Today, there are more than 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, up from 738 million in 2000. 3.2 billion people now use the Internet for – virtually — everything. The consumers’ world is rapidly shifting to a digital-centric experience, and the insurance industry cannot afford to be left in the dust.
To stay relevant in an increasingly digital world, insurance companies need to make data-driven marketing decisions that will connect them to the always-connected consumer. And these decisions must be agile, direct, and – above all – personal, in order to truly capture the attention they deserve.
Digital technologies: Shifting power to the consumer
One of the fundamental changes occurring in most industries across the board is power shifting to the consumer. Digital technologies equip consumers with the ability to research on-the-go, share recommendations and get instant answers to their questions, all resulting in a disruption to traditional business models and creating a significant change in consumers’ expectations and behaviors.
Regardless of the industry, consumers encounter digital media at every turn. And this media is full of content that is targeted to their lifestyle, rich features that encourage engagement and the potential for interaction with each other and digitally-savvy businesses at any time. Digital customer experiences are often more rewarding and engaging than traditional experiences. This new landscape has shaped customer expectations in such a way that any company without a strong social and digital presence runs the risk of missing out on new and returning customers.
The consumer decision-making process has changed
To remain competitive and gain an edge amidst this change, insurance companies must understand the decision-making process of today’s consumer.
The plethora of information and connections at their fingertips means that consumers do not typically take a straight line toward a purchase. Instead, they travel through various stages of the buyer’s journey – sometimes going back and forth between stages – before landing on a decision.
The buyer’s journey typically begins with a consumer becoming aware of a need, and then moving onto considering his or her options. The consumer will then evaluate the various options that most closely fit that need. Next, a purchase is made. And following that purchase, a consumer will engage in post-purchase activities, many of which occur on social media, like sharing word-of-mouth experiences or strengthening their relationship with a company.
This buyer’s journey is the framework within which consumers make purchases, and it can be tapped into and influenced using social media.
The new decision-making process and the life insurance industry
One of the key triggers of any consumer entering the awareness stage for life, house, car or other insurance is life events. A new baby, closing on a house or an upcoming wedding are all trigger events that propel consumers to consider purchasing insurance – and these triggers can be captured in real-time by leveraging social data.
Insurance companies must learn how to reach out to the consumer when he or she is going to be most receptive to their message. Using social media, insurance companies can listen for and act on life event triggers, reaching the right customer at the right time with the right message.
Three quarters of consumers rely on social media as part of their purchase decision, and 22 percent of Twitter users have made a purchase after interacting with a brand. These consumers are primed for social media messages from insurance companies offering products that align with their life events.
Companies can use the data they gather via social channels to bolster old-school marketing tactics as well, which – despite the decline in effectiveness they have experienced in recent years – can benefit from insights gleaned from social media.
The power of social data for insurance companies: Unlocking life events
Consumers talk about all aspects of their lives on social media. They take to Twitter to share the news of their house purchase, and Instagram to share photos of their graduation. They are not shy about posting their most intimate and momentous life events publicly on social media.
A study performed by IBM Impact that looked at 100 million social profiles discovered that more than 150,000 people shared information about a job loss or gain, 23,000 shared news about a business start-up or expansion, 20,000 shared their graduation details, and more than 2 million shared travel events.
Insurance companies have an unprecedented opportunity to listen to, analyze and unlock these life events.
Using listening and data platforms, insurance companies can develop a deep understanding of their target market’s needs based on what life events they share, when they share them, and what platforms and devices they use.
On Twitter, for instance, there are upwards of 3.7 million tweets per month in Canada alone that contain mentions of life events. These can be gathered and used to understand the market as a whole for better targeting and messaging, or they can be explored individually and responded to for more direct sales.