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Martin Werth: What protection advisers can learn from the world of retail

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How can we nudge the intermediation sales model to make it more effective in today’s retail-focused environment? Intermediation is B2B2C: a channel linking consumers to products offered by suppliers. The next step is to make it more like retail – or B2C – where the focus is on the buying experience.

In retail, the roles of those in the value chain are clear. The retailer is responsible for selecting the product range, the sales experience, store footfall and the after-care. The supplier is responsible for research and development, production, promotion and stock.

In protection, these lines are blurred. The intermediary (retailer) does not control the end-to-end buying process and the provider (manufacturer) does more than produce the goods for sale, as each one imposes their own sales process, including the application questions, the final terms and the payment. So, what would an effective retail model look like?

  • A customer-centric proposition: Retail is about designing the customer experience with the end in mind. Retailers control the entire journey and continuously improve it. This is a significant step away from today, where an intermediary must fuse disparate processes together to deliver the same outcome
  • A rewarding shopping experience: Successful retail businesses ensure customers leave the store with the goods they want, valuing the experience and willing to recommend to others. For the retailer, the focus is on buy; for the intermediary, it is on apply. The retailer will have one checkout, regardless of the number of products, and the displayed price is the paid price
  • A seamless online and offline experience: Customers want to be able to switch between the two and get the same quality. Retail delivers in this respect and provides support across the spectrum. In comparison, intermediaries lose sight of customers when they click on the provider’s site and must then wait for the provider to feedback on outcome
  • Valued customers: In retail, there is no debate about who owns the customer. Businesses will transform transactions into loyal customers, with engagement plans that include targeted information, prompts and promotions. For the intermediary, this is less clear, as some communications (e.g. annual statements and missed premiums) remain with the provider
  • Data driven decisions: Retail is detail. This is about collecting granular data and analytics. Such data on the customer experience includes the delays, the drop-outs, the purchases and the missed opportunities. Analytics drives continuous improvement. For an intermediary, the data is separated between them and the providers, and does not give the full picture. Without control over the customer journey, it is more difficult to make change
  • Brand loyalty: To enhance customer loyalty and differentiate propositions, retailers offer own-label products and exclusive deals. These are invariably available alongside other products. Given the retailer’s deep understanding of their customer, their own label products or deals should hit a sweet spot.

My vision is to deliver a powerful retail protection market. Identifying the hurdles is half the solution. This about a mind-set change – but a small one. After all, we are a nation of shopkeepers.

Martin Werth is chief executive of UnderwriteMe

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Comments

There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Another thoughtful piece from Martin, which makes some good points about how areas in the buying experience can be improved to strengthen the protection market.

    Going beyond what Martin is helping to tackle, it seems to me the other half of this is fulfilment. Not of the order (ie policy set up) but the service that is being paid for. Before even agreeing to buy, more people need to trust they’ll be paying for something worthwhile. There are two major areas insurers can tackle to improve on this and advisers firms have a role in influencing these moves.

    One is to apply the Amazon service mind-set to paying claims. The other is to incorporating genuinely beneficial services that help people avoid reaching an “hour of need” or help them get through it, beyond the straight financial transaction of a cash payout. Developing real encouragers for staying healthy plus supplying timely interventions when things go wrong. Who knows, they might find more people appreciating them AND save some money on claims payouts!

    As with the buying experience, fulfilment is showing signs improvement, but there’s plenty of scope for more.

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