Small Business Insurers: Are Your Digital Sites Open For Business?

Ellen Carney


Small business is booming in the US.  The US Small Business Administration declared this week as “National Small Business Week” to promote the role that small business plays in the US economy.  Why should insurance companies pay close attention to the needs of small business? For starters, small businesses mean:

  • Big economic impact. Small business spells substantial opportunity. These small businesses comprise about 49% of private sector employment, and about 43% of private sector payrolls.[i] And as small business grow, that growth translates into the need for more insurance to cover employees, vehicles, and other liabilities.
  • New revenue streams.  With self-driving vehicles tests planned in 30 cities by 2017, there’s trouble ahead for the industry’s cash cow, private passenger auto insurance.[ii] Small business insurance is one revenue stream that insurers can increase to counterbalance premium declines.
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Six Takeaways From Global eCommerce Events In New York

Zia Daniell Wigder

Last week there were a couple of great events related to global eCommerce here in New York — Borderfree had its annual Global eCommerce Forum and Adyen held a local merchant event. A few themes emerged:

Omnichannel is now a must-have. At both events, omnichannel retail was front and center. Adyen underscored the opportunities inherent in integrating online and offline payments. At the Borderfree event, Stephen Sadove, the former chairman and CEO of Saks, kicked off the event with 10 disruptive trends. He declared that #1 and #10 were most important: #1 was the shift to omnichannel.  Sadove cited the substantial gross margin implications of being able to move inventory between channels; he also emphasized it’s “not a sustainable point of view ” to believe that getting one view of the customer is just too expensive.

The demands of retail leaders have shifted. Other issues that came up regularly with attendees at both events were the changing needs of retail and the challenge of hiring qualified talent (“talent requirements” was the #10 big trend on Sadove’s list above). Today’s business leaders must be able to deal with a laundry list of new topics — e.g.  mobile payments, cross-border eCommerce — many of which wouldn’t have registered on their agenda just a decade ago.

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Digital Executives At Banks: Steal Ideas From Retailers To Win More Customers

Peter Wannemacher

Over the past decade, digital executives and teams at banks have made strides in digital selling by upgrading and improving their public websites — and more recently their mobile apps and sites. But conversion rates on many banks’ websites remain low — in some areas, well below 10% — even as consumers’ expectations for digital experiences rise.

To take their digital selling to the next level, digital marketing and sales teams at banks should look outside the banking industry for fresh thinking. One area to look for inspiration is retail: By adapting digital tactics that best-in-class retailers use, banking digital teams can make adjustments to their websites and mobile apps that boost conversion rates and sales overall. Forrester has just published a new report that outlines “What Banks Can Learn From Retailers' Websites.” Here are just three of the ideas we discuss in the report:

  1. Merchandise around customers’ needs and journeys rather than product silos. Retailers have found success by merchandising entire site sections, and even microsites, around customer journeys and events. Yet our research finds that virtually all banks still use products as the organizing principle on their websites. In 2013, Wal-Mart created a complete "back to college" microsite with digital marketing on key landing pages. As a result of this and other digital merchandising efforts, Wal-Mart increased the number of back-to-school products sold on its website by 30% year-over-year.
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Great Digital Customer Experience Must Be More Than Skin Deep

Ken Calhoon

It’s impossible to have great customer experiencewithout digital transformation in the age of the customer. Most of us think first about the front-end experience when challenged with improving digital customer experience. We naturally gravitate toward the direct human interface: web features and functionality, design, native mobile apps vs mobile web and more. This is the glitz of digital customer experience and there is no relaxing here—your competitors and peers continue to raise the bar.

Look at online retailers for example. Companies like Amazon and Etsy scored high on our Customer Experience Index, and both have done so being customer obsessed--not only in their behaviors but in the digital experience they deliver.

But that’s Amazon and Etsy, both digital-only brands you’d expect are creating great digital customer experiences. How about a company you wouldn’t necessarily expect? Take Grainger, a B2B seller of construction and maintenance products, that is driving significant company growth through digital success.In 2014, ecommerce made up 36% of the its revenue and accounted for nearly all of its sales growth.Over the past couple of years, it has invested in the front- and back-end: it launched a new website and mobile app while expanding its products online over 1.2 million and constructing a one-million square foot distribution center in Illinois. Grainger’s revenue and profit growth are the direct result of new, preferable digitally-based customer experiences rooted in operational excellence.

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What Threat Do P2P Currency Exchange Startups Pose To Retail Banks?

Oliwia Berdak

This is a guest post by Alexander Causey.

Have you ever sent money abroad and been shocked by the amount the recipient is left with? Why can’t you ever get anything close to the exchange rates advertised on the likes of xe.com?

As a customer, transferring money internationally is often a costly experience. Despite claims of no fees, the exchange rate spreads are often significant. That’s where P2P currency exchange comes in.

Startups such as CurrencyFair, Kantox, Midpoint and TransferWise hope to solve this problem by using the power of peer-to-peer networks to match customers, both individuals and small business, with one another to significantly reduce the cost of currency exchange.

