COOL JOB ALERT! FORRESTER RESEARCH IS HIRING A HEALTHCARE EBUSINESS AND CHANNEL STRATEGY ANALYST

In the face of the biggest industry disruption in memory, health plans are gearing up for big changes in their business models. From the implementation of healthcare reform teams, public and private exchange initiatives, dramatically different underwriting, and new user experiences modeled after Apple and Amazon, health care payers — and providers — are looking for answers and a view into the future of healthcare. So Forrester is looking for a Senior Analyst to help us expand our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area. 

Here’s the important stuff in the job description:

The successful candidate will write for, present to, and advise eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in the healthcare industry (including payers and providers) to help guide their direct-to-consumer strategies, through innovative research and advice delivered through written reports, consulting, client inquiries, and speeches.  The ideal candidate possesses a strong understanding of the business and technology issues facing both healthcare and online and mobile commerce markets, plus an appetite for conducting and writing research to help clients stay abreast of the issues.

Read more

Globally, Insurers Are Waking Up To The Spending Power Of Small Businesses

With the global economy thawing out after the long winter of the financial crisis, the small business market is on the rebound. And it's not just in the US. In markets extending from Canada to Australia, small business owners are starting up, borrowing to expand, and they’re hiring staff, all of which are driving the need for commercial insurance to protect assets and employees. And just where are these busy small business owners doing their research and, in many cases, shopping? Online. So with all this digital shopping and buying, just what changes will these digitally sophisticated small businesses drive for insurers? For starters:

  • Typical consumer online features are creeping into commercial insurance sites. In the US, small business owners are more likely to go online to research, renew, and service their policies than the average online consumer. What’s driving these small businesses to digital insurance? Business owners and their staffs bring their consumer experiences with them to work, prompting business insurers to rethink the content, usability, and functionality present on their business insurance sites. For example, Hiscox’s online site features not only simplified packaging that makes quoting easy but also the ratings and review functionality that we are used to seeing on direct personal insurer sites like Progressive Casualty Insurance’s site.  
Read more

Provoking Tumultuous Uproar: How All Things Digital Are Disrupting the Business Of Insurance

There’s one word that sums up what’s going on in the business of insurance right now: disruption. Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with an innovation team at a Tier 1 carrier. When I asked the group if they were feeling that big changes were afoot in the industry, there was lots of head nodding. Consider just these few catalysts of change:

  • An improving economy driven by freshening winds in the US housing market.
  • Activist consumers willing to both join forces with their insurers and at the same time regulate them through the power of social media.
  • Converging physical and digital worlds that engage consumers through smart portable devices.
  • Two maturing regulatory reforms: one that reorders the molecules of the health insurance industry and the second that’s creating a new industry (and risks), namely access to medical marijuana.
Read more

Why The Future Of Insurance Will Be Mobile And What Will It Mean For Insurance Business Models

Anybody out there who doesn't have a mobile device, raise your hand...just what I thought.

The explosion of mobile phones and apps in the everyday lives of consumers--and agents--is powering big changes in the business of insurance.  Heightened customer expectations are getting formed by the changing mobile landscape; new generations of customers; new competitors, and the ferocious pace of mobile tech-enabled innovation that is radically reshaping how customers become informed, purchase, and get service. 

In our new report, the first of Forrester's Mobile Insurance Playbook, we examine how mobile forces are driving customer expectations and how customer demands are going to influence new insurance business models.

Consider that:

  • Consumers are living La Vida Mobile.  Mobile is a pervasive element in the daily lives of insurance customers. With more mobile devices available within easy reach, US consumers are tapping into this ready convenience to research, buy, and service their financial needs, including insurance.  And how about those Millennial insurance customers?  More than one in four told us that they use mobile as their main personal financial channel. 
  • Agents are becoming proficient mobile tool users.  The tablet form factor looks almost purpose-built for the needs of agents.  From their hi-def displays to fast boot-up and super portability, agents are ardent tablet-ers, and half the agents in an informal survey at the end of last year cited mobile as one of their leading business initiatives. 
Read more

The Age Of The Customer Drives Four Insurance eBusiness Mega-Trends In 2012

This year, North American insurers overall are pretty darn happy. For starters, there clear signs that the economy is finally starting to gain steam, premiums are on the rise, the market’s firming, and the political will may well shift enough to revisit past regulatory reforms, particularly those that impact health insurers.  And these factors are coalescing into the new strategies for 2012.  In our “Trends 2012: North American Insurance eBusiness And Channel Strategy”, we discuss what factors are driving insurance ebusiness teams to:

  1. Become obsessed about their customers
  2. Get serious about how to collaborate better with their agents
  3. Focus on the infrastructure that supports the digital business
  4. Refine their thinking about what eBusiness means to the insurance ecosystem
Read more

Insurance eBusiness Initiatives And IT Priorities And Spending Closely Aligned For 2012

The insurance industry is in the midst of some big changes. Those changes introduce very new pressures, priorities, and uncertainties into an industry whose business depends on stability. In these dynamic times, carriers hang their hat on what they do for their customers, even if how it gets done and who does it might be changing. Our report, "Tech Opportunities In The North American Insurance Industry",  outlines the top business priorities and supporting technology investment plans of North American insurers.  In this year's study (our fourth) it turns out that:

Industry’s business outlook turns strongly positive with select IT spending following along. Even with a record number of disasters that have translated into record economic losses, more US and Canadian insurers have positive outlooks when compared with last year. What’s behind these buoyant outlooks? By all indications, it looks like insurers will be competing on something other than price, as the market condition changes to “firm” and even “hard” for some lines. This year’s top initiative remains growing the business, with ebusiness teams playing a starring role.

