘live’ chats online between consumers and Income financial planners. On this platform, consumers get advice anonymously for free from a planner of their choice, at real-time, without the pressure of purchase. Adviser Connect remains the first-of-its-kind by an insurer in Singapore. As of 2016, Adviser Connect attracted almost 265,000 unique visitors and generated over 40,400 conversations and almost 10,000 leads. 

We took to Facebook Live to get young Singaporeans to pay attention to early financial planning during the ‘Retiring’ campaign by engaging and discussing the benefits of an early start in a light-hearted manner. It was then unchartered territory for most companies. It was also significant since we expanded consumer engagement beyond what was traditionally possible. 

The Facebook Live discussion attracted 5,900 views and reached nearly 109,000 people. The outreach far surpassed what could have been at a traditional speaking forum. Overall, the campaign enjoyed 300% increase in web traffic to Income’s savings and retirement plans and saw a 30% increase in customer enquiries about retiring planning within a week of the launch. There were 25% more policies sold and the average annualised premium income per policy increased 126% compared to the same period the year before.

Prepare to ride the wave of social commerce

Sharing these commercial statistics emphasises the devaluation of vanity metrics such as page-likes or engagement rates. They highlight, instead, the rise of conversion rates and cost per conversion to determine the success of social media activities or digital campaigns. 

This is particularly significant when social media are becoming an important source of traffic for websites. In China, there is a closer integration of social media into Chinese consumers’ online purchasing behaviour. Forty-two percent of online shoppers made a purchase directly after seeing a product on social media. ranked first to lead downstream traffic to Xiaomi, for instance, sold 150,000 phones in less than 10 minutes on WeChat. (Source: Labbrand, Sina, CNNC, iResearch). 

Pay close attention to personalisation

There is science behind such success and it is worthwhile for us to take a leaf from the Chinese experience and to pay closer attention to personalisation, Big Data, marketing automation and content marketing to facilitate a seamless consumer experience online from awareness to purchase. 

Personalisation focuses on tailoring websites to the needs and wants of consumers according to implicit data such as pages view, items purchased and a wide range of user characteristics. In this regard, consumers’ activities and behaviours on social media have potential influence on successful personalisation initiatives and deployment. 

With advances in data science, we are likely to witness in the next five years a more widespread application of behavioural prediction. While challenges remain for clean data, prediction models and deployment, data science combined with personalisation is a powerful tool to advance consumers’ digital experience for online purchases.  

Content marketing

And to further drive new leads, content marketing plays an important role in creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent touch-points and impact at every stage of the consumers’ journey. With social media influencing the way users consume information regularly, content marketing on social media channels offers limitless potential to drive not just awareness and call to action but also advocacy and bond with the Income brand and its products. 

To enhance and support a good consumer experience digitally to drive online purchases, clever marketing automation by leveraging technologies to more effectively market on multiple online channels such as email, social media and website, including automating repetitive tasks, will continue to be an important consideration. 

Pick low-hanging fruits for digital offerings 

While complementing personalisation and data science with customised content and marketing automation enhance digital go-to-market for insurance products, it is as important to consider consumers’ purchase preferences and patterns online to optimise business in e-commerce. 

The top five shopping categories for retail e-commerce in Singapore in 2015 were led by travel, fashion and beauty, entertainment and lifestyle, electronics and lastly, general insurance (as per Vulcan Post). 

Currently, Income offers 16 insurance products online. Singaporeans’ intentional search behaviour revealed that Income remains top of mind for general insurance products (Google Trends). It is no surprise that the proportion of our travel insurance policy count that stemmed from online channels compared to other distribution channels has increased steadily by almost 7% between 2012 and 2015. 

Such growth has also piggybacked on the fact that the travel industry’s digital evolution is now ripe for picking. More travellers are customising and purchasing their travel arrangements online. It only makes sense that travel insurance is offered accordingly with greater personalisation and customisation. 

Online users also prefer to complete transactions digitally. How we will advance eWallet options, for example, will impact consumers’ purchase experience and journey online. 

It will also take an overhaul of mind-set to develop insurance products for the digital space. These products are generally more straightforward and easy for customers to understand. And as a consumer’s purchase journey online is often sharp and quick, we need to rethink information gathering for underwriting requirements to keep things simple and to minimise drop-out rate. 

To be always-on and available for consumers

Disruptive technologies have and will continue to change the business and social landscape that we live in. With mobile internet and social media trending to be a big part of our lives, the concept of ‘accessibility’ – being anywhere and everywhere for consumers – has never been more important than now. 

The deployment of always-on artificial intelligence in insurance advisory and service is an additional value to customers’ experience that we are currently exploring with our Insurtech accelerator programme, ‘Income Future Starter, powered by TAG.PASS’. 

The possibilities, as they say, are endless, the challenge is in business fit, deployment and delivery to consumers who are increasingly living a digitally social world. 

This article first appeared in Asia Insurance Review in Feb 2017.