Martin Werth: Digital lessons for D2C protection growth

Long-term success requires companies to position themselves where the best growth opportunities lie. Direct-to-consumer is the most talked about potential growth story but the future will not simply be an extrapolation of the past. Customer habits have changed and so too must we.

Digital has emancipated customers who expect fast access to the right information to make informed ‘buy now’ decisions at any time across any device. Online personalised comparisons and customer feedback have replaced advice and brand loyalty to empower consumers to make decisions. Expectations continue to be raised: Amazon has made speed of delivery as important as speed of purchase, while Facebook has positioned mobile as the first point of engagement.

Price comparison sites have transformed general insurance with their powerful message of saving money. Their ease of use and personalised comparisons across respected brands has secured high levels of trust. Nevertheless, consumers are told to check more than one site and consider quality as well as cost.

This expectation to compare has led retailers to make it easier. Supermarkets, for example, have responded with price match guarantees. Confidence also comes from trusted brands. Price comparison sites today feature powerful retail names alongside traditional insurers.

Meanwhile, consumers expect to buy or access support in the way that best suits. Retailers use the phrase ‘omni-channel’ for a unified buying experience, regardless of whether the customer engages online, in store, over the phone, or starts on one site, moves to another and then back to the first.

These insights provide valuable lessons for unlocking the D2C protection growth opportunity.

Lesson 1: Replace ‘direct’ with ‘digital’ in D2C and extend the customer access points to include price comparison sites, intermediaries and insurers.

Lesson 2: D2C consumers expect personalised ‘buy now’ price and benefit comparisons, or comparable product price promises. Misleading prices and purchase delays are no longer acceptable.

Lesson 3: Deliver a mobile first omni-channel buying experience with integrated access to online and offline support and advice, without the need to start again.

Lesson 4: Intermediaries can compete on price comparison sites as virtual insurers and can provide their own online service to compare and buy, or access online and offline support and advice.

Lesson 5: D2C distributors must control the end-to-end buying experience, from lead generation to activation, with no clicks to other sites. Price comparison sites have not yet achieved this as customers click to the insurer site to complete.

Lesson 6: Empower the business with comprehensive analytics to get close to the customer experience and use real data to test and learn.

Lesson 7: Use all permissible customer data to accelerate and simplify the buying journey. We already know a lot about our customers through other purchases, social media and from profiling other data sources.

Martin Werth is chief executive of UnderwriteMe