North American Life Insurers Are In Digital Denial

Ellen Carney

Are you feeling wistful about what online insurance experiences used to be?  Can’t remember how to get back to the Wayback Machine?  You can indulge that nostalgia by simply shopping online for life insurance.

 Beginning in Q3, we looked at 13 websites—nine carriers, two online agencies, and one aggregator—in the US and Canada to get a sense of how easy it was for someone who was interested in buying a basic term life policy to use digital channels learn about coverage options, get an estimate, find and connect with an agent or advisor, and apply (up to the binding process).[i]

What prompted us to explore the digital buying experience for American and Canadian life insurance shoppers?  Our data showed that when considering life insurance, shoppers:

  • Turn to personal connections. The financial dynamics of the family and social networks play an important role in the insurance research process, especially for younger buyers. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans said that they had used friends and family to research life insurance, while 13% of Canadians said that they had spoken with family or friends about the coverage.  These personal connections are manifest through comments like, “I bought my life insurance from Company X (or Agent Y). You should check them out”, whereupon the dutiful relation goes to the life insurer’ or agent’s website.
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Three Ways That Retailers Can Step Their Game Up In 2017

This year has been no picnic for retailers. With Thanksgiving weekend upon us, many retailers are in the throes of the holidays and are doing all they can to achieve a strong finish to a bumpy, even bewildering, year. Retailers now must deliver rich, personalized customer experiences to win the customer loyalty battle for two key reasons:

  • Consumers are still cautious…:Almost 10 years after the last financial crisis, the national unemployment rate is low, gas prices are down, and real income is up – but continued tempered spending shows that consumers aren’t taking anything for granted. Economic and political turmoil globally isn’t helping, nor is uncertainty about the implications of Brexit and the U.S. elections.
  • …But they’re also empowered:Owning multiple connected devices is increasingly the norm in the U.S., so it’s not surprising that 42% of U.S. online adults are researching products via online customer reviews weekly if not daily– double the activity just two years earlier. In an era of “anywhere, anytime” commerce, consumers are actively using their smartphones not just on the go, but even in the store itself. And while they may be fiscally skittish, we’ve found that consumers today are willing to try new things faster than in the past.  
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What Financial Services Execs Can Expect In 2017

Peter Wannemacher

Every fall, more than a dozen Forrester analysts across multiple roles meet to discuss what executives and leaders at financial services firms should anticipate over the next year. Driven by our ongoing research, the result of this brainstorm is now available as the just-published “Predictions 2017: Pioneering Financial Providers Will Partner With Fintech To Build Ecosystems” report. Forrester clients can read the full predictions report by clicking the button here:

               

For non-clients, here are three of the 16 predictions we outline in our new report:

  • Leading providers and fintech firms will partner to build ecosystems. Dynamic ecosystems of value threaten traditional, vertically integrated financial firms that want to stick with the old-school value chain. But ecosystems also offer opportunities to financial providers that think carefully about the roles they want to play in the ecosystem — and by extension, the role they want to play in customers’ lives. Pioneering financial providers like BBVA have built ecosystems with fintech firms like OnDeck, and we predict that in 2017, more leading firms will follow suit and build dynamic ecosystems of value.   
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Assess Your Digital Store Functionality

Michelle Beeson

The role of the store is changing. Consumers are increasingly able to research products and services they are interesting in buying, via their own digital devices, anywhere they choose - whether it’s browsing on their tablet while watching TV or their smartphone during the morning commute.

Customers often arrive in store armed with a wealth of information, which can put sales associates on the back foot. Retailers are currently exploring how to bring digital capabilities in store to improve customer service and engagement – both via their sales associates and directly to customers. But retailers must not get side tracked by shiny new “star wars” style technology. For digital store experience technologies to be successful, they must integrate with enterprise wide systems and have a tangible impact on in-store customer experience and/or operations.

To help digital business executives assess their digital store capabilities, Forrester has developed the Digital Store Functionality Benchmark as part of the Digital Store Playbook 2016. In this new benchmark Forrester assesses 20 retailers across the US and the UK for their use of in-store digital technology to support customer engagement and service as well as store operations.

Key takeaways from the evaluation are:

It Is Early Days For The Digital Store. Retailers are just starting their digital store transformation projects, with 16 of the 20 retailers scoring less than 50 of a total of 100. Many are still developing supporting technology and in the process of piloting various applications for new technology in-store.

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2017 Predictions: Mobile Is The Face Of Digital

Julie Ask

We put together our thoughts in anew 2017 Mobile Predictions report on what to expect in the mobile space next year across industries and roles.

In 2016 mobile evolved from a stand-alone channel to a baseline for all branded digital experiences. In 2017, mobile will continue to elevate customer expectations as it transforms even non-digital experiences – such as Starbucks “order ahead” functionality. There is no question that mobile moments are the battleground to win, serve and retain your customers. What a mobile moment is and where it surfaces, however, will become amorphous as it extends beyond smartphones to platforms and connected devices and then eventually lives in a consumer’s personal ecosystem.

App usage as we know it has likely peaked. In 2017, platforms will expand in importance as consumers continue to consolidate their time into fewer places on the smartphone. Already, they spend 84% of their time in just five apps. These experiences that we loosely still refer to as mobile (but not for much longer) experience will lives as fragments on third party platforms. Consumers will still use apps for in-depth experiences with brands, but will increasingly use fragments to get quick things done. Examples of popular third party platforms today include Apple’s iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.  

