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Insurance Shopping: Millennials Care Less About Price than Boomers

When selecting insurance, younger generations are less likely to choose the cheapest option than are baby boomers, according to a new J.D. Power study. That might be a victory in the price war, but fair warning: your website better impress.
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When selecting insurance, younger generations are less likely to choose the cheapest option than are baby boomers, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Insurance Website Evaluation Study released this week. That might be a victory in the price war, but fair warning: your website—whether agency or carrier—better impress.

While 47% of boomers and 51% of pre-boomers selected the lowest-priced insurance brand, only 35% of both Gen X and millennials did the same. So what matters most to younger insurance shoppers? According to the study, 40% of both Gen X and millennials are more likely to select insurance from websites that offer easy navigation, compared to only 36% of boomers and 33% of pre-boomers.

“It was only a couple years ago that we would have told you the No. 1 thing that drives customer impression of a company is the agent,” says Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the global insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “That’s been diluted in the last handful of years. These folks live on the Web. They’re much more apt to say, ‘I don’t get it—why doesn’t it work like Amazon?’ So they’re much more critical of something that’s clunky or awkward or tough to figure out. They’re interpreting that if your website sucks, you probably can’t be that good of a company.”

Millennials are also more concerned with the ability to research while shopping—29% are more likely to select a brand that provides the appropriate amount of information on its website, and 36% are more likely to opt for one that does so in a clear and intelligible way. It’s part of an ongoing trend of consumer self-empowerment in which clients think, “I want to direct the service more on my terms,” Bowler says.

At the agency level, Bowler likens the website to a professional resume presented to the marketplace—it should feature key information a shopper needs to know about that agency and the services they offer. Since personal lines customers can secure adequate coverage even while bypassing the agency channel altogether, that means it’s crucial to use the agency website as a platform to highlight what makes your business special.

“One of the foundational things I would establish on your website is ‘You’re going to get a level of service at my agency in your community that’s above and beyond what you can get from a direct model,’” Bowler says. “Maybe it’s that my staff is highly trained or that we’re available with extended hours. Whatever it is you’re presenting as the virtues or benefits of your agency, you’re going to want to make sure that billboard is very clear and easy to access for the shopper.”

Equally important is maintaining a Web presence that’s up to date with current Internet trends. “The worst possible offense is the website that’s very dated in appearance and in terms of its functionality,” Bowler says. “If you’ve got a very dated-looking website that doesn’t let me do a lot, where I have to scroll down to see the rest of it because you’ve got so many options listed and you’ve got every possible link on your first page—consumers just shriek when they see that. ‘Ease of navigation’ doesn’t mean putting it all on the landing page so everything is one click away.”

As a remedy, Bowler encourages agencies to consider use of images, color and font to speak to who makes up the target audience. “If I’ve got a good contingent of retired persons in Florida who are in my territory, I’ve got to think about that font size,” he says. “I’ve got to make sure it’s legible and I’ve got to make sure it’s not industry jargon so much as describing the need for which I can provide solutions. Click on the need—I’ll take you to the solution.”

And using best practices for SEO and social media is key. “More customers today start the shopping process by going to the Web to do their research,” Bowler says. “Website design that promotes search engine optimization is one of the first things I’d recommend. And if you’re going to be strategically competing in this new channel, you have to have a balanced approach that includes social.”

Think optimizing your agency’s Web presence isn’t worth the investment? That won’t be true in the near future. “These are the customers of tomorrow—that segment is growing,” Bowler says. “You want to put yourself in the conversation wherever the customer is. If the consumer is dissatisfied or struggling to get effective service and they go and post on your Facebook page and you’re not seeing that, you’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage.”

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.