TECHNOLOGY

Mobile apps: a golden or poisoned chalice?

Antoine Hemon-Laurens, Mobile Consultant at GMC Software

Enterprise spending on apps shows no sign of abating. Gartner<http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3076817> recently predicted that by the end of 2017, market demand for mobile app development will grow at least five times faster than IT departments’ capacity to deliver. It’s easy to see why, as a result, digitalisation and mobile continue to dominate many insurers’ boardroom agendas. Mobile can have many benefits; from better customer engagement to increased efficiency. But is it always the best way forward?

Publicis Media<https://www.warc.com/LatestNews/News/One_in_four_Brits_deletes_apps_same_day.news?ID=37738> has found that one in four UK consumers delete apps after just one day’s use. Plenty of insurers have taken to mobile only to find that the consumer has no use for the app; instead only wanting to contact their insurer when making a claim or renewing a policy.

So is a mobile app right for you? Here are four key questions to ask before making the decision:

Is mobile actually appropriate for my customers?

Insurers must not assume that if they develop an app, every customer would want to use it. It might make things easier, but the wider digitalisation process isn’t about forcing every customer into one single channel. For example, there will always be a handful of customers who only want to deal with their insurer over the phone, and then only when absolutely necessary. This has to be respected, otherwise insurers risk alienating customers and encouraging them to take their business elsewhere.

It’s also worth considering if an app offers the right service. If it offers no benefits over the way consumers currently interact with their insurers, why bother to download and use it? Instead of trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, chasing whichever new trends are making headlines, the industry needs make mobile part of a seamless experience which has something for everybody. Mobile can have a big part to play in this experience, but only if it’s used appropriately.

What does my customer’s journey look like?

To understand whether a mobile app is appropriate, and how it could best help their customers, insurers must take a step back and map the customer’s entire journey. What touchpoints do they currently use, and what do they use them for? By understanding what the customer wants and what problems they commonly face, insurers can get to work ensuring a mobile app works to solve these issues.

For example, if a customer has a car accident, do they want to begin a claim immediately, when the details are still fresh and they can take pictures of the immediate aftermath? Or do they prefer to merely collect details at the scene and begin their claim later? And is their preference because of what they can do, or what they have to do? When thinking about developing an app, it is critical that the insurer knows what the customer needs at any point of their journey, to make sure the investment is money well spent.

Does the customer have a reason to use the app?

Regardless of the customer’s individual journey, the most important factor is that they must have a compelling reason to download and use an app. For instance, an app might make claiming in the wake of an accident easier. But how many customers will think to download the app taking up valuable storage, before they need it; and how many will want to take the time to download immediately after an accident? Instead, insurers should consider value added services that give the customer a reason to download and keep using the app.

A good example of this is VitalityHealth’s Apple Watch initiative<https://www.vitality.co.uk/rewards/partners/active-rewards/apple-watch/>. Policy holders receive an Apple Watch and earn ‘Vitality activity points’ depending on how much exercise they do; these points then determine how much money the customer pays for the watch every month. This initiative encourages Vitality customers to be more active, and at the same time gives the insurer a reason to regularly keep in touch with the user.

Providing value added services is no easy task, and can’t been done overnight. It is important to remember that no two customers are the same: just because some customers might enjoy the use of telematics in their car to reduce premiums, doesn’t mean everyone will. Services shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Am I capturing and using data correctly?

Once the insurer understands the needs of the customer, has mapped how an app can fit in with their customer journey, and has provided the value-added services that will encourage take-up, the ultimate success of a mobile app will come to down to how it uses and captures the customer’s data. This will become increasingly important as wearable technology becomes more widely adopted for insurance purposes. Our own research found that fifty six per cent of insurance customers would like their insurer to use technology, such as health monitors or connected cars, to provide a more accurate premium. This type of data will make it easier for the industry to personalise and map the consumer’s journey; whilst helping the insurer to provide a much better consumer experience.

As the demand for personalised policies increases, so will the need for apps; whether on a phone, in your car, or embedded in wearable technology. However, simply capturing data is not the end. Once the insurer has captured the data, they need to ensure it can be used correctly across the entire company, from reducing premiums to providing special offers and simply keeping in touch with customers. Without this sharing of data, insurers run the risk of disjointed or irrelevant messages to consumers, and confusion about what value any app might provide.

Have you got it right?

Insurers need to be ready for mobile, but also need to be accept that it won’t always be the best way to work. Some customers will see no reason for an app, while others will always prefer to use other communication channels first. However, once you’ve taken the time to map how your customers engage with you; thought about the types of value added services you could provide for them; and identified the relevant data that will make the app work for you and the customer, you will be in a good position to identify opportunities where a mobile app can give customers exactly what they need, when they need it.

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