Product Solutions
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  • July 2023
  • 7 minutes

Thinking about the Unthinkable: Key strategies for selling digital critical illness products

  • Neil Parkin
  • Charlie Mathews
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In Brief
Discover how carriers can overcome digital CI sales challenges and connect with new consumer markets through customized messages about the personal and financial impact of critical illnesses.

Because half of all policy sales are now non-advised, analysts believe the real problem with CI sales is due to an incompatibility with current non-advised and digital models. What is behind this gap in the market for digital CI?

Factors impacting the lag in digital CI products

  • Complexity: Heart attack, stroke, paralysis, blindness – the list of covered conditions can be lengthy and include conditions unfamiliar to consumers, or conditions they do not feel are relevant to them. 

  • Exclusions: Without advisors, people may feel overwhelmed or confused by policy exclusions. 

  • Positioning: Again, without an advisor or broker, comparing CI plans is difficult for individual consumers. Should they opt for a standalone CI policy or a rider to a traditional life plan? Should they seek out a broad CI option or a cancer-only product? What about price?

  • Awareness: In the global market, our industry is still struggling with general awareness about CI plans, which offer added financial protection outside of health and life plans. Selling a solution is infinitely more difficult when your audience is not aware of the problem. 

  • Customer risk perception: Although hard to believe, consumers may be more comfortable considering the impact of their death than the realities of a debilitating illness or disease. Behavioral scientists tell us this “It won’t happen to me” mindset is a psychological defense against the anxiety and stress of planning for an uncomfortable prospect like a critical illness. 

With these significant hurdles – and the absence of an advisor who can ask questions that highlight the need for CI coverage – how can carriers creatively craft and market CI products for specific demographics? Here are lessons learned from recent case studies. 

Sharing the wider impact of critical illness

CI policies are sometimes known as “dread disease” policies for a reason: Consumers do not want to think about cancer, a heart attack, or any other debilitating conditions that might befall them and bring significant costs. One way to respond is to offer value-added services that go beyond the lump sum payment at the heart of a CI policy. 

Aynjil is a South African cancer insurance provider that launched in 2021. Beyond a benefit payout, Aynjil offers a host of services that follow a patient through his or her cancer journey, including complimentary transport to treatments, childcare and tutoring, and counseling with clinical professionals to address the mental health impact of a cancer diagnosis. 

Taken together, these additional offerings make the value of the CI product more real for customers. People may not want to think about the physical discomfort of cancer, but they can consider and appreciate Aynjil’s holistic focus on the wider financial and familial impact of a diagnosis. 

Learn more about the opportunities and challenges of selling critical illness insurance digitally in this presentation from the RGA Critical Illness and Supplemental Insurance Conference.

Support for coverage decisions 

Even if customers inquire about CI policies, the next step remains a challenge: Figuring out how much coverage to buy. 

Canadian digital insurer PolicyMe leads with transparency. PolicyMe customers enter their details and immediately receive the projected amount of CI insurance they will need. If PolicyMe’s evaluation determines a customer does not currently need CI, they clearly state that fact. 

While the underwriting process is more extensive than a provider like Aynjil (20 minutes for a typical PolicyMe application versus three minutes for Aynjil), the coverage is likewise more comprehensive. With more than 40 conditions covered, PolicyMe offers the most CI coverage in Canada – and its customers have proven willing to pay more for that expanded coverage promise. 

TikTok, influencers, and the importance of marketing

To retain CI customers, effective marketing can introduce and reinforce the value of the CI product. Aynjil used its Instagram account to share candid messages from cancer survivors and physicians about the hidden costs of cancer and the importance of financial protection. These influencer testimonials carry a powerful message of personal experience that resonates with prospective and current customers. 

Aynjil prominently shares its five-star Google reviews, showing positive customer feedback on its application and claims processes. It also hosts an online community that supports CI customers starting their cancer journeys. 

PolicyMe dove into TikTok, where its millennial customer base spends significant time each day. Their humorous videos, memes, and songs communicate the need for life insurance, explain policy concepts, and emphasize the ease of digital life and CI insurance policies.

Plan V, a U.K.-based cancer CI product, uses powerful women-focused imagery and graphics to target its micro-segment of millennial women aged 25-29. Its roster of social media influencers includes a finance coach, a confidence coach, and a woman who battled cancer at the age of 31 and whose friends crowdfunded so that she could remain in her apartment. 

Lessons learned

The success of CI providers like the ones described above demonstrate the potential for digital CI. Lessons learned from these case studies include the following: 

  • Invest time and resources to understand your target market and design products to meet their specific needs.

  • Clearly and creatively communicate the personal and financial hardships of CI to awaken the need for coverage. 

  • Design a digital customer journey that helps people understand their coverage needs. 

  • Remember that digital is not solely a direct-to-consumer channel; brokers and advisors can use digital tools to make traditional sales. 

  • Support your sales and prevent lapsation with engaging marketing throughout (and especially after) a customer’s purchase. 

Selling digital CI to the public is not easy. But with the right approach and execution, digital products offer a significant opportunity in the CI market. 

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Meet the Authors & Experts

Neil Parkin
Neil Parkin
Head of Business Development, RGA South Africa
Charlie Mathews
Market Development Director (former)