Technology’s value shifts to sales, service, and support, not simply cost-savings. Five years ago, the IT’s fundamental value proposition was as a means to take cost out of the insurance equation. While still important, virtually all the insurers we surveyed told us that technology was critical to how they serviced and supported their customers, and 80% told us that technology was essential in the insurance distribution and sales model.

Read more

The Whats Of Insurance Gets Some New Hows

One of the things that people like about the insurance industry is that the business of insurance doesn't change much.  Insurance carriers have pretty much done the same thing:  rate risk, issue policies, settle claims, sell through agents, and invest our premiums, all the stuff that makes them insurance companies.  We’ve talked a lot about this idea of “business capabilities” here are Forrester, essentially the notion of what an industry does.  These capabilities change very slowly, if at all.  Capability changes are usually the result of some big structural economic change--think of the now-modern and booming Russian insurance industry growing after the collapse of the former Communist state.  Of course, the way in which those capabilities get executed in a mature insurance market is influenced by what’s going on outside the four walls of carrier and can change very quickly.  

Read more

The Spotty Record For Insurance Online Cross Selling

When it comes to the top business strategies for North American insurance carriers (and agents), selling more to the same customer is a top initiative. Because, what's a better way to grow revenue and profit in a tough market than to sell more insurance to your proven customers? And thanks to big media budgets, it’s easy to see lots of these cross-selling campaigns in action, from the practical take of Allstate’s Shop Less, Get More campaign to more humorous approaches with Progressive’s Flo and Nationwide’s World’s Greatest Spokesman (among others), duking it out over insurance bundles and multi-product discounts. 

With all this enthusiasm, just how successful are insurance ebusiness at cross-selling?  In our report, “Making Online Insurance Cross-Sell Initiatives Work”,  that went live on the Forrester website today, it turn out that sales performance varies wildly between the ten US insurance companies evaluated, with the best cross-sellers sharing four key characteristics. And it’s not just the best performing carriers that share traits—consumers likely to purchase multiple insurance coverages from a single carrier have their own set of common characteristics around income, age, and even where they live in the US.   

So, what can insurance ebusiness teams do to improve their cross-selling performance?  We outline nine tactics such as including leveraging opportunities to promote insurance when using interactive tools to when and how the cross-sale offer is made during the online experience. Along with auditing internal practices against our checklist, a roadmap for the remainder of 2011 is offered that, if followed, will let insurance providers start 2012 with an effective cross selling strategy.

Read more

Mobile Insurance Seeding New (And Surprising) Business Alliances

In the interviews we just wrapped up with insurance thought leaders, one thing’s certain: Mobile is going to play a BIG role in the future of insurance. Alongside another topic (about which you’ll hear more later), mobile, and its role in enabling policyholders along with underwriters, agents, commercial underwriters, and the claim supply chain, animated virtually every conversation we had. One area in particular — mobile partnerships — spurred some great discussion on the outlook for new mobile products and collaborations that might be in the offing.

Alongside Tokio Marine’s intriguing mobile one-time insurance for sporting events and travel, we uncovered a unique life insurance purchasing model in South Africa. What was it that caught our attention? Econet Wireless and First Mutual Life in South Africa have teamed up to produce Ecolife, a life insurance product purchased by prepaid subscribers using mobile airtime. The customer only has to purchase US$3 to receive coverage, and the amount of coverage increases with every additional dollar (up to $10,000 coverage). First Mutual Life’s attempt to reach the sizable population of South Africans without a traditional bank account has seen rampant successthus far.

Read more

Allstate’s Acquisition Of esurance: The Start Of Something Bigger For Ebiz Teams?

I got jolt this morning, and it wasn’t from my coffee.  The headlines in my morning insurance news push were all about  last night's announcement that Allstate was acquiring esurance and an agency sibling, Answer Financial for $1 billion (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-18/allstate-to-buy-esurance-in-1-b...).  Along with the fact that esurance itself has gone to market with what every ebusiness executive has stated as the big strategy over the near-term—giving the customer the choice in how they want to engage with its new “Technology When You Want It, People When You Don’t”  tagline—this deal could well be the start of a more interesting trend:  a bigger wave of M&A among Tier 1 carriers.

This news was especially tantalizing because we just wrapped up a series of interviews with insurance thought leaders to get a perspective for how the insurance industry was going to look in 2020.   We wanted to understand how these changes were going to impact the jobs of ebiz executives in insurance.  This is what we heard: 

Enabled by “big data”, carriers are going to:

  • Shed and acquire business lines to be more specialized and obviously more profitable
  • Make some splashy acquisitions (like this one),
  • Launch new and innovative business models (like a “lights out” insurer that, in exchange for low premiums, policyholders would have to do more for themselves)
  • Challenged by new market entrants who “get” data

All of which have big implications for what insurance ebusiness teams will be challenged to do.  Look for our thoughts on what 2020 is going to mean later this quarter.