The age of online retailers and instant digital access has transformed how consumers purchase insurance.
For independent insurance agents, the tech revolution has rung in an era where they feel threatened by direct-to-consumer models and price comparison websites, confused and overwhelmed by the influx of InsurTech companies and vulnerable to the danger of being cut out of the insurance distribution model completely.
On the flip side, the new era of instant digital access has provided various opportunities for independent agents to expand their business, solidify their role in the insurance channel and demonstrate their value to a larger audience.
One of the biggest opportunities for agents lies in the millennial market. The U.S. is currently home to roughly 73 million millennials, according to the Pew Research Center. That means that millennials—those born between 1981 and 1997—will make up the largest consumer segment for years to come. As a digitally savvy generation, a millennial consumer base offers plenty of reasons for agents to be optimistic.
Although millennials are more likely than older generations to buy insurance online, more than half of millennials bought insurance through an independent or exclusive agent, and most are open to working with an agent in the future, according to Liberty Mutual and Safeco’s Engaging Millennial Insurance Consumers Online study.
“One of the biggest findings in our research was that millennials want to make good decisions about insurance and they need trusted advice,” says Kevin Jenné, director, Agent and Consumer Research.
“They have a much greater appetite to understand their insurance choices than many thought, which means agents have a vital role to play,” he says. “Agents know that these customers aren’t walking into their offices off the street like they did 20 years ago, but they are looking for them—they’re looking online.”
“Agents who know how to meet them where they are will earn more than their fair share of millennial business,” Jenné adds. “With 2020 right around the corner, now is the time for independent agents to step up their game digitally.”
Here are three ways you can make your agency more appealing to millennials online:
1) Effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO). More than half of millennials are using online search to learn more about independent agents, according to the Liberty Mutual and Safeco study.
“Millennials are the most digitally advanced customers the insurance industry has ever seen, meaning that your agency’s website not only acts as a digital storefront but also legitimizes your agency online,” says Chuck Blondino, director, Agency Capabilities and Programs. “SEO can increase your website’s visibility online and help you connect with potential customers.”
To increase your website’s visibility, Blondino recommends creating dedicated pages on specific insurance products. Additionally, agencies should localize their content with keywords from around their area, highlighting words of products they’re looking to sell, and have a blog, which contains high-quality, original content that is split 50/50 between insurance topics and what their agency is doing in the community.
2) Promote community engagement. By now, every agency should have at least a Facebook page. However, sharing insurance news articles, seasonal safety tips and promoting products and customer services on social media has become a tired old trope and will no longer make an agency stand out. “This is a huge hot button for me,” Blondino says. “Using a digital platform isn’t enough, you have to do things that create engagement.”
Two-thirds of high growth agencies share what they do in the community, according to Liberty Mutual and Safeco. “Most agencies are wonderfully generous with their time by volunteering with local charities, but unfortunately, few tell those stories,” Blondino explains, who recommends a 90/10 rule to social media—90% posts about community-service-based content and 10% insurance tips.
Additionally, 62% of personal lines agencies and 48% of commercial lines agencies have part-time or full-time marketers on staff, according to Liberty Mutual and Safeco. “A dedicated marketer can lead your digital engagement strategy while coordinating community service activities,” Blondino adds.
3) Be likable. Like it or not, insurance agents are pegged back by stereotypes, such as being boring, fast-talking salespeople who are only too eager to part consumers with their hard-earned money for a product they’ll potentially never use. But digital engagement provides an opportunity to prove this stereotype wrong.
Since an agency’s website is their 21st century storefront, it is the perfect place for the people that run the business to take center stage. To make a good impression, Blondino recommends creating staff bio pages for every team member that contains information about their life outside of the office.
Also, “the About Us and Contact Us pages are the two most visited pages on a website,” Blondino says. “So, make sure these pages are highly personalized and please say something beyond ‘We’ve prided ourselves on great service since 2001’!”
“People want to do business with people they like and enjoy spending time with,” Blondino continues. “Independent agents should ask themselves, ‘Why would anyone want to do business with someone at a direct company selling one brand that they’ll never talk to again when they can work with people in their local community who are working with local charities and live, shop and have fun at the same places they do?”
“I believe the ease, choice and advice offered by independent agents makes them a better way for any consumer, business or personal, to purchase insurance,” he adds. “If agents take the time to become digitally relevant on social media and their websites, they’ll not only compete, they’ll be taking back market share.”
Will Jones is IA senior editor.