The pandemic has accelerated the evolution of ecosystems and as a result, what were once regarded as innovative, joined-up purchase experiences have now become everyday expectations for consumers.
Nigel Phillips isCEO at CDL, a technology services provider and software supplier, powering transactions across insurance and financial services markets through its insurtech ecosystem. Here he sets out why retailers should be getting in on insurtech marketplaces, using data to drive growth in the new era of tailored propositions.
Ecosystems are driving changes in consumer behaviour, attitudes and expectations in all areas of living. Small benefits, from syncing phones with laptops or automatically populating calendars with travel arrangements and restaurant reservations are now taken for granted, with the Covid experience having further accelerated digital adoption around the globe. Even the most privacy-conscious find it difficult to resist the effortless ease offered.
According to McKinsey, 70 per cent of consumers appreciate ecosystems because they simplify the purchase journey, and the value they create works both ways. Strikingly, in 2020, six of the world’s top seven companies by market capitalisation were ecosystem companies, with Apple topping the table. And it is this potential to power growth that is attracting increasing attention, including in insurance.
Fundamentally, ecosystems offer consumers and retailers a ‘marketplace’, enabling an integrated and superior experience as they interact with the brand. Typically, they are designed to add value to consumers by making it easier to access services, information or goods in one place, thus eliminating the need and incentive to shop around any further.
In insurance, for example, ecosystems afford the opportunity to take a more strategic approach to offering a portfolio of insurance products from one brand and a way of challenging the prevailing status quo, where consumers typically hold three to six policies, each with a different provider. Specifically, this can be achieved by delivering end-to-end insurance experiences, product personalisation and consumer engagement, thereby modifying consumers’ habits and their view of insurance as a ‘grudge’ purchase.
The ecosystem approach is to create a marketplace that enables retailers to increase the uptake of different products by helping their customers to find policies that meet their needs, proactively driven by the use of data to deliver the right level of cover.
As well as enabling insurance retailers to get serious about portfolio offerings, ecosystems create the platform to branch out beyond insurance and bridge product categories, with the most innovative cutting across traditional sector boundaries to offer new services in a seamless way. For example, Ikea’s expansion into online banking services as an extension of their online furniture shopping experience is just one case in point.
This is where ecosystems go way beyond traditional ideas around ‘cross-selling’, ancillaries and add-ons, instead looking at the whole consumer experience to build a lasting relationship with them and deliver time-saving propositions that they will not readily give up.
Trends such as the rise of open banking and APIs make it easier than ever before to plug-in partners, either referring the consumer to a third party or retaining control of the end-to-end customer experience.
Integrating data is the key to driving the customer experience by harnessing information to identify what a consumer needs without involving effort on their part: picking up devices from the WiFi network for example or using image recognition to look up data on items being insured.
Beyond this, data is key to creating in-app experiences that offer easy, personalised and often refreshingly disruptive propositions, implementing nudges to drive the customer journey. In the insurance context, this means not just for new business but as consumers’ risk profile changes throughout the policy lifecycle: adjusting cover mid-term based on actual rather than predicted mileage, for example, or periodically updating vehicle valuations as a car depreciates over time.
Designing a successful ecosystem
Investing in an insurtech ecosystem built on a powerful data platform and extensive data integrations has the potential to offer transformational opportunities to players in this space. Achieving this requires a number of key ingredients.
Firstly, real commitment, deep strategic thinking and vision are essential starting points. The most successful ecosystems commonly harness a strategic approach to identifying customer pain points to add real value, and are backed by data, digitisation and a high volume customer base.
Ultimately, it is the effective integration of data and the ability to make intelligent use of that information that will create a new relationship with the customer, and enable retailers to implement triggers that add value and/or save them money.
Access to volume is equally significant. Businesses with a significant customer base to tap into are more likely to be able to reap the reward of their investment in building an ecosystem.
Finally, building a network of relationships that enhance the marketplace being created is vital. Choosing the right partners is an integral part of this, as is having a shared vision for the consumer experience being created. The higher the quality of the relationship, processes and delivery, the greater the potential to translate this into rewards, both for the retailer and the end-user.
With all these points fully considered and in place, it becomes possible to design elegant, time-saving propositions that delight consumers and offer real benefits in terms of cost savings or convenience gains.