In Europe and around the world, there is hope that life will return to normal this year. But while people may start working, visiting and traveling as before, the way we buy insurance – and indeed what we want from our insurers – will never be the same.
How can we be sure? Because we asked people. In the summer of 2020, Accenture surveyed 23,400 European consumers in 15 countries – part of a global survey of more than 47,000 consumers. Many of the behavioral changes we noticed then accelerated as restrictions persisted.
The results of the survey are striking. They show that COVID-19 has caused a sudden shift in consumer expectations and demands from insurers, which would otherwise take decades to realize. Four of these findings are particularly noteworthy.
1. Digital involvement is rising
European consumers’ use of digital channels to talk to their insurer has increased over the past two years (although still lower than their peers elsewhere, as the chart shows): 56 percent interact with their insurer via online mobile channels at least once a year, compared to just 32 percent in 2018.
Just over a quarter of European consumers (26 percent) connect with their insurer at least once a month in this way, compared to just 11 percent in 2018.
Despite the rapid increase, Europe is keeping up with the world in digital usage. Indeed, 39 percent of North American consumers engage their insurer at least once a month via mobile channels, as do 45 percent of consumers in Asia-Pacific, 54 percent in Brazil and 56 percent in the Middle East. The figures for consumers who have used these channels at least once a year are higher than the chart shows.
This raises an important question. Is the increase in digital recording a short-term deviation caused by the unique circumstances of lockouts? After all, the survey was done when consumers in different grades were confined to their homes and experimented with digital channels for everyday purposes.
We do not think. While some consumers may return to more traditional methods of engagement, the majority will persevere with the digital behaviors to which they have become accustomed in recent months. And why would they not? Two-thirds of European consumers say they are satisfied with online mobile channels, while only 5 percent are dissatisfied.
2. Value for money rises on the agenda
Value for money today is the most important factor for consumers when dealing with banks and insurers; in 2018 it was in fifth place. The unequivocal economic climate explains why customers have become more cost-conscious, but that does not mean that price alone is the solution to retain existing business and win new policyholders.
By offering solutions that are simple, convenient and, importantly, tailored to each user’s personal circumstances, insurers can create a great impression. Indeed, the ability to manage accounts in a way that suits the customer is the second most important factor that consumers mention when dealing with financial services businesses.
Of course, many insurers are already doing this. The key is to marry these services at a competitive price.
3. Personality is crucial
European consumers’ appetite for personalized services rose during the pandemic. Take car insurance: 76 percent were interested in car insurance that connects premiums to safe driving, compared to 54 percent two years earlier. In addition, 70 percent of Europeans are interested in pay-as-you-drive car insurance; it is higher than 52 percent.
We also found that more European consumers want personalized life insurance – 58 per cent are interested in life insurance where premiums are linked to a healthy lifestyle, compared to 40 per cent in 2018.
This cry for personalized insurance is due in part to a desire for lower prices. However, consumers may also feel that changing their management and a healthier lifestyle should be a way to lower premiums. It also reflects the fact that COVID-19 has encouraged many people to drive less and lead healthier lifestyles – and they want their insurance to reflect that.
4. The protection of digital home infrastructure is of utmost importance
With the barrier forcing the entire population to work, socialize and shop at home, European consumers have become extremely dependent on the IT infrastructure – which is mostly computer, Wi-Fi and online accounts – that makes this possible.
It has made many people think for the first time about protecting their digital infrastructure. What is important is that they are willing to seek advice from their insurer: 74 percent of European consumers will be interested in dealing with cyber security threats if offered by their bank or insurer, while 45 percent are interested in cyber security insurance for their house where premiums are offered. has been linked to the use of the latest virus protection software.
Some insurers have already started offering this type of assistance, and our survey shows that it will be well received. It is also unlikely that consumers will become more relaxed about protecting their digital infrastructure when the pandemic subsides – 51 percent of those who can work from home plan to do so more frequently after COVID-19.
In other words, our survey shows that consumers have adapted very quickly to these unprecedented circumstances. To meet their new expectations, insurers will also need to move quickly.