In a recent article in Harvard Business Review Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani discussed the importance of creating a personalized online shopping experience. Rakuten is the third largest online seller after Amazon and eBay, and they really focus on customer service and interaction rather than just speed and convenience.
McKinsey recently drew parallels from the insurance agency market to the travel industry, where agents are becoming disintermediated. Mikitani makes a good point that travel sites (Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, etc.) could benefit significantly if they figured out how to also offer the personal experience that the boutique travel agencies offered. We agree.
Mikitani touched on a lot of ideas that we think parallel the Bolt Platform approach of “high tech, high touch” to the online insurance buying process.
- Not all sales are social sales. Friends (online and offline) don’t have all the power in making online purchase decisions. For example, if you were buying a high end guitar you are likeier rely on staff in a boutique than an online review. Another good example of this is Apple store employees.
- There is a need to provide personal service on top of the hyper efficient shopping and standardized offering compared side by side.
- Personal service and a relationship with the seller over time can be key. Design, passion and the “story” of the producer is often more important than price. Consumers are likely to spend more money when they have a personal connection and receive superior service from the seller.
The “high tech, high touch” style of the Bolt Platform includes live chat and licensed agents available at extended hours. Many of the proposed online models for selling insurance forget that human interaction and building relationships is crucial to the buying process, particularly in commercial lines insurance. While speed, efficiency, and convenience are key components to having an online offering, we believe the ability to have a personalized relationship with a shopper is what will keep them happy and coming back.