The Future of Insurance Distribution: New Models for a Digital Customer
Every day, consumers expect more innovative, digital experiences, which is challenging traditional models of insurance distribution. Insurance incumbents are being forced to reimagine the future of their industry by embracing digital models or even digital marketplaces that enable customers to easily compare and select policies from competing insurance providers.
The Asia-Pacific (APAC) market faces new challenges, with geopolitical and macroeconomic trends placing pressure on the insurance industry. Today, consumers are looking to new ideas, new business models and even new players for their insurance needs. To maintain their strong foothold in APAC, established insurers must meet the needs of their customers’ rapidly evolving demands by delivering hyper-personalized experiences, establishing new partnerships and leveraging emerging technologies to continually drive sustainable growth.
Emerging Trends in the APAC Insurance Market
To do this effectively, we first need to understand the trends that are driving shifts within consumer behavior:
Key Disruptive Trends Impacting Insurance Distribution
- Changing Customer Behavior & Expectations
Consumers expect connected, omnichannel experiences regardless of industry or where they shop. Insurance is no different, as evidenced by Swiss Re’s 2022 survey, which revealed that 46% of APAC consumers were open to purchasing coverage through mobile apps and websites.
- Data-Driven Value Propositions
Many APAC consumers are willing to exchange their personal data for benefits (like rewards, discounts or an easier application process). In fact, 50% of consumers in Singapore, 44% in Hong Kong, 31% in Japan, 25% in Thailand and 23% in Vietnam claim they are willing to do so. Leveraging this information for automation and hyper-personalization, insurers can deliver data-driven value propositions to help customers manage their risk needs. This could include intelligent risk advice, digital distribution partnerships or unit- and usage-based risk prevention and product offerings.
- Emerging Distribution Models
Consumers want greater convenience, choice and transparency, which can be achieved with digital distribution models. In APAC, investors are backing Insurtech players that enable new distribution models for health insurance, such as virtual advisors, ecosystem partnerships and white labelling. A recent analysis shows that among Insurtech companies that raised at least $10 million, about 45% operate as digital marketplaces. While Insurtechs will see increased penetration, insurance providers should consider pursuing several models simultaneously while digitally enhancing their core capabilities.
- Digital Portals to Engage Agents & Customers
While digital transformation is pushing business interactions online, agent relationships and the human touch continue to be critical. Insurers can use digital platforms to help agents meet the needs of today’s customer, deliver more value and boost productivity. For instance, digital portals that are integrated with back-end systems give agents access to customer data, removing time-consuming paperwork and increasing productivity. By utilizing online channels to interact with customers, agents can provide faster turnaround times on service requests and offer personalized product recommendations and advice.
Four Distribution Models to Consider
Given these macro trends in the industry, insurers need to offer digital-driven capabilities for agents to connect and serve the modern customer. Here are some emerging distribution models to consider:
New Models for Insurance Distribution & Engagement
1. Omnichannel Sales
APAC customers are interested in using more channels, including digital and non-traditional touchpoints like apps and shopping platforms, for greater convenience and choice. Swiss Re’s survey highlights this growth as consumers who were willing to buy insurance products on non-traditional digital channels grew to 25% in 2022 from 18% in 2021. Digitally-enabled hybrid models enable providers to offer products to customers across different B2B channels, while creating consistent and effective customer experiences. By leveraging digital and physical channels, consumers can sign up for policies online or directly with an agent. We’ve seen this model recently with two of APAC’s fastest-growing full-stack Insurtech companies, Go Digit General Insurance in India and Singlife in Southeast Asia.
2. Embedded Insurance
APAC is the largest embedded insurance market and is expected to reach US $71.8 billion by 2029. This approach involves insurers partnering with non-insurance brands to offer coverage to its customer base. Extended product warranties for eCommerce platforms or auto insurance through car dealers are some examples.
3. Ecosystem Partnerships
As the world becomes more digital, insurers can form partnerships across ecosystems to offer value-added products and services to customers for their financial and lifestyle needs. For example, we’ve seeing health insurers partner with digital health platforms to include telemedicine or fitness-based engagements through the use of wearable technology. Meanwhile, insurers in the commercial space are offering risk management service fees to assess business risks, helping to better underwrite them.
4. Data-Driven Insights
Finally, insurance providers should leverage data and analytics to track customers across the pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase journey whether online or offline. These insights help identify customers who require agent assistance, recommend agents for new customer leads and offer personalized insurance offerings. Most APAC data professionals point to data transmission (61%), effective analysis of data (58%) and inadequate systems in place to manage risk (58%) as key challenges in how to approach analytics, according to a recent survey. Addressing these challenges can be a crucial method for achieving better customer loyalty and finding a new competitive edge.
Realizing these new growth frontiers requires insurers to rethink their customer relationships and digital capabilities to stay ahead. Strategic investments in talent, data, technology and customer experience is necessary. Partnerships and alliances will become increasingly critical in order to chart winning pathways forward. As consumers expect a mix of instant digital experiences and human interaction, insurers need to offer digital-driven capabilities for agents to connect and serve the modern customer where and when they need it.