I am a marketing director in the travel and health technology space. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the International Travel Insurance Conference in New Orleans. The topic involved different aspects of technology and how it can be employed by travel insurers and assistance companies. I shared the stage with Beth Godlin from Aon Affinity Travel Practice and Patrick Hrusa from Allianz Partners. My part focused on the modern distribution pipeline, including a distribution channel analysis:
How are current innovations affecting our industry? How can we utilize technology to stay relevant? What digital marketing strategies can we adopt to manage our evolving channels?
Have a look at our beautifully designed presentation on Slide Share (shout-out to Sylvie Gosselin, our senior graphic designer, and Justin Lee, our development team lead).
Hey Google, I need travel insurance.
Right now you can use your smart speaker, a Google Home or an Alexa for daily things such as switching on your lights, playing music or setting a timer while you are cooking. You can do all of that without ever looking at your phone. Smart speakers become more skilled every day, and I encourage you to challenge yourself and your smart speaker!
What does that mean for travel insurance today? I can ask Google general travel insurance questions to gain knowledge: What is a pre-existing condition, or: Does travel insurance cover high-risk activities? So if you are having a conversation with someone and you both don‘t know the answer to something, you can ask Google without having to look at your phone. Technology has truly integrated itself into our lives.
Google Home and Alexa differ in the sense that you can train Google to recognize a brand while with Alexa you need to activate a skill. This allows for a more seamless experience with Google, but Alexa is ahead when it comes to connecting with other applications. There are a few travel insurance apps out there at the moment that integrate with Alexa. If you activate the app through your smart speaker, you can play travel insurance trivia or find out more information about your benefits.
As of right now, no insurance company has offered a third-party skill/app to purchase insurance and you cannot natively buy it through Google/Amazon commands. However, insurance transactions would be a natural progression. Google already knows everything about you. It has your payment information as well as any personal information, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that it could one day go ahead and purchase your travel insurance.
Smart speakers have the potential to disrupt our entire shopping experience. They are only in their infancy, but sales have already shot through the roof. They could become a distribution channel for all of us.
Modern technology builds partnerships around the world.
Smart speakers are just one of the many potential distribution methods that are available and constantly evolving. In order to take advantage of these new opportunities, we had to modernize our technology platform to be up-to-date, friendly and accessible. Like other companies, we based everything around a strong API. An API is an application programming interface, meaning it provides data in a nice little format that is easy for other developers to use. I like to see it as a messenger that runs back and forth between applications, databases and devices. It allows us and our partners to send and receive data.
What does that mean practically speaking? We saw it as an opportunity. For example, we observed that a lot of our administrators were manually entering information into a spreadsheet to purchase our insurance products. We helped them out by integrating with their system, which allowed them to issue insurance with one click of a button. It saved everyone a lot of time and costs.
So we know that our true value is working with our partners, increasing our distribution channels that way. By adopting an open strategy, we are able to sell our insurance products through different platforms. The API was the foundation of that. By modernizing our technology we were able to create opportunities around the world that we had not been able to do before.
One might ask, do we lose our brand in the process of selling through someone else? However, we believe the benefits outweigh the downsides. In the end we have not only increased our revenue, but we have also created a lot of value for our partners, which in return helps strengthen our brand.
By modernizing our infrastructure, it allowed us to take advantage of additional distribution channels. By integrating with different companies and service providers, it allowed us to increase our sales. In Q4 of 2017 over 80% of sales happened online. But it is not only about sales—our modern technology opened up other avenues too.
At the time when we were building the API, apps were becoming popular. So in addition to this transactional API, we also built a content API. It helped us facilitate building Travel Navigator, our travel risk mobile application. All the content within the mobile app pulls from our content API, so it allows us to easily distribute relevant and current content to users.
However, mobile apps are just another distribution channel. The real value lies in the content.
Honest content builds connections.
While it is important to have a solid technology platform, you need to be connected with your customer. Technology only gets you so far. You can have as many APIs as you want, but if you don‘t manage your brand and your message, you won‘t have the right online presence. In the end we are selling to human beings who need to be reached on an emotional level.
By producing the right content, we can reach our customers and educate them. The key is to be open, honest and authentic. It is important to reach them directly, for example in online reviews. We try to answer all our reviews, good and bad. You can‘t be silent, even in the face of criticism; you need to handle it straightforwardly and be very clear about your message.
Our content strategy is based on creating various types of content concentrated on one topic. If we are focusing on claims one month, we make sure to produce an article, a video, an infographic, or whatever else our resources allow. We basically spin one topic into various formats and then distribute those pieces through the right channels. In the end, no matter the topic, the goal is the same: we want to help people make better choices.
We use modern technology to reach people. However, you shouldn’t dismiss past channels such as print. We are still using them today, so don’t neglect them. But we are modernizing our channels, because they evolve just like technology. You have to reach the customer, which means you have to go where the customer is. You need to follow them. We are using mobile apps today in our strategy, because that‘s where the customer is. If people are going towards Google Home, we had better be prepared and go there as well.
Companies back in the ’90s would rely 100% on phone sales. And we recognize that there still is a demographic that relies on the personal human aspect, which is why we have a call centre. Email is still a great way to reach people, and we are heavily using it.
Possibilities for distribution channels are endless, and it is up to us how to navigate it. We have so many tools available, and maybe smart speakers will be a lead generator in the near future. In the end you want to be open and sell your products in the broadest way possible and allow for partnerships to take you even further.
I look forward to continuing this conversation, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.