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From artificial intelligence in chatbots to cloud technology, the insurance industry has welcomed digital transformation with open arms in an effort to offer consumers an improved shopping experience. Just last year 90% of industry executives expressed having a long-term technology plan in place. Still, many insurance professionals ask, “Are we keeping up?”

When it comes to creating a positive consumer experience, there are a variety of tools for agents to choose from and some may be paralyzed by the choices — or waste time cycling through to find the best tools. However, building a truly great customer experience starts with one fundamental input: behavioral data.

Here are three ways you can use behavioral data to provide a superior consumer experience for the insurance shopper.

1. Customer journey mapping

The most useful customer journey mapping leverages behavioral data to give a holistic picture of an individual’s experience. With a thorough understanding of the journey, you can provide a better shopping experience. There are two types of behavioral data that can be used in this case: first-party and third-party data.

First-party data provides standard information on a consumer. Typically, this information is gathered through a lead form of cookie-based data, and shows how an individual is interacting with your site. You can gather basic background on the individual through lead forms, including name and age. Cookie-based data allows you to track more specific activity, like what an individual was searching for on your site.

(Related: What Insurers Should Know About CCPA)

Although first-party data can be very useful when creating a map of a consumer’s activity, it provides a limited view. Once the individual leaves your site, you are left in the dark. Consequently, you don’t know what activity consumers have conducted prior to visiting your site, nor do you know what they do upon exiting.

Third-party data, in combination with first-party data, gives you a holistic view of your consumer’s shopping experience, even if you don’t have a direct relationship with them. This type of data can show you how a prospect is interacting with websites beyond your site. You can gain insights to where they are shopping, what else they’re shopping for, and even how long they have been on their journey. Aggregating these behavioral activities helps to illuminate how far along they are on their journey, allowing for more timely and relevant outreach and an improved consumer experience. Furthermore, for prospects in your marketing database, you can gain insights into shopping behavior of individuals you don’t see on first-party properties.

The most effective way to access third-party data is through a data vendor who witnesses consumer behavior across insurance and other major life purchase journeys. Data-as-a-service companies streamline your data and make it actionable. For example, vendors can tell you when a customer goes from your site to a competitor; if they’re searching for life insurance in addition to auto insurance; or if they’re on a homebuying or mortgage journey signaling they may also begin an insurance journey in the near future. Coupling these insights with first-party information creates a 360-degree view of a prospect, a current customer (for cross-sell or retention initiatives), or a former customer (for win-backs).

2. Segment for success

Customer segmentation is just what it sounds like. By dividing customers into homogenous groups you can more effectively communicate using targeted approaches. There are two popular types of segmentation: demographic and behavioral.

Demographic segmentation provides a basic understanding of your ideal customer profile (ICP). This information divides consumers into groups based on things like geography, income, gender, marital status, and age.

Behavioral segmentation takes the ICP one step further, giving you even more knowledge on a group of consumers. It takes into account other factors including major life moments that could influence their buying decisions and how far into a life insurance journey they are currently. For instance, a single person in their late 30s who is shopping for life insurance likely has different needs than a married person with two children in their late 30s shopping for life insurance.

That being said, there is no single consumer journey pattern. By understanding how the journey varies from segment to segment and at the individual consumer level, marketers can deliver a much better customer experience and be more efficient and effective in growing profitably (acquisition, retention, cross sales and win-backs).

3. Timing matters

At the end of the day, timing is everything. Life insurance journeys vary from segment to segment and at the individual level. For example, behavioral data shows life insurance shopping activity starts early (up to 300 days pre-lead) and continues well after a lead event occurs.

It’s worthwhile to know if your prospect is shopping around (and when) after they receive a quote or request information on your site. If you catch them too late in the shopping journey, you can miss the window to gain a customer. If you catch them early in their process, you may need to spend more time nurturing or educating the customer.

In other cases, a major life event can trigger an update in policies. If an agent can see a customer involved in other shopping journeys (purchasing or refinancing a home, home insurance, etc.) chances are that something major has happened. This knowledge can better inform your approach and meet the individual’s needs. Predictive models can also be useful, but while predictions are good, knowing is better.

Timing is especially important today. Consumer journeys are even less predictable. It’s important to understand where consumers are in their buying journey to send the right message at the right time. The most efficient and effective way to do that is to leverage behavioral data.

The lesson here is that a great customer experience starts with the consumer. All the technology in the world doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know who you’re talking to. It’s increasingly important to understand your prospects and customers. Sending the right message at the right time will create a positive consumer experience and create high-value customers for life.

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Jaime Pickles(Credit: Jornaya)Jaimie Pickles is general manager of insurance at Jornaya.