Most of Canada's largest life insurance companies are doing a poor job of helping consumers get adequate information online about life insurance and helping them locate a financial advisor, according to Toronto-based Forrester Research Inc.'s 2016 Canadian Life Insurance Digital Sales Functionality Benchmark.
Toronto-based Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada earned the top score of 75 out of 100 in the inaugural study, which evaluated the public websites of four Canadian life insurance carriers: Kingston, Ont.-based Empire Life Insurance Co., Winnipeg-based Great-West Life Assurance Co. (GWL), Toronto-based Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. (Manulife), and Sun Life, as well as Toronto-based Kanetix Ltd., an online insurance aggregation site.
However, the study concluded that all companies have work to do to improve their websites as those reviewed received an average score of 47 out of 100.
"Most of the firms we evaluated did a good job of catching the attention of life insurance prospects but did poorly when it came to converting that attention into a sale, whether direct to the buyer or through an advisor," Forrester's report says.
For example, Forrester found that most of the insurers' websites fell short in terms of tools to connect clients with local advisors. The study found that Sun Life had the most comprehensive advisor locator tool, featuring location-filtering options and detailed advisor profiles. The other insurers' tools, however, were found to be inadequate.
This is concerning, according to Forrester, given that advisors represent the most popular channel among Canadians to purchase life insurance. A recent Forrester survey revealed that 33% of Canadian adults who had purchased life insurance in the past 12 months had met with an advisor and 26% said they had talked to an advisor by phone.
Improving advisor locator tools could translate into more sales, the report notes, but adds that in order for these tools to be effective, insurers must do a better job of collecting information about the prospective client and the types of products and services they are interested in so that insurers can identify the advisor who is most likely to close the sale.
"For an industry that has lived by the old saying that life insurance is sold, not bought, many life insurance sellers have to do some heavy lifting to send better-qualified leads to advisors, get advisor responses to customers faster, and enable sales through their advisors," the report says.
Other areas for improvement include information and tools for helping clients determine what type of coverage — and how much — is appropriate for them as well as making it as easy as possible for consumers to get a quote and fill out an insurance application.
Kanetix earned the second-highest score in the study, at 67, followed by Empire Life at 46 and Manulife at 37. GWL earned the lowest score, at 11. However, GWL has launched a new website since the evaluation was conducted, with many new tools and features.
Although Canadians still rely heavily on advisors to purchase life insurance, Forrester's research shows that consumers are using digital ‘touchpoints' increasingly to research their options before making a purchasing decision. As a result, it's vital for insurers to make their websites as functional and user-friendly as possible.
"It is crucial that life insurance carriers and sellers address the cross-touchpoint shopping behaviour that now exists in the Canadian life insurance market," the report says.
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