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Technology Paves the Way for Digitally-savvy Insurers

By Sunshine Farzan, VP-Head of Marketing and Communications, MetLife, Hong Kong

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Sunshine Farzan, VP-Head of Marketing and Communications, MetLife, Hong Kong

Digital technologies and mobile connectivity have upended traditional industries ranging from retail to financial services, radically transforming the way customers connect with virtually all types of businesses, products and services. The insurance industry, once a laggard in this digital race, is now more than ever utilizing digital technology to engage customer’s 24-and provide them with personalized services and solutions.

Digitization is fundamentally impacting all aspects of an insurer’s business. For an industry once rooted in a face-to-face traditional sales model, a transformation is underway to a multi channel sales approach. Beyond its corporate website, consumers now have access to numerous points of contact with a brand, including mobile apps, social media platforms, online community forums and product comparison sites. This accelerates their decision-making journey from product and price comparisons, to instant online insurance quotes and purchases through mobile devices.

"Digitization is fundamentally impacting all aspects of an insurer’s business."                        

According to a recent Bain & Company survey, 80 percent of more than 150,000 respondents across 18 countries said they expect to conduct insurance interactions digitally in the near future. This bullish outlook from consumers is starting from a relatively low base as only 8 percent of new life insurance premiums and 10 percent of new property and casualty insurance premiums originate from digital sales channels.

For insurers, this low base represents massive opportunity ahead. As it stands, more than 80 percent of insurance executives surveyed by Accenture in 2015 said they see mobile and tablet technologies as having a high or very high impact on their industry. Thus, leveraging digital to drive consumer engagement with one's brand, products, and services is paramount.
 
For instance, online video-sharing platforms like YouTube empower insurance marketers to capture and convey powerful messages through emotional storytelling.Targeted online video advertising allows insurers to connect the everyday concerns, needs and joys of consumers with their unique brand value or distinct product benefits.  For instance, MetLife Hong Kong’s ‘My Dad Story’ is an example of a heartfelt online video that transcended cultures and languages, spreading globally because of its ability to connect emotionally with viewers. Mobile apps are an effective way to reach and engage consumers.  At MetLife, we took this approach by developing and launching the MetLife Infinity app for the Hong Kong market.We believe this approach pays dividends in Asia where mobile is king. With over one billion users, Asia Pacific ranks as the largest smartphone market in the world. Markets like Hong Kong and Korea are amongst the most highly penetrated countries for smartphone usage, while China is the largest smartphone market in the world.

Currently, the insurance industry develops mobile apps to expedite customer service, insurance claims, product quotes, and online applications - not on building emotional bonds with customers. At MetLife Hong Kong, we took a different approach leveraging mobile technology to develop and launch the MetLife Infinity app, a digital time capsule, which allows users to capture, store and share important messages, photos, and videos with their loved ones either now, or even better – at a predetermined time in the future.  Infinity’s innovative virtual time capsule encourages users to ‘share later, what’s important now’ creating an ongoing, emotional interaction.  This deliberate focus on emotional engagement, instead of product promotion, enables us to connect deeply with our customers by playing an important role in their daily lives.  The most successful apps, regardless of industry, fulfill an unmet need and deliver a seamless mobile experience for the customer – not just as a platform to field complaints or promote products.

This mobile-centric approach to brand building is essential for the insurance industry to thrive in the years to come. It is only by meeting consumers where they are at, and using digital platforms that they are already accustomed to, can we successfully reach, engage, and foster meaningful relationships. Traditional and digital advertising serve important brand-building roles, but to stand out in this cluttered advertising environment, insurers need to be smart about leveraging innovative technology to build engaging, two-way relationships with consumers that ultimately contributes to the company’s bottom line.

Product innovation, the lifeblood of an insurer’s market strength, is also increasingly becoming synonymous with digital integration – from product research and product design to a differentiated customer experience.

Given the upside that digital innovation presents for insurers, the time is now for us to embrace this opportunity to innovate and integrate marketing and technology to deliver optimal experiences to our customers.  Asia is home to nearly half the world’s internet population and two-thirds of its young people; in other words, the next generation of insurance consumers is digital-native. Insurers that choose to overcome the digitization hurdles now and invest in future technologies and digital marketing will stand to reap evergreen benefits in sales, brand loyalty, customer retention, or all of the above.

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