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Insurance Develops a New Digital Path to Purchase

Face-to-face interactions still important for buying complex products

October 28, 2013

Even as the US economy continues to improve, consumers remain price-sensitive when it comes to buying property and casualty (P&C) and life insurance. With insurers and aggregators making their digital properties more intuitive, it is easier than ever for consumers to conduct research, compare quotes and even buy insurance entirely through digital channels, according to a new eMarketer report, “Digital Insurance Trends: Reshaping the Insurance Path to Purchase and Beyond.”

Insurance is a relatively complex product for potential buyers to understand. Digital channels are now an integral part of how consumers research and get insurance quotes, but the process remains a multifaceted journey, where traditional sources like agents and call centers are valuable.

Data from CEB TowerGroup Insurance provides a comprehensive overview of insurance customers’ channel preferences while conducting a variety of activities. In 2013, the research and consulting firm found that when it came to using insurance products or researching new ones, the highest number of customers preferred to do so online. However, for purchasing new insurance products and receiving customer support, respondents preferred more traditional channels such as phone calls or a face-to-face meeting with an agent. And although many insurers have released mobile apps to support these activities, mobile so far was only the preferred channel for a small percentage of customers.

Preferred Channel for Performing Insurance-Related Activities According to US Insurance Customers, 2013 (% of respondents)

A Capgemini study found that for both life and nonlife insurance lines, consumers preferred using digital channels (web and mobile) over offline or physical channels (agents, brokers and banks) to compare policies and services, access information and find the best price. Nevertheless, offline channels were strongly preferred for activities that helped consumers gain trust in their insurer, such as answering questions, receiving quality advice and providing convenience.

Life Insurance Customers Worldwide Who Prefer Physical* vs. Digital** Channels for Performing Insurance-Related Activities, 2012 (% of respondents)

Amir Weiss, vice president of global Ebusiness and digital marketing at national multiline insurer MetLife, said that for life insurance in particular, “What we see is there is a big underserved market that is not necessarily being pursued by the traditional agency channel, meaning the affiliated or the direct agency channel.

“Sometimes, people who have simpler product needs and perhaps lower levels of insurance needs are turning to the digital channel, because it’s a source that provides them with a lot of the information they’re looking for and it’s easily accessible to them. More complex needs are often better met by the face-to-face channel,” Weiss said.

The full report, “Digital Insurance Trends: Reshaping the Insurance Path to Purchase and Beyond,” also answers these key questions:

  • How are digital channels factoring into the P&C and life insurance path to purchase for consumers?
  • What digital marketing channels and tactics are insurers using to attract customers and keep them loyal?
  • How are other distribution networks, such as agents, leveraging digital to enhance the role they play in marketing and selling insurance?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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