The future role of digital marketing

| 26 May 2022

Video edited by Azri Bahari

Over the last few years, digital marketing and e-commerce have gained traction and have reshaped how life insurance is purchased. We spoke to Aditya Satpute, CVP - E-commerce & Digital Marketing, Max Life Insurance to find out more about how this is likely to play out over the next few years.

According to Mr Satpute, life insurance in India predominantly has been sold to consumers either through a bank or through an agent. The emergence of digital marketing and e-commerce has changed the dynamics and consumers are now willing to buy the policy online by themselves and not remain dependent on an agent.

He also mentioned how the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this change over the last two years and pointed to how online sales of the protection business have grown up to 50% CAGR during that period, with the widespread adoption of several digital channels, including UPI.

“Several players in the private life insurance segment have shown significant growth in e-commerce sales, and many companies are actually adopting digital in a very significant way as this is now becoming one of the mainstream businesses” he said.

The pillars of digital marketing

Mr Satpute highlighted a few main methods by which insurers are building their digital capabilities - the first is innovation.

“Today, companies are actually investing to understand the online consumer and are building specific products, features that appeal to the online consumer” he said. For example, when the pandemic hit India, Max Life launched a unique product specifically to provide COVID-19 coverage. It also introduced a premium holiday feature to take care of job loss scenarios.

“We focused on building price in a manner that it is affordable to the online consumer and we also invested in building trust with the user” said Mr Satpute. “We want to build and quantify trust, and we do that through our claims paid ratio. This number is published every year and the claims ratio is a great testimony of the trust customers place in us to support them in unforeseen and challenging times.”

He said Max Life currently has a claims paid ratio of 99.35% – one of the highest in the industry –which gives enough confidence to consumers to make a good purchase decision.

Processes and tech make up another pillar. Max Life aims to create a seamless consumer experience on its platform and all partner platforms by integrating KYC through Aadhaar and the Central KYC registry.

The insurer has also taken several steps to use digital verification and validation to make it easier for consumers to make a purchase online without any manual paperwork and with minimal document approval.

There is also data, which has become absolutely essential in the digital world. Mr Satpute said Max Life gathers data and enriches it with the digital footprints of its customers to create several personas for shopper targeting, reaching consumers in a personalised manner for better conversion and experience.

Digital channels

The last few years have also seen many different channels emerge – particularly online aggregators and social media.

According to Mr Satpute, Max Life works closely with India’s largest aggregators and has also been focused on its own website, investing heavily in SEO to improve its position in both the protection and savings business.

He also shed some light on the insurer’s social media strategy where it uses each social media platform for a specific purpose. “We have a dedicated team that looks at building our expertise in social media. In fact, we have different strategies for different platforms” he said.

“With Facebook, which is more a mass platform, we do shopper targeting for unique solutions and customised offerings. We use Instagram for lifestyle-related conversations, LinkedIn for employer brand as well as for reaching out to professionals and Twitter for engagement at mass levels when it comes to performance marketing.”

He added that social media has become an important avenue of engagement with consumers to gather consumer insights, and Max Life is also building a capability to allow transactions to be initiated and completed on social media.

Changing transaction trends

Life insurance being a complex product, consumers have typically required assistance from agents and most insurers, aggregators have tele-assistance available to facilitate this.

However, Mr Satpute noted that post-pandemic 30% of online transactions have taken place after 9pm.

“What we’ve noticed is when the customer purchased the product after 9pm, he's not expecting any assistance. This means the journey and the transactions have to be further shaped to make it easier for the customer to buy the product unassisted” he said.

“We use bots for assisting the customer and we are actually building the [capability for] the customer to buy the product on the bot platform”

Payments are also evolving, and Max Life utilises a seamless payment gateway that provides multiple payment options to its consumers, including UPI that has helped to minimise payment failures.

The insurer has also enabled buy-now-pay-later features that address the most pressing needs of customers.

He also touched on how different online distribution channels will begin to co-exist, including the brand website, online aggregators and FinTech/HealthTech platforms, enabling multiple touchpoints for the consumers.

Staying fresh

Mr Satpute also highlighted several things Max Life is doing to make sure it stays up to date with new trends, consumers and technology.

To make itself more attractive to younger consumers, Max Life has invested heavily into understanding what the consumer wanted.

“Many potential online consumers actually want protection, but are otherwise sold savings. Tech savvy, millennial customers actually prefer comparing policies online and making informed decisions. We enable this by being present on aggregator platforms, writing content that is relevant for the consumer during the research journey thus making it easier for them to make the purchase online” he said.

In terms of finding the right digital model, he said the company pays close attention to its peers in India as well as global brands to see which have worked and which have not.

He also brought up how the company is building a digital mindset and a culture of innovation across the entire organisation, thinking digital-first to solve any consumer problem.

He added that it is also crucial to be quick and agile to keep up with new innovations. To that end, Max Life has set up innovation labs with several tech start-ups.

The digital impact extends to recruitment as well. “The entire process of even recruiting an agent today is completely online including - shortlisting, interviewing, finalising the candidature as well as the training and induction” he said.

Looking ahead

Moving forward, Mr Satpute said that e-commerce and digital marketing will remain important channels for Max Life. Currently, 18% of new customers come from these channels, he said.

“This channel actually has been growing at 50% CAGR over the last four years, and we have a 30% share in online platforms for protection, which means that one in three consumers that buy an online protection plan actually buy it from Max Life” he said.

“We now want to replicate this on savings and provide unique offerings to customers in the form of guaranteed return plans, marketing offerings, annuity as well as retirement solutions”

At the same time, the company will also continue to develop its own proprietary website which currently contributes 35% to its online business.

Tech also remains a core part of the company’s strategy as it continues to develop API solutions for its partners and develop partnerships with tech players such as FinTechs, HealthTechs and Neobanks to cater and provide unique offerings to Gen Z customers.

“The emerging Fintech partnership vertical contributes about 10% to overall e-commerce business today and over the next 3-4 years, is expected to cross 20% share” he said. While Max Life expects the online industry to grow by 25% to 30% over the next few years, the company is working to grow its online business by 50% within that timeframe.