Younger consumers may look for information about life insurance online – but real people and real life events continue to be the major triggers for those searches.

Andy Ferris of the Chicago office of Deloitte Consulting and Lucian Lombardi of LIMRA, Windsor, Conn., delivered that message recently during a presentation at the latest Life Insurance Conference in Las Vegas.

The conference was sponsored by the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington; Clockthe Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Ill.; LIMRA; and LIMRA’s sister organization, LOMA, Atlanta.

Sessions covered topics such as social media strategies, electronic application processing systems, and recruiting the next generation of sales professionals.

Ferris and Lombardi talked about the implications of socioeconomic trends for life products and distribution.

One trend they discussed was consumers’ growing reliance on the Web.

Ferris and Lombardi reported, for example, that LIMRA has found that the percentage of life buyers who said they had studied individual product information online increased to 52% in 2009, up from 38% just 3 years earlier.

Increasing consumer use of the Internet would be good for life insurers, because the cost of an average transaction is $6.41 per telephone call, $2.03 per e-mail, and just 51 cents per Internet encounter, Ferris and Lombardi said, according to a copy of presentation materials provided by LIMRA.

But Ferris and Lombardi showed another graph that suggests the generational shift to the Internet might be slowing.

LIMRA found in 2009 that consumers in each generation were more likely to expect

to buy their next life insurance policies online than consumers in the preceding generation.

Only 6% of the Silent Generation consumers – the LIMRA survey participants born before 1946 – said they expect to buy their next life insurance policies online, compared with 28% of the members of Generation Y – the survey participants born after 1980.

But the size of the Internet generation gaps is shrinking.

About 18% of baby boomers said they expect to shop for their next life insurance online, meaning that there is a gap of 12 percentage points between boomers and members of the Silent Generation.

But the gap between boomers and members of Generation X – the survey participants born from 1965 to 1980 – is just 7 percentage points, with about 25% of the GenXers saying they expect to buy their next life policies online.

The gap between the members of Generation X and Generation Y is just 3 percentage points, and 72% of the members of Generation Y said they were not sure how they would buy their next life insurance policies — or said they expected to buy their next life insurance policies offline.

Ferris and Lombardi also pointed out that the reasons consumers actually look for life insurance in the first place tend to involve more than Web articles and clever Twitter posts.

Only 8% of consumers polled in 2009 said they recognized their need for life insurance because of information seen online; 23% said an insurance agent, broker or financial advisor had brought that need to their attention, and 24% said they recognized their need for life coverage because of a life event, such as a birth or a marriage.

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