A new era of marketing and distribution may be dawning in the insurance industry, as regulatory changes, industry trends and technology put pressure on old business models.

During the Insured Retirement Institute’s Vision 2016 annual conference Sept. 25-27 in Colorado Springs, panelists discussed how innovative marketing programs can amplify a message and communicate directly to consumers in a way that can benefit the industry as a whole.

The following are highlights from the session.

Rich LaVoice, executive vice president of retirement sales at Symetra Financial, moderated the panel. He asked panelists to explain how technology, which is empowering consumers, will change the role of the advisor.

Michael Kazanjian, vice president of marketing at Lincoln Financial Group, said the biggest change technology brings is that it gives consumers access to an unprecedented amount of information.

Related: Technology to the rescue for fiduciary rule compliance

“There’s almost too much information,” Kazanjian said. “Pre-digital, the consumer really didn’t have much information and went to a financial advisor, who would provide information to make a decision. Now it’s almost information overload. When they come in, they have so much information it’s like going to the doctor and already having diagnosed yourself. So now the advisor is navigating that knowledge and reaffirming decisions.”

 

Kazanjian compared it to the CarMax model, which changed the car-buying experience by putting computer stations in dealerships and empowering customers to gather information for themselves.

Christine Tucker, vice president of marketing in the Retirement Solutions Division at Pacific Life Insurance Company, said technology will change the wholesaler role by democratizing information for both the advisor and the wholesaler. She said wholesalers that leverage technology will create efficiencies that will allow them to spend more time on evangelizing products and services.

The agents and advisors of tomorrow will embrace technology rather than compete with it. (Photo: iStock)

The agents and advisors of tomorrow may have no choice but to embrace technology. (Photo: iStock)
 

What should the focus of marketing be going forward, LaVoice asked?

Rodney Branch, chief marketing officer at head of product for Prudential Annuities, said the industry needs to think differently about who they are competing with in the market. Rather than competing with each other, Branch suggests that in reality, insurers are competing with other things that consumers spend their money on, such as going to an NFL football game, instead of investing in retirement vehicles.

Related: The time is now to start prospecting life insurance online

“My point is, there is competition for dollars,” said Branch. “We’ve been talking about how our products are different from other company’s products instead of having a different kind of conversation with customers. How do we start reaching that consumer more effectively by telling a different story, using simple language and creating an emotional connection?”

Related: How to sell insurance products people believe they don’t need

Branch pointed to a recent Prudential advertisement that showcased real people talking about their goals for retirement. He pointed out that the ad never mentioned annuities, life insurance or mutual funds but instead allows consumers to engage in an emotional conversation about reaching their goals.

In this push to speak directly to consumers, education is a key characteristic of the message. By educating consumers not about specific product features but about retirement planning in general, more consumers may seek retirement advice, which will expand the category and benefit everyone, said Branch.

The panelists all weighed in on whether digital platforms will be disruptive to the industry.

“Think about how digital has impacted other industries,” said Branch. “Travel agents are now digital, for example. But there are categories, like when you go to buy a car, most people do their homework on a digital tool or technology but still go to a dealership to buy a car. The reality is, it’s here to stay. I think we have to confront that and be cognizant that the current model might change.”

Kazanjian said at least for a while, the amount of disruption from technology is likely to depend on the level of advice needed.

“If I’m going to Disneyland, I can go to Expedia and plan it all myself. But if I’m going to Africa, I might need to go to a travel agent,” said Kazanjian. “Right now a lot of these tools do very simple things, but when you get into a more complicated experience, they don’t really fit. These platforms need to evolve to accommodate more sophisticated retirement income strategies.”

See also:

The power of technology in insurance

The insurance company of the future

Insurance consumers: We’ll give up our data for personalized service

 

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