Digital Differentiation in the Insurance Industry


Today’s digital environment and the ubiquity of data underscore a curious paradox among insurance organizations. Insurance carriers were among the first adopters of computers, but by and large they aren’t making the most of current technology.

Early customers of mainframes were insurance companies, for good reason: they collected tons of data on policies and policyholders, and they needed an efficient way to organize and retrieve it. Similarly, insurance agents and brokers have long pursued an efficient way to quote and bind business with multiple carriers.

The mainframe era lasted several decades, until it was replaced by a distributed computing model comprising networks of servers and individual computers. The “client/server” model is the main method of computing today. The development of the web and Wi-Fi have expanded server access phenomenally – not just laptops but also tablets, smartphones as well as what we’re just seeing the beginning of, wearable computer devices.

Study after study suggests the proliferation of data offers strategic opportunities for companies in all industries. If there ever were an industry that contributes to and can benefit from Big Data, it’s insurance. And with so much data — accessible from virtually anywhere — the insurance industry has seemingly endless opportunities to educate and interact with its customers and business partners. So why aren’t more insurance organizations making optimal use of opportunities to differentiate their brands and service offerings digitally?


Forrester Research Inc. recently issued a report, “How to Make Insurance Brands Relevant Again,” discussing how insurers can use digital touch points to help customers with their core need: protection.

Much of Forrester’s report explores opportunities for personal lines insurers, which struggle the most with commoditization. Brand differentiation is an imperative in commercial lines too, however. In a crowded marketplace, competing to serve businesses, how can a company stand out?

Standing out means a company has to convince its stakeholders that is really isdifferent. Carriers all offer essentially the same core product: a promise to pay claims when they occur, as defined through the policy. Agents and brokers all provide access to coverage as well as advice. As Forrester’s report suggests, if insurance organizations aren’t making themselves relevant and differentiated through their core business, those companies are in trouble.

One way for commercial lines organizations to stand out is to create more touch points with customers, business partners and employees. Why employees? They are important “brand ambassadors” as they’re on the front lines in shaping customer experiences. Consider: are customers more likely to remember a business that only connects with them once or twice a year? Are businesses more likely to make a positive impression with additional customer touch points? Are employees able to make the best impression with customers if the employees aren’t themselves up to speed with what’s happening in the company?

Commercial lines agents and brokers tend to have frequent reasons to interact with clients, while carriers typically interact with their policyholders around coverage renewal and claims. Imagine if agents, brokers and carriers made better use of technology to deliver advice and information, and more positive experiences, to customers more frequently.

There’s a difference, of course, between creating more touch points to increase customer awareness and interaction, and overwhelming customers to the point they feel harassed. That’s sure to turn off customers and prospects. So insurance organizations need to find the right balance of push and pull when it comes to touch points.

On-demand and interactive content channels like those in Business TV are highly effective means of engaging customers, business partners and employees. The key for insurance brands is to create great content and make sure people know about it. Coming up, we’ll look at how insurance brands can drive engagement through content.