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The Role of Persuasion and Behavioral Economics in Insurance: How to Sell ‘Sprouts’

Jan 31, 2019, 21:09 PM
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Summary : As life insurance sales move from the adviser to online channels, are we forgetting the science of persuasion?
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It is easy to sell candy. Candy tastes nice. It is full of sugar that our body craves, and we have to use our willpower to stop ourselves from overindulging.

If you want to sell me more candy, you just need to make it easy to buy and hard to avoid. You can ensure the packaging is bright, bold and colorful so that it grabs my attention and makes it hard to ignore my cravings. You can place the candy by the supermarket checkout so that it tempts me while I’m waiting to be served.

It is much harder to sell sprouts. Although they are good for you, sprouts just do not taste good to many people. We will not sell many more sprouts just by making it easier to buy sprouts. Wrapping them in beautifully colored packaging and placing them by the supermarket checkout is unlikely to lead to a dramatic increase in sales. Few people would find themselves unable to resist impulse-buying a pack of sprouts.

It is both fortunate and unfortunate that selling life insurance is much more like selling sprouts than selling candy. Fortunately, like sprouts, life insurance is good for you. It protects families from losing their homes and livelihoods and enables people to leave a legacy to future generations. Unfortunately, for most people, life insurance does not taste good. We do not crave it, and we do not have to fight an impulse to stop buying more of it.

So why, when we are creating digital distribution channels, do we assume that selling life insurance has suddenly become like selling candy? All the focus is on making it as easy as possible to buy life insurance by reducing friction. This is undoubtedly important, but it is not the whole picture. Carriers focused solely on reducing friction continue to see disappointing digital sales figures.

Part of the reason is that we are looking to the wrong industries for inspiration. I have heard countless speakers at industry events talking about what we need to learn from businesses such as Amazon and Netflix. But Amazon and Netflix sell very different products than we do. I want to listen to music, read good books and watch great content – it tastes good. So just make it as easy as possible to do and as hard as possible to stop (Netflix’s auto start).

Persuasion is not reducing friction

People who build digital systems are very good at reducing an activity to its core. They can identify waste and unnecessary steps to such an extent that experiences become so simple they are almost frictionless. But there is a danger to this approach: What digital designers see as friction may actually be persuasion. What might seem unnecessary may actually be core.

Digital transformation is at the top of most carriers’ agendas. But as life insurance sales move from the adviser to online channels, are we forgetting the science of persuasion? RGA's Matt Battersby explores the issues in Insurance Thought Leadership. Contact RGA's research team to learn more about behavioral science, customer engagement and insurance. 

Knowledge Center Categories : Behavioral Economics
Knowledge Center Tags :
  • behavioral
  • behavioral economics
  • behavioral science
  • behavioral science application questions
  • behavioral science insurance
  • behavioral science morbidity
  • behavioral science mortality
  • crowdfunding platform
  • digital experience
  • digital insurance platform
  • friction
  • frictionless
  • life insurance
  • morbidity
  • mortality assumptions
  • persuasion
  • technologist
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