By Cyril Tuohy
Life insurance carriers have an issue: millions of middle-market consumers in need of coverage can’t seem to pull the trigger, the victims of inertia and procrastination. At every turn, other demands seem to get in the way.
Financial advisors ignore the middle-market segment like the plague as they chase the mass affluent and the more profitable high-net-worth market. Customers feel as if the industry no longer speaks to them.
The upshot: too many people uninsured or underinsured for life insurance coverage. It is a classic case of failure to act.
Enter smart video.
Proponents hail the personalized viewing experience of smart video, made possible by technology designed to extract data from a policy resting in a carrier’s database.
Like regular videos, smart videos tell a story in a two-minute clip. Unlike regular videos, smart videos tell the story using exact premium payments, insured car models and the claims data owners have filed with their carrier, said Jim Dicso, president and chief revenue officer for SundaySky, a company which has produced smart videos since 2011.
“All the specific details about the policy are incorporated into the video from the data of the policy,” Dicso told InsuranceNewsNet.
Hence the term “smart video.” Like smartphones and smart watches, smart videos incorporate more data than their respective older cousins.
Ever since video entered the mass market in the 1970s, the technology has offered a one-to-many correlation. Life and retirement carriers would broadcast the value of their products and services to anyone who cares to watch it.
Yes, traditional videos are built with a specific demographic audience in mind: young professionals, families starting out, automobile owners, pre-retirees. Annuity carriers might target their message about retirement income to preretirees in hopes of drawing 60-year-olds into watching the clip.
Some viewers tuned in, others tuned out. But no one could tell if the video shorts were reaching their intended audience, and if it was whether the video was “speaking” it its audience, Dicso said. Videos on insurance websites promoting the value of paperless statements were broadcast publicly to hundreds or thousands of viewers, some who had already signed up for electronic delivery.
Even when videos hit their target audience, there was no way for prospects to click on the video, or for the viewer to engage with the carrier through the video. Prospects would have to “change the channel,” pick up the phone and call.
By then, the momentum was already dying, attention spans fading.
A successful insurance ad campaign that reached the right audience was good, but smart video is better, producers of smart video insist.
Smart video ditches the one-to-many correlation model in favor of the one-to-one relationship with a viewer. It embeds “calls to action,” offering viewers the ability to click on the video and engage still further with the carrier, Dicso said.
Variables used to illustrate a policy in a video -- such as policy start date, length of the term, premium withdrawal amount, renewal date, claims paid, additional coverages -- can be tweaked by extracting the data from the carrier’s servers, Dicso said.
The facts of the story told through the video, developed from a “library” of scenes incorporated into a video story based on a customer’s life stage, are real and speak directly to an individual viewer, Dicso said.
A video viewed in the morning can even be updated with the latest policy data so that viewers can view the video later that day with policy facts updated.
Jerel Titus, personal lines underwriting director with Mutual of Enumclaw in Enumclaw, Wash., said smart video offers a level of personalization that provides “significant value to our policyholder, our agents and for us.”
Customer testimonials echo the power of personalization offered by smart video. But will this help sell more life insurance?
Companies use smart video for advertising to target website abandoners who have shown interest in insurance products, and to bring customers aboard by welcoming new policyholders reassuring them they made a good choice, Dicso said.
Smart video relieves policyholders of the complexity associated with the delivery of the first statement, uses claim-specific data to support the claims process. It also offers more personalized touch points when the time comes to renew, according to SundaySky.
The result: less churn, better retention rates, a more favorable customer experience, higher click-through and audience viewership rates, according to data offered by SundaySky.
Dicso said nationwide insurance carriers, not individual insurance agencies or financial advisors, have the scale and the budgets to subscribe to smart video because companies need hundreds of thousands of video views every year to make it feasible to absorb the upfront costs.
Smart videos have found their way into campaigns launched by telecommunications companies, banks and health care organizations.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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