Posted by: yacmichigan | January 9, 2015

Top 3 Tech Trends to Watch in 2015

Top 3 Tech Trends to Watch in 2015 by Bruce Winterburn

Reprinted from Independent Agent Magazine 1-9-15

2014 saw great leaps in the insurance industry’s adoption of enterprise technologies that are now proven to increase efficiency and agility. Will 2015 bring much of the same?

As we head into the New Year, expect technology trends to center on customer interaction and powering a more seamless customer experience. Here are the top 3 tech trends that will impact the independent agency channel in 2015.

The Social Handshake

Twitter and Facebook help us connect with customers to better understand their insurance needs—sharing pictures and stories online while responding to questions, compliments and sometimes even complaints.

But successful modern agencies are also taking the next step: using social media data to target customers based on personal hobbies and interests. Analysts agree that social media advertising in the United States will top $8 billion in 2014 and $9 billion next year.

It’s particularly important in a time when online insurance alternatives abound. This form of advertising transforms the grassroots level of business from the putting green, where people cemented business with a handshake, to the computer screen, where the digital signature takes the lead.

At the end of the day, insurance is a business where the relationship is paramount. The goal is to develop a bond that lasts beyond the first policy renewal, and that shouldn’t change. But the journey to that handshake has changed forever, and more and more agencies are realizing that it requires a multi-channel strategy including both local service organizations and the global power of social media. The approach enables even the smallest agency to compete with the largest by targeting potential customers wherever and whenever they are interested in your coverage.

In 2015, we’ll see more independent agencies embrace social media, analytics and multi-channel engagement technologies to grow their business and nurture their current customer base like never before.

Generational Forces

From all sides of the insurance spectrum, millennials are inspiring a digital revolution thanks to not only their interaction preferences, but also their insurance policy needs. As customers, millennials have specific preferences when it comes to interacting and managing their insurance policies: They expect to communicate over multiple channels and touch points including, online, mobile, apps, instant message and social.

This age group also has different insurance needs than older generations, in large part due to the emergence of “sharing economy” services. In fact, millennials are less likely to become homeowners than young adults in previous generations, according to the recent Council of Economic Advisers report from the White House. An agent’s ability to acquire millennial customers ultimately depends on his or her ability to provide an experience most fitting for the group’s lifestyle.

From an insurance agency perspective, no one understands millennials better than younger agents. Having grown up in the era of social media, they’re incredibly adept at leveraging the power of not only their own networks but those of their friends to reach potential customers. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find younger agents running social campaigns on LinkedIn or Facebook or growing their social followers with thought leadership pieces of their own that speak directly to the customers they’re looking to acquire.

Agencies looking to grow in 2015 will focus on attracting millennial talent and adapting their customer acquisition approach to better cater to younger, tech-savvy customers and their insurance needs.

Cyber Liability Surge

The increasing reliance on the Internet has resulted in a growing need for online protection in the form of cyber liability. Once considered a “specialty” form of insurance relevant only to the biggest agencies and wholesalers, cyber insurance is rapidly becoming more commonplace in mainstream America and consequently the average agency that services that business.

According to a recent study completed by Aite Group, “How Independent P&C Insurance Agencies Are Thriving in Today’s Competitive Marketplace,” cyber- liability insurance is emerging as an effective growth strategy among fast-growing agencies. In fact, 50% of agencies reported an increase in sales for this type of coverage over the last 24 months, and 44% of all agencies have diversified into new coverage and product types like cyber liability and identity theft protection—strategic product lines that provide more opportunity to deliver value.

In 2015, Vertafore expects cyber liability insurance will be the biggest growth area for independent agents selling commercial lines of insurance.

The fundamental tenets of business for independent agents still apply, but the technologies made available to modern agents have greatly expanded. To what degree agents leverage these tools will continue to separate the best from the rest. Drawing from the insurance technology hits and misses over the last 12 months, agents now have the foundation to capitalize on the latest advances in social, analytics and mobile in order to improve customer engagement and inform critical business decisions. Fast-growing agencies in 2015 will be those who rid themselves of inefficient legacy infrastructure and outdated processes, instead opting to embrace evolving market conditions to provide more value to their customers.

Bruce Winterburn is vice president of industry relations at Vertafore. – See more at: http://www.iamagazine.com/viewpoints/read/2015/01/09/top-3-tech-trends-to-watch-in-2015#sthash.zFnmtvgk.dpuf

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