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Google's Next Play: Your Assistant For Everything - Not Just Answers

Julie Ask

This blog post is co-authored by VP and Principal Analyst Michael Facemire and Analyst Andrew Hogan at Forrester.

Google held an event in San Francisco this week to announce several new consumer products – a smartphone, a wireless speaker, Wi-Fi routers, a virtual reality headset and an updated Chromecast solution. All showcased an emerging strategic direction for Google and some killer engineering and design skills.

None of it impressed as much as the demos of Google Assistant – Google’s virtual assistant.

What is a virtual assistant, you ask? A virtual assistant is another name for an intelligent (personal) assistant. Virtual assistants orchestrate agents or services from third parties on behalf of consumers. Bots are one form of an agent. Virtual assistants rely on context (e.g., user input, localization capabilities, and access to information from a variety of data sources) to refine the quality of responses to a user’s requests. These assistants guess, but the guesses get better over time. “Virtual” implies that the service is digital and not performed by a human you’ve hired.

Google Assistant is a natural extension of Google’s path towards becoming the agent that sits between brands and their customers. The “holy grail” of becoming a consumer’s primary virtual assistant will be hard for Google to obtain, but holds unprecedented business value. Google is not alone in this race – Amazon, Apple and Facebook in the U.S. also have their sights set on being the trusted assistant for consumers.

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Why Most Banks Should Not (Yet) Roll Out Bots

Peter Wannemacher

Companies of all stripes are getting bot happy, rolling out bots for third-party platforms like Facebook Messenger, Kik, WeChat, Slack, and more. Firms like Yahoo, H&M, KLM Airlines, and others use these chat bots — software built to simulate human conversation and to help consumers complete tasks — in an effort to better win, serve, and retain customers.

A few banking providers are beginning to dip their bank-shaped toes into the bot space: Capital One allows customers to take actions like paying bills via Alexa on Echo devices; Bank of America has announced plans to roll out a bot on Facebook Messenger; and numerous Chinese providers offer banking services via WeChat.

But while a few banks are in a position to experiment, digital business executives at most banks must decide whether to use precious resources to build or buy a chat bot offering. Forrester’s brand-new research report argues that most of these executives should hold off on launching chat bots for messaging platforms. This is because:

  • Today’s bots often lead to uneven — or worse — experiences for customers. In our research, we found many instances where a chat bot offered a quick and effective answer to a consumer’s question; however, about one-third of the time, existing chat bots either failed to complete the consumer’s request or provided a clunky, awkward experience.
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Retailers Are Prioritizing The Wrong Digital Technologies In Brick And Mortar Stores

Lily Varon

Retailers are inundated with promising technologies to revolutionize the in-store shopping experience for consumers. The problem? Our research shows that most of these experiences today miss the mark and may actually make the customer experience more complex or confusing.  On the other hand, retailers are seeing significant, and measurable, value from technologies that directly improve store operations.

Forrester has published a two-part TechRadar™ defining the current state, business value, and long-term prospects for technologies in retail stores: one for those focusing specifically on customer experiences and the other on technologies focusing on operations. It’s still early days for both of these technology categories but we found that:

  • Operations technologies generally already offer significant business value to retailers. Of the 14 technologies we evaluated,nearly half are on track to provide significant business value for retailers. Retailers are finding that these technologies help their physical store teams and operations perform better and become more efficient by gleaning customer insights and spurring real-time action by store staff.
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Mobile (Commerce) Executive Survey: Please take it!!! We'll Share The Results!

Julie Ask

Each year Forrester fields an Executive Survey to understand and benchmark enterprise mobile initiatives. This year, we are updating the survey to help business executives not only to benchmark and mature their approach to mobile but also to help them integrate mobile into their digital initiatives more  holistically. (A marketer’s version of this survey will be released later this year).

Creating a strategy and building an operation to use mobile to win, serve and retain your customers is a complex task. Integrating mobile into a broader corporate strategy is even more complex. The survey results will help firms understand what strategies, technologies and operational elements (e.g., organization, process, metrics, talent, etc.) should be in place given their goals for mobile. All answers will be treated anonymously and only used in aggregate.

For your efforts, we will share a free copy of the topline survey results.

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Banks and Fintechs: Better together

Aurelie L'Hostis

Old met new in the world of retail banking on July 28, as BPCE, France’s second largest banking group, announced the acquisition of the German digital bank and fintech pioneer Fidor Bank.

Founded in 2009, Fidor Bank has built a community of 350,000 users across Germany and the UK, who are rewarded for offering peer-to-peer financial advice and invited to participate in the social co-creation of products and services. The startup has also developed a proprietary technology platform – the Fidor Operating System (fOS) – which enables open and fast API banking, offering its 120,000 customers access to a wide selection of services provided by other fintech partners.

The news about BPCE inking a deal with Fidor came as no surprise. As I discuss in a recent report, the digital banks which have proliferated over the past few years – competing to win customers by offering more compelling digital customer experiences than those offered by established banks – are struggling to acquire large numbers of customers and reach profitable scale. Why? They operate on narrow margins, can’t sustain large marketing campaigns, and create limited perceived added-value for customers.

Fidor has done well since its launch, hitting profitability for the first time in 2012. The startup however made the decision to shift its business model away from just direct-to-consumer offerings, and now white-label its technology to financial institutions. The telecom operator Telefónica in Germany recently partnered with the fintech to launch a mobile banking service for its customers.

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