Millennials, or the demographic of people roughly aged 18 to 34 years old, often don’t prefer like to talk on the phone or even in person. (Photo: iStock)

As the world moves rapidly toward internet- and mobile-based means of advertising and lead generation, the insurance industry is following suit, but perhaps more slowly than other major business categories.

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Today, only one-third of independent insurance agents in the U.S. have structured programs in-place for online lead generation, according to Quote Wizard, a digital insurance marketplace that works with more than 8,000 insurance agents nationwide.

Given the quickly changing digital business landscape, it’s hard for many agents to tell up from down in the world of internet marketing. But there is a sense of urgency to get involved.

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Consider this: Most millennials, or the demographic of people roughly aged 18 to 34 years old, don’t prefer like to talk on the phone or even in person. But they do like to do their own online research and product comparisons.

Insurance agents today are at the mercy of political, economic, and/or technological challenges that have only added pressure. We’re talking direct insurance growth, new claim-processing apps, industry consolidation, Google Compare, mergers and acquisitions, the Affordable Care Act, state and private insurance exchanges, floods, fires, and everything in between.

At the recent 2016 Medicare Supplement Insurance Conference, agents compared notes on how the current business landscape has reinforced the fact that agents today must be be online to stay in business.

First and foremost, a basic website is essential. It must articulate an agent’s location, the types of insurance offered, and contact information. Not only does this help consumers, updating your website often also insures that you’ll show up in online search and rate comparison results, which can lead to clicks and calls from prospects.

Second, agents must understand that social media is as a necessary evil. Your agency should be on Facebook and LinkedIn, because your current and prospective customers are there, as are your competitors. Instagram and Twitter?  Not as important for today’s digital consumer. 

Third, how strategic is your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system? As agents generate leads online and elsewhere, it is becoming more important to track which leads results in sales and how quickly. An up-to-date CRM also can enable agents to determine which channels may not be as effective.

Keep reading for details about the online tastes of today’s insurance consumers.

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What do online consumers want?

Conventional wisdom is that millennials avoid face to face conversations, Boomers are technology-averse, and GenX/Y wants everything in between.

However, once all of these consumers are online, they become the consummate digital audience, thirsty for immediate answers.

Consider this: Three out of four of auto insurance shoppers use insurer websites or lead aggregators to get rate quotes and start their research, according to a recent study by J.D. Power. Insurance consumers want immediate response and comparison, research, informed decisions and validation of the product In a Back to the Future way, Clicks versus phone calls

In may seem counterintuitive, given all we know about the online consumer, the old-fashioned phone call may be primed for a comeback among savvy insurance agents. 

“While many customers want to shop online, they often still want to talk to someone when they buy their insurance to make sure they are getting the right coverage or have questions about their policy answered,” according to Greg Hoeg, vice president of U.S. insurance operations at J.D. Power.

At the same time, consumers often find the agents which whom they wish converse with the help of a search engine. It follows that insurance agents who are becoming more effective in understanding and leveraging search-based ads have the best chance of capturing local consumer searches via clicks to their respective websites.

What about the impact of mobile devices?

A fast-emerging area to watch is pay-per-call or “live transfer leads,” an emerging technology that’s tied to the massive adoption of smart phones. Yes, consumers use their mobile devices to search. But now, many consumers can will actually dial that local agent they find online, which can result in a source of highly qualified leads.

So while getting a targeted click from a ‘traditional’ search to your agency website is valuable, getting a phone call from a consumer who arrived at your agency through mobile search brings you even closer to a sale.   

On the horizon

Google recently did away with its insurance comparison website, Google Compare. And ore change is definitely coming. How do agents anticipate and adapt to the evolving digital space? Here’s how:

    • Dedicate yourself to nailing the basics so you’ll be in good position to capture leads from any search, comparison, or phone-based leads.
    • Stay informed, as we are on the cusp of more pronounced innovation and change that will continue to affect the insurance business.

Taking an active interest in your online presence and image will insure the vitality of your insurance business for years to come.

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