My wife, Lisa, and I recently went shopping at our local Whole Foods Market, only to find a shopping cart on technological steroids there to greet us, along with a store employee ready to prep us for our “first flight” with this new smart cart.
We set up our reusable bags in the cart and set off down the aisles. As we selected items from the shelves, we ran them by one of the three scanners on the cart and watched each item pop up on the cart’s full-color display. If we inadvertently scanned the wrong item or one of the cart scanners picked up a bar code as we passed too close to a produce display, we could easily reject the item. The cart reconciled what we had on the screen readout by weighing the items in our cart to ensure that we didn’t have extra items onboard that had not registered in the cart display list — or on our running total.
The cart was easy — I’d even say fun — to use. As we went about our shopping, we realized that we would not need to lift and put all the groceries on the checkout conveyor belt and then put the bagged items back in the cart. Also, checkout was “virtual” and took place as we walked down a special aisle with no clerk. As we headed toward the exit, a final receipt popped up on our display, asking us to confirm all our items before it completed the purchase.
We loved this experience. It made shopping a bit more enjoyable and reduced the time we needed to spend in the store; at no point in the process did we have to wait in any line. My wife — a tech ed teacher — enjoyed it so much she is now looking for reasons to pick up something at the store just as an excuse to use the cart.
So what? Well, this is the future. The insurance industry, like so many others, is facing a couple of major challenges: 1. a workforce that has been reduced both by the “great resignation” and the “great retirement”; 2. a consumer base that increasingly is seeking a quick, convenient and — when possible — self-service experience.
As with our smart cart experience, technology will enable more of these changes in financial services — and already has begun to do so in many areas. Artificial intelligence, big data and telematics are just some of the ways this is happening. More areas of compliance are being automated to make that process easier and faster. This is especially important as compliance grows more complex. And to grow business, more is being done in a range of areas from lead generation to building relationships on social media.
While consumers are seeking speed and convenience, we also have learned in recent studies that more of them are seeking the counsel of financial advisors, especially in light of the turbulent economy and markets. These needs for guidance and convenience are not mutually exclusive.
The time spent with clients will be meaningful — advising on strategy, priorities and investment options — rather than working through forms and red tape. This will save agents and advisors valuable time and save their clients time as well.
The time saved can be spent on building new client relationships and strengthening existing relationships, which is where some guiding lights in the industry, such as Living a Life of Significance author Joe Jordan, say the future of the business is headed.
Technology in financial services will enable a better experience for clients but also is an opportunity to make inroads into tech-savvy generations and underserved minority communities. Deloitte Consulting conducted a study in 2021 that identified a $12 trillion — yes, trillion — coverage gap, primarily in Generation X and Generation Z. And these are generations that prefer self-service, texting rather than phone calls or in-person visits, and using apps.
This represents a great opportunity for the industry to modernize, streamline and — most important — significantly expand its client base. Providing faster, more convenient service; more time for client relationship prospecting and building; and expanding outreach to new communities all are benefits of what technology can achieve.