Technology has been redefining insurers’ policyholder relationships over the last decade by opening digital channels that enable carriers to connect with a wider range of customers personally. However, as industry competition stiffens and margin pressures rise insurers are looking for even more efficient, and cost-effective outreach approaches.
Policyholders aren’t shy about their preferences for omnichannel communication. More than half of the customers surveyed as part of the World Insurance Report 2018 rated the internet as an important insurance transaction channel – and for tech-savvy (59.1%), and Gen Y customers (56.3%) the percentages were even higher.
Insurers leverage new distribution channels
The Top-10 Technology Trends in Life Insurance: 2019 report offers insight into how technology is opening doors to help insurers reach customers with efficiency and focus. Technology is enabling expansion into new distribution channels, some of which may be new to specific carriers and some that are entirely new concepts for the industry.
Using application programming interfaces (APIs), life insurers are offering products on distribution-focused InsurTech platforms. Advancements in technologies such as cloud, microservices, and APIs allow seamless collaboration between insurers and their distributors as part of an insurance ecosystem.
Aside from the direct-to-customer models that many InsurTech companies offer, pseudo-direct models also are cropping up, wherein insurers work directly with customers while promoting continued agent involvement in the process (e.g., providing agent information at the end of the sales process).
Firms are also leveraging digital technologies to expand their presence among retailers or unconventional or unexplored channels. For instance, Shanghai-based insurer Innolife uses WeChat (a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app developed by Tencent) as a distribution channel and tailors life insurance products according to customer needs by communicating via chatbot.
Bharti AXA Life Insurance is leveraging the vast Airtel Payments Bank network to support India’s government-backed life insurance initiative (Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana or PMJJBY) that offers coverage to underinsured rural populations. PMJJBY offers US$3,000 in coverage for a premium of less than $5 a year and is available at 100,000 Airtel bank locations.
Meanwhile, Mumbai-based ICICI Prudential Life integrated the WhatsApp messaging platform to use as a customer service channel. Participating customers receive ICICI messages on WhatsApp as well as a welcome kit, policy certificates, premium receipts, and other services.
New distribution channels help expand life insurance customer bases
Source: Capgemini Financial Services Analysis, 2018
New Zealand firm Performance Lab Technologies, which specializes in behavior-changing technology, collaborated last year with startup Vivametrica, an activity-based health scoring and insurance underwriting company. The partners created EngageRate, a platform that encourages life insurance policyholders to stay engaged with their health via personalized artificial intelligence coaching and activity tracking. The platform also helps insurers track and validate their underwriting services.
By expanding to new distribution channels, life insurers gain access to a wider set of customers – and that means top-line growth. If done efficiently, broader reach via digital channels can also reduce customer acquisition costs. Insurer presence and digital engagement across multiple channels extends flexibility (no-touch buying) to consumers empowered to understand and manage their financial needs. The result? Improved customer experience.
Technology is revolutionizing the way life insurers do business, from initial applications to underwriting, claims, and more. Digital engagement has the potential to benefit consumers, distributors, and carriers.
Future technology will enable life insurers to expand their partner ecosystems and the definition of point of sale while delivering end-to-end product improvements and coverage to the virtual doorsteps of new customer populations.
To learn more about how insurers are leveraging new distribution channels, connect with me on social media.
 Capgemini, “World Insurance Report 2018,” May 22, 2018, https://www.capgemini.com/service/world-insurance-report-2018
 The Digital Insurer, “China Spotlight: AI meets life insurance,” Michael O’Dwyer, November 22, 2017, https://www.the-digital-insurer.com/china-spotlight-a-i-within-life-insurance
 Greater Kashmir, “Airtel Payments Bank, Bharti AXA ally for PM Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana,” August 18, 2018, https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/business/airtel-payments-bank-bharti-axa-ally-for-pm-jeevan-jyoti-bima-yojana/293835.html
 ETCio.com, “ICICI Prudential Life partners with WhatsApp to offer next-gen Customer Service,” December 26, 2018, https://cio.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/corporate-news/icici-prudential-life-partners-with-whatsapp-to-offer-next-gen-customer-service/67255436
 MobiHealth News, “John Hancock incentivizes members with Vitality wellness program,” Laura Lovett, October 03, 2018, https://www.mobihealthnews.com/content/john-hancock-incentivizes-members-vitality-wellness-program