7 min read
One doesn’t need the evidence of statistics and case studies to know that the eras have changed from manual to digital. Business, personal relationships, education, shopping- anything and everything has moved online. COVID-19 was a big catalyst in enabling digital transformation at the same time throughout the globe.
In the realm of business, the crisis has “accelerated the digitisation of customer interactions by several years” according to McKinsey. The share of digital or digitally-reliant products has accelerated by a huge leap of seven years. Respondents to the McKinsey Global Survey of Executives believe these changes and quick pivots will be long-lasting.
What is the future of insurance in this new digital scheme of things? To answer this question, let’s consider the evolution of the web.
Web 1.0: The dawn of digital interactions
Web 1.0 refers to the first stage of the World Wide Web (www) evolution. In this first phase, there were very few content creators. The majority of users acted as consumers of such content. The main purpose of web 1.0 was to help users find information based on a research query.
To accomplish this goal, websites of this ‘age’ were equipped with directories and tools to help their users retrieve specific pieces of information. The major players here were (and still are) Google, eBay, Yahoo, Amazon, and Netflix.
Web 2.0: A more connected digital world
With Web 2.0 the focus shifted to the exchange of information within a virtual community. Through new technology paradigms, users who were once passive become active creators of content. Moreover, interaction and collaboration between users became a key feature, creating new digital spaces and dialogues. These qualities gained Web 2.0 the title of “participative social web”.
To foster discussion, Web 2.0 features online tools and platforms to allow people to share their perspectives, opinions, thoughts, and experiences. Some examples include:
- Social media and networking
- Blogging and podcasting
- Tagging and web content voting
Major players here are Myspace, Digg, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Web 3.0: The actionable intelligent web
Also known as “Semantic Web”, Web 3.0 can be considered as the evolution of the web into a huge database, where data isn’t owned anymore but rather shared. The term was originally coined by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium. He defines the Semantic Web as "a web of data that can be processed directly and indirectly by machines."
This new paradigm opens the door to three opportunities:
- Higher connectivity: Thanks to semantic metadata, information is more interlinked and user experience is enhanced when built upon more contextual information.
- Ubiquity: Content is accessible by multiple applications since every device is connected to the web and services can be used everywhere.
- More flexible decision engines: Machines are task-oriented and designed to fulfil the requirements of users. They leverage semantically structured knowledge to act ‘intelligently’ and perform tasks on behalf of users. An example of this is Conversational Process Automation platforms.
The companies leading the charge of each evolution
Within her “One Million by One Million” program, Sramana Mitra, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, captures the essence of Web 3.0 in a simple formula:
Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS) = (Content, Commerce, Community, Context + Personalisation + Vertical Search)
- Content is user-generated information in the form of blogs, podcasts, etc.
- Commerce is the experience of buying a product or service.
- Community is the peer support that can influence individual users’ decision-making.
- Context is the intent that brings users to the web.
- Personalisation is Context combined with user data (or metadata) for a truly personal experience.
- Vertical Search is a service or engine that focuses on a specific segment of online content (e.g. travel insurance).
As an example, in a Web 3.0 world, a personalised travel agent will help you find and book highly customised itineraries, leveraging all the power of previous generations of Web technology – Generic and Vertical Searching, Community building, Content, and Commerce.
Summing up the differences among the three types of web
Application to the insurance industry
Now that we’ve seen the general overview of the evolution of the web, it’s time to see how each stage has interacted with the insurance industry.
The status of insurance
Judging insurance through the above framework, we can say that the industry is overall sitting at Web 1.0, featuring Commerce and Vertical Search at the most.
The latest evolution in the industry has been in the distribution domain, with the welcoming of aggregators like Go Compare as a means to reach out to more customers and increase conversion. Aggregators are in fact much more customer-centric and help customers choose between a wide range of products. This is why for some organisations, aggregators have even become the customer-facing side of their business.
However, aggregators focus on price rather than the value of insurance products in order to ensure sales. The result is a bad deal for the customer- we know there is little point in buying a cheap insurance product if, on the day we have an accident, the claim is rejected because of lack of coverage.
Being stuck at the Web 1.0 stage is not beneficial for either the customers or the company in the long run.
One of the major industry problems is the lack of knowledge of customers or policyholders on insurers’ behalf. Because of lacking background information and context, insurers struggle to digitally communicate in a meaningful way and end up offering poor and impersonal interactions. For distribution, this means low conversion rates whereas, for policy admin and claims, this results in low retention.
It might be discouraging to see the missed opportunity of evolving with Web 2.0, but let’s not despair - there are smaller and incremental steps that can be taken today.
The insurance of tomorrow
Let’s project the possibilities of Web 3.0 to insurance.
We can imagine that first of all, the experience would start outside insurance. The customer comes across a blog post about travelling, which reminds him about the fact he still has some days off to book, although his budget is quite limited. He then asks Google Assistant to “show me the cheapest holiday destinations in Europe”, and finds Croatia among the options.
Next, he bounces between social media and travel blogs for visual references and for recommendations and reviews. From Tripadvisor, he selects a good deal for his stay and he is redirected to booking.com, from where he can also book his flights. In the process of buying tickets, he’s offered travel insurance as an add-on.
The key in this journey is the interlinking between digital spaces, but also the contextuality of information: the right piece of information at the right time.
Continuing this stream of thoughts and venturing into more futuristic scenarios, the same can happen within the insurance domain where we landed. A personalised digital insurance agent will help you find, buy, renew, and modify a highly customised insurance policy, leveraging all the power of previous generations of web technology and blending commerce with searching (both generic and vertical), social media, and content.
Getting back to earth, however, there are already next actions and suggestions of investment:
Investment in direct channels: Most of the customer-facing interactions are managed through call centres and online webforms.
Call centres work well at low levels of enquiries and when they saturate they cause a bad customer experience at high costs, while webforms provide unpersonalised and clunky experiences. These technological solutions aimed to improve the operational efficiency of insurance companies at the expense of the experience of their customers or policyholders.
Conversational Process Automation is the natural evolution to improve both customer and operational excellence through meaningful automation and potentially context-heavy personal interactions. You can read more about this evolution here.
Evolution of customer-facing channels in insurance
Investment in indirect channels: Partnering with other businesses through affinity partnerships and offering embedded insurance is a great way to increase the reach of the insurance business.
Embedded insurance is already believed to be a $3 trillion market opportunity that focuses on making insurance more accessible, affordable, relevant, and personalised for customers. It is perfect for modern customers who are looking for multiple services under one umbrella at a reasonable price.
Affinity partnerships are how insurance can offer embedded insurance. They allow them to reach more customers at a lower cost while being providing protection to the partners’ customers. Using modern technologies like chatbots and Conversational Process Automation (mentioned above), insurances can ensure that customers have a personalised product and experience which translates into a benefit for both the insurer and their partner.
Can you evolve?
It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change
-Leon C. Megginson
The great thing about the digital world is that it’s already hyper-connected. So, for insurance companies, it’s just a matter of picking up relevant information that is already available and leveraging technology. They have a real opportunity to diversify distribution with the goal of creating more personal policy offerings and interactions.
If you don’t know where to start, you can always enquire about a performance assessment for your customer-facing processes.