Yee Hah! The worst recession since the Great Depression was declared officially over in June of 2009. We should be feeling great, since all things considered, the insurance industry fared pretty well when it came to how it emerged from that dark tunnel. But except for one notable role voice, insurers, unlike their banking peers, are still holding back from growing the business. How do we know? We took a look at nearly 5,000 inquiries that Forrester answered for insurers, bankers, and securities firms in the wake of failure of Lehman Brothers to just after this May’s Flash Crash.
What was on the minds of insurers during these six quarters? For starters, insurers:
Asked more questions than their financial services peers. Of the three segments we looked at, insurers asked half of the inquiries we fielded—2,500 versus nearly 1,600 and 600 for banks and securities firms, respectively.
Framed more than half of those questions around risk. Insurers didn’t veer away from what got them through the recession intact (indeed, from the very nature of their business)—managing risk. Even questions about application development strategies were framed as a risk question, with most insurers seeking validation that they were following in the well-worn grooves of others in insurance (and other industries) before them.
Posed too few questions about growing the business. Unlike their banking and securities siblings who asked questions about growing the business through new product launches, up-selling and cross-selling, or luring new customers away from competitors, insurers, with one big role-based exception, did notreflect that Q2 2009 economic inflection point.
One of the most common questions banking eBusiness executives ask Forrester analysts is: "What do you think of my Web site?". That's always a tough question to answer because what I think of a Web site depends on who I am and what I'm trying to use it for. To help UK bank eBusiness executives answer that question, my colleague Vanessa Niemeyer has just published a benchmark of the sales content and functionality on the Web sites of 10 of the UK's biggest banking brands, from the perspective of a typical customer trying to switch current account provider.
Some background: UK Net users are among the most likely anywhere in the world to use the Net to research and buy financial products. According to our Consumer Technographics® surveys, almost 60% of UK Net users have researched a financial product online in the past 12 months, more than in any other European country. Two out of five UK Net users have applied for a financial product online in the past year, which is double the Western European average. So you might think that UK bank Web sites are all highly effective sales sites.
So I'm in Cincinnati right now at P&G's self-described "Digital Hack Night" where the goal is twofold: to get their brand managers to understand a bit more about digital marketing strategies and to raise money for their "Loads of Hope" charity which is tied to Tide. For the next 2 hours, nearly 100 people--P&G brand managers, bloggers, Twitterers, authors and agency folks--are trying to use every social network--Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube--we have at our disposal with the ultimate objective of getting as many Loads of Hope tshirts sold on their eCommerce site as possible. We have a big leaderboard screen, QVC-style, that shows exactly how many unique visits we've received, what our conversion rate is and how many t-shirts we've sold (5,000+, 6% and 1,000+ by the way, respectively, at the moment). What a great way to get non-believers in the channel to see quickly, in real time, how rapidly an idea can radiate through a network and drive sales.
Forrester recently released our 2008 Customer Experience Index, a ranking of 114 companies by consumers who responded to an online survey asking how useful, easy to work with and enjoyable the various companies were. Get this, six of the top eight were retailers. The top retailer on the list? Barnes & Noble. So, what does this mean for retailers?
1. A great customer experience is a must-have in brutally-competitive, margin-thin industries that comprise most of the retail landscape. It is not an option. Not surprisingly, the ten worst performers in the index were TV, wireless and web service providers and health insurance companies--regulated industries that give consumers no choice but to interact with them.