In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
The migration of consumers to online channels is providing B2C companies with ample opportunity to gather and analyse data.
But what do you do when you are a B2B company that sells mostly through partners, and are a long way from having a regular online interaction with your eventual consumers?
It is a question that has been at the heart of the work of Aaron Fuller, head of data and digital for the Australian operations of the global insurance giant MetLife.
Headquartered in New York and with 66,000 employees spread around the world, MetLife provides a wide variety of life and general insurance products, and is the US’ largest provider of life insurance. In Australian MetLife’s activities are mostly restricted to life insurance, which it sells through 16 partners including Hostplus, and Coles.
Speaking at the Future of Customer Experience & Business Intelligence staged by FST Media in Melbourne last week, Fuller described how insurance had become essentially commoditised in the minds of buyers, who were unable to distinguish between products. As a result, the new battleground was the experience that customers had when purchasing and owning insurance products, he said.
“The companies from my point of view that are winning in this space are using digital and data to create an experience that is holistic and intuitive,” Fuller said. “The differentiator that is going to make a customer buy a product is the way in which you relate and make it meaningful to them.”
That presents challenges for a B2B brand such as MetLife, which lack access to first party data of their own.
“How we are making MetLife a powerhouse in Australia is by making digital services and digitally-enabled tools available to our partners, who are super funds or other businesses like Coles,” Fuller added.
As a consequence, the company views partnerships with the likes of Nine Entertainment Co’s data division Tipstone crucial, which sells user data from 14 million users across sites from Mi9 and Microsoft.
“If you are a company like MetLife with very little data of your own, you have to go and do partnerships with people with lots of data,” Fuller explained. “And you can do that through partners, or with people like TipStone. All these guys are opening up their data and monetising their own database to help you acquire and engage with your current asset base.”
Moving forward, Fuller saaid the plan for the insurance giant is to now turn that data into insight.
“I read a quote the other day that said we are in an insights arms race,” Fuller said. “Most companies have loads of data, but very few, if any, knows how to take all that data and turn it into action. So the future winners in this space will be the smartest ones, because if it is a price driven offering it’s a race to zero.”
In the spirit of digital disruption, numerous new insurance companies around the world have emerged to take a more data driven approach to their products and services. South African firm BrightRock for instance makes extensive use of analytics to customer policies for customers, while US-based Hi Oscar is another leader in this field.
For MetLife, one of the long term goals is to help customers overcome their apathy, with studies showing that while nine out of 10 Australians know they need to buy life insurance, only 1 out of 10 actually have an adequate amount required.
“It’s about value, and the value has to be throughout the entire experience,” Fuller concluded. “There is no simple solution.”
Altogether it provides life insurance to around 2.5 million Australians, but has little direct contact with them.
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