Accenture: Insurers Shifting to Digital First Distribution Model

December 9, 2015

Insurers are accelerating plans to become more digital, driven by increased adoption of Internet of Things technologies (IoT), data and analytics tools and digital-first distribution models, according to an Accenture report based on an online survey of more than 400 senior insurance executives across Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific.

Nearly half (45 percent) of insurers believe that connected devices will be a driver of revenue growth in the next three years, according to the Accenture report, titled “Reimagining insurance distribution: Insurers accelerate the shift to a radically different distribution model.” While much of the early adoption was in vehicle telematics, there has been a significant increase in other IoT related products over the past year. Just last year, most carriers said they were not interested in or had no concrete plans to engage IoT connected insurance tools, and only a minority had any IoT plans related to home/buildings (cited 14 percent of respondents), health/fitness (10 percent) and other wearables (four percent). In this year’s study, this has more than tripled as nearly four in ten insurers surveyed said they have piloted or launched a connected home/buildings offering (cited by 39 percent of respondents), a health/fitness offering (39 percent), as well as other wearables such as smart watches (37 percent).

Introducing products and services based on IoT technologies is among the top investment priorities for insurers, with another being the improvement of data and analytics capabilities. Nearly half of carriers already launched or are piloting projects using open data and big data analytics tools, and 58 percent said it is a high priority to use customer analytics at the point of sale.

“Insurers are using customer data obtained from IoT connected devices and applying analytics to make insight-driven decisions on how to better engage with customers and offer more relevant products and services aligned with their needs,” said Erik Sandquist, managing director for Accenture Distribution and Marketing Services in North America. “IoT technologies provide an abundance of data on customer behaviors and preferences. Carriers that analyze and use these new sources of customer data have a significant advantage over the competition, and will be best placed to offer ‘living services’ – which allow companies to personalize the customer experience and better respond to the evolving customer needs and desires as they develop in real time.”

Survey respondents said using connected devices to create more personalized insurance coverage for customers is of top importance for driving revenue growth in the next three years. Carriers are embracing a customer-centric approach to create needs-based services – more than half (59 percent) expressed the need to move to a customer-centric model urgently in order to remain competitive in the future. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said that moving toward needs-based selling is a high priority, and advanced analytics will be an enabler for needs-based selling.

Shifting to a Digital-First Distribution Model

More than half (52 percent) of insurers said they expect to have a wholly digital sales process within the next three years – only one in four have this in place today – while only about one in five said they have no plans to implement a wholly digital sales process. Today, 32 percent of property and casualty personal-line insurance quotes and advice are provided completely through digital channels – the figure is 27 percent for life insurance. Both are expected to increase by approximately 10 percentage points in the next three years. This trend also extends to small commercial insurers, which expect 38 percent of quotes to be delivered digitally and almost one quarter (24 percent) of sales processes to be fully digitized from end to end, in the next three years. Nearly half (46 percent) of life insurers said they always assign a customer to an agent, even for online service purchases.

“Insurance companies are accelerating the shift to a digital-enabled omnichannel distribution model and they are taking a hard look at how best to use their agents and determine which interactions should take place online,” said Jean-Francois Gasc, managing director, Accenture Strategy. “Through our research, we have identified a subset of insurers that are driving and accelerating the pace of change by harnessing the latest technologies to transform the customer experience and secure lasting ties with their customers through digital products and a seamless omnichannel sales experience.”

As carriers shift more transactions to their digital channels, they are also rethinking how they will involve agents moving forward. Today, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of carriers are more selective involving agents only in the stages of the sales process where they add the most value, including increasing sales of more profitable products. As a result, 79 percent of insurers are redesigning their remuneration model or discussing how to create a new model to fit their new omnichannel distribution approach, as well as refocusing recruiting priorities based on the ability to cross-sell (50 percent), advisory skills around complex products (48 percent) and ability to build rapport with customers (48 percent).

Source: Accenture

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