By matching currency orders travelling in opposite directions, these platforms remove the need for money ever having to cross borders, thus avoiding costly international transfer fees. Thanks to low overheads, they also offer exchange rates at (or very close to) the midmarket rate that you see on xe.com. As you can see from Midpoint’s calculator below, the savings can be substantial.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this emerging sector - one that has been backed by the likes of Peter Thiel, Richard Branson, and Andreessen Horowitz - you can read mine and Oliwia’s new report here. The report, the latest in our ongoing series about digital disruption in retail financial services, answers the following questions:

1.             What is P2P currency exchange?

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Death of a (B2B) Salesman

Andy Hoar

Forrester forecasts that 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by the year 2020. B2B buyers now favor do-it-yourself online options for researching and buying products and services, and they are demanding that B2B sellers fully enable those digital paths to purchase.

Yet too many of today’s B2B companies still insist that B2B buyers interact with sales reps in order to complete a purchase. For a minority of customers who are buying complex and expensive products and services, talking to a sales rep can be a value-added experience.  But for the majority of B2B buyers who are self-educating online about products and services, or who already know what they want, the diversion is inconvenient and unwelcome.

B2B companies that want to stay ahead of the curve must reshape their channel sales strategies and fundamentally rethink the role of their salespeople by:

  • Expanding the role of self-service eCommerce.  The evidence is clear.  Nearly 75% of B2B buyers now say that buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative.  Further, 93% say that they prefer buying online rather than from a salesperson when they’ve decided what to buy.  B2B companies that wait too long to create self-serve eCommerce websites risk losing share to pure plays and omnichannel competitors. 
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US B2B eCommerce To Reach $1.1 Trillion By 2020

Andy Hoar

I’m pleased to announce the release of Forrester’s US B2B eCommerce Forecast: 2015 to 2020.  In this first-of-its-kind report, Forrester forecasts that US B2B eCommerce will grow from $780 billion in 2015 to $1.13 trillion in 2020 – at which time it will constitute 12.1% of the total $9.39 trillion US B2B commerce market.

What's behind our 2020 $1.13 trillion US B2B eCommerce forecast?

  • Changes to B2B buyer preferences. Today, 74% of B2B buyers research at least one-half of their work purchases online. In addition, 30% of today's B2B buyers complete at least half of their work purchases online. With that percentage nearly doubling to 56% by 2017, B2B sellers will see a significant volume of offline business move online in the next few years.
  • The opportunity for B2B firms to reduce the cost to serve customers. B2B companies report cutting their cost to serve dramatically by migrating customers online.  In addition, in a 2013 Forrester survey, 56% of B2B eCommerce executives said that they have certain customers that they can only profitably support online.
  • The value of building loyal multichannel B2B customers. Omnichannel customers spend more than single-channel, offline-only customers. For example, 60% of B2B companies report that their B2B buyers spend more overall when those customers interact with multiple channels. Omnichannel B2B customers are also more likely to become repeat and long-term customers.
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Why Do Digital Business Transformations Fail?

Martin Gill

Digital transformation is undeniably complex and often misunderstood. To look at why things go wrong for some firms, lets take a quick look at three high-profile examples of transformation - two failures and one new initiative. These highlight some common mistakes that senior executives make:

 

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Disrupt Or Be Disrupted: The Challenge For Insurers In 2015

Ellen Carney

American and Canadian insurers are facing some big challenges in 2015. Customer experience expectations, their willingness to consider a growing array of new options to buy insurance, and new competitors creeping into the business of insurance are pushing traditional insurers into new digital strategies.  It’s no longer a question of digital channels or “other” when it comes to the customer journey; they’re now intertwined. Digital-dependent customers are eyeing new and more digitally savvy market entrants, while demanding more control over the experience and how their personal information is used. This year, digital insurance teams are crafting agendas that satisfy their firm’s hunger for increase market share and revenue balanced with changing demographics, adaptations in response to extreme weather, and regulation that has lagged the changing realities of digital. One thing’s for sure: Insurance eBusiness teams can’t afford to wait around, but they also can’t afford to make the wrong digital decisions. 

Just what are the factors propelling North American insurer agendas this year? For starters, it’s about:

  • Uneven economic growth in North America. The 2008 financial crisis? It’s a distant memory in much of the US, but not for all. By most measures, the US economy is thriving, driven by rising consumer demand for homes, cars, and consumer goods, and, by extension, insurance.  And in oil-producing Canada the decline in gasoline prices isn’t good news: Canada is threatened with recession.
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Insurers, It’s Time To Emerge From Your Long Winter Sleep

Oliwia Berdak

Spring is finally here, and with that, a time for wild animals to emerge from their winter sleep. We humans don’t really hibernate, but we can find it difficult to get out of bed to face a rather frosty environment. This applies to companies, too.

I wrote last year that European insurers were waking up to the threat of digital disruption. I should have qualified this sentence: Some European insurers are waking up to it. And even fewer are getting out of bed and doing something about it. In 2015, the gulf between digital insurance innovators and other firms is expanding.

As we researched our new report about trends in European digital insurance, it became clear that no one is really disputing the value of direct insurance. European insurers have suffered seven lean years, as premiums in property, casualty, and life insurance largely stagnated. Direct sales have often been an area that continued to deliver growth. Because of this, we expect most European insurers to step up their investments and efforts in this area.

But here is the key point: Digital technologies are much more than just a channel. They can drive a business transformation to deliver new customer value and greater operational agility. Digital technologies can help insurers in particular build more persistent bridges to their customers’ lives to address the industry’s low customer engagement and creeping commoditization.

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