“The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is often interrupted by the one doing it”. Nowhere is this quote from American writer Elbert Hubbard quote truer than in technology. In fact the original quote ended with “by a youth who enters and says, ‘I have done it’”.
A recent Sunday Times Business Section featured an article on the death of the tech dinosaurs and opened with “the lifespan of even the greatest technology giants can be just a few decades”, referring to Nokia.
Invariably the biggest threat to successful organisations is their internal structures that reinforce the current business model and a mindset that defends the status quo. This holds back nurturing new ideas and spotting shifts in consumer behaviour.
Dynamic businesses need to constantly refresh as if they were a new player, for example, John Lewis Partnership announced a huge ecommerce investment in its half-year results, including “heart and lung transplant” to its 12-year-old online technology. For all businesses the refrain of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” should change to “break and remake better”.
Technology is in a seismic shift that is revolutionising consumer buying behaviour. The direction of travel is towards instant, anytime, anywhere personal gratification and peer sharing. There is little loyalty and consumers will switch for something easier, faster, cheaper, more relevant, more intuitive, higher quality, or more aesthetic.
A driver of this trend is the soaring sales of tablets and smartphones, which is expected to overtake laptops by the year end and will be used to purchase more presents this Christmas than home or office computers.
This is the consumerist world we, our family and friends, our distributors and customers live in. It’s consuming all of us. For protection this is the elephant in the room.
Protection is already online, whether advised, non-advised or consumer purchased. Insurers need a single vision of how technology will change user behaviours joined up across general insurance and life. Technology will help us connect with the post-RDR disenfranchised mass market and help customers be savvy with tighter budgets.
Core outcomes of digital are transparency, ease of use and immediacy. In this new digital world it is inconceivable that advisers and customers will be buying from an insurer before knowing the price and speed of completion, and where each provider retains their idiosyncratic application journey. Users will expect a comparison of real prices, available benefits and speed of completion.
With the right data at their fingertips advisers can determine how much their customers will pay for brands, additional features, or for an immediate sale. Equally, self-serve consumers can make an informed decision with access to the same quality of information they would expect from Amazon, including speed of delivery.
Comparison sites have transformed GI buying habits, have the marketing budget to drive high volume traffic and the retail knowledge to know how best to support and convert customers. Consumers also trust them.
For motor and home insurance consumers are used to answering 30 or more simple questions to compare relevant prices and features and to buy immediately. The buying experience for protection should be consistent with GI and fully supported by online live chat and off line advice.
We hope to change this with our new offering, launching next year, and we expect it to double completions. This is a great opportunity for digitally switched on insurers, advisers and aggregators to maximize their combined capability.
Protection is not exempt from the digital revolution. This is a hugely disruptive growth opportunity that can make the user experience significantly easier, faster and more rewarding, which removes many reasons advisers choose not to sell, and consumers start to buy and drop out.
The winners will be those with a switched on digital vision, shaped by advisers, aggregators and consumers. Those who cannot see the elephant will not have seen the youth enter the room.
Martin Werth is chief executive of UnderwriteMe