We live in a dynamic, rapidly changing world.
In the past 20 years alone, progress and innovation have dramatically transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, reporter Mark Abadi at Business Insider writes. Advancing technology and scientific breakthroughs are just a couple of examples. Other changes, such as global warming and enormous population shifts, are also impacting us all.
It’s the job of independent agents to keep up. Staying abreast of what’s happening is what enables you to provide your customers with the coverage they need.
Here are five particular insurance trends independent agents should be aware of in 2019.
A Burgeoning Cyber Insurance Market
Cyberattacks and data breaches have become an unpleasant norm in recent years. There were 765 million in just three months last year alone, tech reporter Mike Snider writes. In 2018, billions of people were affected and tens of millions of dollars lost due to data breaches and cyberattacks.
Small businesses tend to be easy targets. Lacking the formal IT department of major enterprises, they account for 43 percent of all cyberattacks, journalist Joshua Sophy at Small Business Trends writes.
Unsurprisingly, there’s been a spike in the number of people taking out cyber insurance policies. Sales have been increasing by about 25 percent a year, explains the team at payment technology news source PYMNTS. With cyberattacks and data breaches becoming more common, it makes sense that cyber insurance is a type of coverage that independent agents should offer.
There are two main types of cyber insurance — business and personal, explains associate features editor at PCMag, Rob Marvin. Basic coverage for businesses covers things like paying for the cost of breach notifications, restoring and recreating lost data and credit monitoring services. As for personal coverage, customers may receive income protection and expense reimbursement when recovering their identity. It can also cover the legal costs when they take action against cyber criminals.
Cyber insurance really runs the gamut, so it’s important for agents to have a firm grasp on their customer demographic and understand their unique needs. Offering comprehensive coverage based on those needs will be critical as we move further into the 21st century.
The Rise of Insurtech
Speaking of technology, insurtech is poised to experience major growth in 2019. “Insurtech refers to the use of technology innovations designed to squeeze out savings and efficiency from the current insurance industry model,” writes associate editor at Investopedia, Jake Frankenfield.
Insurtech also has the potential to create a better customer experience, simplify policy management and make the companies implementing it more competitive, adds the Insureon team.
While insurtech has been bubbling for the past few years, many experts believe that it will come to a full boil this year. One example is the rise of the chatbot. This is a type of technology that’s quickly advancing and provides insurance customers with answers to their questions 24/7.
Insurance chatbot provider Friendly Agent Bot explains that it can be used for answering basic questions and guiding customers to genuinely helpful information. But it can also turn the conversation over to a human being if the customer would prefer. This means a higher level of customer service and the ability for independent agents to accomplish much more with less effort.
Insurtech has many other practical applications. The Insurance Information Institute notes how front-end insurtech can be used to help customers connect with local agents and perform quick comparisons on different policies. Another example is using artificial intelligence and behavioral economics to expedite the process of filling out online applications and filing claims.
We’re even at the point where autonomous commercial drones can be used to collect high-resolution images for inspecting claims, underwriting and loss prevention. The possibilities are truly endless.
While some agents may feel threatened by insurtech — viewing it as a disruptive technology that can put them out of business — it can actually help transform the insurance business and be a tremendous asset when used correctly.
Insurance for Gig Workers
With the advent of freelancers, independent contractors and gig workers in today’s economy, your customers may be looking for coverage outside of that typically offered by an employer.
“The term ‘gig economy’ refers to a general workforce environment in which short-term engagements, temporary contracts and independent contracting is commonplace,” digital marketing strategist Angela Stringfellow writes. “It’s also referred to as the ‘freelancer economy,’ ‘agile workforce,’ ‘sharing economy’ or independent workforce.”
Gig workers account for a considerable portion of the overall workforce. Approximately 57 million people (or 36 percent of US workers) are now part of the gig economy, says Forbes consumer tech contributor TJ McCue. And this has created some challenges from an insurance perspective. After all, how do you insure people who aren’t employed by traditional companies as full-time workers?
Senior economics writer at CNN, Lydia DePillis gives the example of a freelancer with her own web design business. In a period of one month, she got strep throat three times and lost her two biggest clients — all as the recession worsened. Had she been with her previous employer, she would have had a safety net and been able to go on disability or receive unemployment insurance. But as a gig worker, she didn’t have that luxury. She ended up needing her mother’s help to cover the cost of medications and burned through her retirement money to make it through.
This is just one example of the gap between the coverage gig workers currently have and what they need. There’s a big demand for policies geared specifically for the freelance workforce and a huge opportunity for independent agents that can offer it.
So how exactly can you fill this gap? Many insurance companies are now including more add-on options, Patricia M. Moore at insurance payments processor One Inc writes. For instance, a person working as a rideshare driver for Uber or Lyft could obtain additional commercial coverage as an add-on for their standard personal auto policy.
Customers Finding Agents Through Voice Search
We’ve also seen a shift in the methods customers use to find insurance agents.
“The rapid adoption of smart devices powered by manufacturers like Google and Amazon are compelling consumers to speak to robots about their needs from their homes and offices and on the go,” says insurance tech expert Jason Walker. “Insurance is no exception.”
Voice search is particularly popular among younger people. Digital marketing expert Hristina Nikolovska says over 35 percent of millennials used voice search in 2018, and that number should increase to nearly 40 percent in 2019.
When a potential customer says, “Hey Alexa. Find an insurance agent near me,” you want be one suggested. So it’s important that independent agents optimize for voice search. SEO specialist Sherry Bonelli outlines a few methods for doing this. Her recommendations include:
- Claim your Google My Business listing. This increases your exposure on Google, making it easier to be found on voice search.
- Insert conversational keywords into your website’s content. For example, you might want to base a blog post around “what does renters insurance cover,” as this is how people typically format voice search queries.
- Create a robust FAQ section on your website. Offering succinct answers to common questions also improves your search engine optimization.
A Growing Demand for Natural Disaster Coverage
The number of weather-related natural disasters has been rising steadily in the past decades. Major storms, floods, landslides, extreme temperatures, droughts and forest fires have all become more frequent. This means that properties including homes, condos and commercial businesses are more susceptible to damage. The problem is that current insurance policies that many people have are insufficient for covering the threats they’re facing.
For instance, basic homeowners insurance covers ordinary damage such as burst pipes or water damage from a broken washing machine. But it doesn’t cover damages that stem from rising water due to flooding. Even homeowners living in flood prone areas aren’t covered, according to Frank Addessi at The Simple Dollar.
The same is true for business owners. Nationwide Insurance notes that commercial property insurance provides coverage for burst pipes, fires, theft and vandalism. But it doesn’t usually cover earthquakes and flooding.
What’s the solution? Independent agents should look to add policies specifically for natural disasters. Flood insurance is a good place to start and especially makes sense for agents located in flood prone areas.
Earthquake insurance is also worth exploring. ValuePenguin reports tens of thousands of earthquakes occur nationwide every year, with some 42 states at risk. Earthquake insurance covers damage to homes and personal belongings as well as living expenses when a home is unlivable or being repaired. Coverage can either be added to an existing homeowners policy or purchased separately.
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