Nearly one-quarter of respondents to a Deloitte Insights study would buy life insurance through digital channels. Yet, only 11 percent reported doing so.
That gap might help explain why life insurance ownership is at a 50-year low. Deloitte surveyed more than 1,600 middle-market consumers on both their attitudes toward life insurance as well as their buying experience.
Ninety percent said they would use digital platforms to do their research, with the same number indicating they would also manage their accounts digitally.
So where does that leave agents? Pretty good actually, said Kevin Sharps, principal at Deloitte Consulting.
In fact, survey respondents rated the agent follow-up visit as the most helpful aspect in assisting their decision-making process.
"I think all of this is great news for the agent," said Sharps, one of three researchers on the survey. "I was incredibly pleased when the survey continues to come back saying that advice matters.
"What I think is a challenge is the agent needs to find a way to partner up with carriers and others to make sure that within the hybrid platform that is going to evolve … the agent knows when to intercede, and when that needs to be face to face or even digital."
Here are a few other highlights from the Deloitte survey:
Target marketing. Not surprisingly, the survey confirms that consumers know little about insurance details until they need it. "Marketing needs to be more effective at identifying and reaching out to consumers at the right time with the right message," the survey concluded.
Get creative with service and pricing. "Competition for consumer wallet share is fierce and evolving to include new entrants not previously considered competitors, such as subscription entertainment services," the survey noted.
The time for agents to play a role is shrinking. Many consumers are educating themselves on life insurance, and even buying products, digitally. Carriers and agents need to be visible and ready to provide the human touch when the consumer is looking for it, the survey said.
Get in the game. Insurers are noticeably lacking in digital offerings. "Most carriers have not yet developed the digital capabilities across the purchasing life cycle (research, evaluation, purchase, and postpurchase servicing) that consumers demand," the survey found.
In the six years since Deloitte completed its first digital survey, consumers definitely changed, Sharps said. Digital consumerism is now fully enveloped their purchasing experiences.
"They’re using their own sources, they’re using some carrier websites, but basically they’re trying to educate themselves when they decided that they might be in the market for life insurance," he explained. "There’s very little that we can see that carriers are doing to influence that behavior."
Deloitte recommends more creativity in the marketing end of the "buying funnel" and for agents to be ready to influence the life insurance buying process when the opportunity arises, Sharps said.
"Instead of selling them the most robust policy that we can, maybe there’s a way we sell them a first policy and stay with them over time and help them upgrade that as their life evolves and changes," he added. "It was pretty clear from the research that we did that consumers want to be able to interact with the agent and the carrier in a digital-first model because they see it as fitting into the way they want to spend their time."
Can insurers meet these challenges? That remains to be seen, but the digital topic has become a staple of industry conferences.
The property & casualty side is doing a much better job digitally to this point, Sharps said.
"The industry is stable. It’s well capitalized and it’s full of creative people," Sharps said. "I hope that executives and agents find a way to take full advantage of the opportunities in front of them and not assume that it’s going to be here forever."
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.