Financial Industry/

Why good product information management is essential to insurance sales

Insurance companies have been offering their products online for years, yet many struggle to present product information in a clear and compelling fashion.

In some way, this is specific to insurers, with their variety of products and the amount of unique subject knowledge they need to impart to their audience. But when insurance information is presented in a way that makes sense to the customer, the sales process becomes more effective.

So, how can insurance companies structure their information in a user-friendly way? To answer this question, we’ll first take a look at the challenges inherent in communicating about insurance products online. Then we’ll talk about a solution.

Why is communicating about insurance products so hard?

Unlike tangible goods, insurance products aren’t something we can pick up and hold. And they’re not always easy to describe. In fact, an insurance plan is more like a promise of future help – and it’s something that the person who buys it hopes they never have to use. Nobody in their right mind wants an accident, robbery, or sickness to happen, even if they have a generous insurance plan in place.

There are other reasons that the information architecture behind insurance portals rather difficult. These are:

A rich, versatile product portfolio

The range of products offered by the insurer – and the number of categories they fit into – can be confusing to site visitors. Insurance products can be categorized in many ways:

  • Life insurance/assurance and property insurance are both purchased by private individuals, but both are legally very different. In some places, the law requires that these types of insurance be offered by formally distinct entities.
  • Similar insurance products can be quite different for individual clients and companies, including some fine divisions into various professional groups and industry sectors.
  • Individual and group insurance, i.e. for health insurance, are sold quite separately.
  • Some insurances can be either mandatory or voluntary, depending on who is using them (e.g. third-party liability insurance for drivers).

The sales processes for each of these categories can vary; there is a world of difference between selling inexpensive and quick products (e.g. travel insurance) and selling long-term life insurance/assurance covers with a regular premium.

Finally, insurance companies also offer products that the average consumer doesn’t think of as insurance, such as investment products like mutual funds.

So, under the insurance umbrella, a versatile and comprehensive range of products is being offered.

Large amounts of information

Insurers usually present a lot of information to a potential customer. This can be because of company policy or legal requirement, but the result is the same. Insurance companies need to be clear about:

  • Who the product is for,
  • What is covered by the policy,
  • Whether this product has variants,
  • Any applicable extensions or limitations to the coverage,
  • What benefits go with the coverage,
  • Frequently asked questions (Q&A/FAQs),
  • General insurance terms and conditions,
  • What documents are needed for this product,
  • Any associated, alternative, or complementary products.

Moreover, the nature of information related to investment products is different (e.g. unit performance, level of risk, information prospectus, minimum payments, preparation costs, etc.).

Dealing with intermediaries

Another problem insurers face is presenting their product range to intermediaries, such as independent insurance agents. On one hand, effective communication on the insurer’s part means agents can better understand the market, the products, and the specifics of the insurer’s services. On the other hand, a non-exclusive agent usually deals with many insurance companies and their products; it can be difficult for insurers to build awareness in such a competitive environment.

Insurers cooperate with numerous intermediary people: brokers, multi-agencies, banks, car dealers, and travel agents. Streamlining communication with intermediary companies is a necessity, as their share in insurance sales is continuously increasing.

Can users find their way through the information maze?

To sum up: insurers must successfully present and enormous amount of information, some of it very complex. This poses a serious challenge to online sales. It is very easy for the user – be it an individual customer or a business partner – to get lost in the portal, never to find the right offer.

Managing such large amounts of marketing, descriptive, and obligatory content requires an array of tools and processes. This is exactly the job for Product Information Management systems (PIM).

What does a Product Information Management system do?

PIM systems are responsible for a number of processes related to product information management, including:

  • Consolidating product information in one place, i.e. a single source of product truth.
  • Product search and filter operations.
  • Data enrichment tools, e.g. diagrams, images, infographics, films, and visuals.
  • Verifying and ensuring the completeness of product data on the site and in formal attachments (such as cover forms).
  • Categorizing products (often on multiple levels) and choosing the correct marking, signposting, and tagging to guide users.
  • Presenting product hierarchies and relationships, including alternative, variant, and associated products.
  • Providing a platform for online training courses, particularly obligatory training courses for distributors (where needed).
  • Supporting different language versions and translation processes (where needed).
  • Automating the export of product data to channel systems (internal and external).

The architecture of product information flow

Managing insurers’ product ranges and product information is a complex undertaking. What’s the best way to approach it? First, identify all types of users taking part in both content design and in content consumption. Second, recognising the insurer’s current situation and understanding its plans – e.g. plans of future distribution channels will entail designing the product information flow a certain way – is also vital.

As the above graphic shows, the PIM system collects and manages product information from various sources and then distributes the data to multiple sales channels.

Insurers can collect data in two ways:

  • Manually, i.e. entered by users from various departments, or
  • Automatically, i.e. via API integration, a data bus, etc

Similarly, insurance companies can share their product range directly (i.e. the PIM shares the front end with agents or intermediaries) or indirectly (data is exported through the API to CMS systems, intranets, bank systems, or other external systems)

There are a multitude of solutions and insurance companies, so each PIM implementation is necessarily unique. However, all PIM systems are guided by the principles demonstrated above.

The PIM system at work

The experiences of leading insurers confirm the importance of product information management. For example, the PZU Group – one of the largest insurance companies in Central and Eastern Europe – set the strategic goal to simplify their offerings, both in the product structure and in the language used. Specifically, they wanted:

  • Efficient simple product sales through universal salesmen.
  • An easier and shorter buying process.
  • Simple offers made available online.
  • 10 products in general sales (today there are 3).

Below, we can see the results:

Why use a Product Information Management system?

Correctly managing product information translates into tangible, measurable benefits for the insurer:

  1. It offers a single source of product information for the entire organization, including partner businesses, independent agents, and individual customers. Product range information is consistent across channels, which helps customers and intermediaries better understand the product offer.
  2. It is easier for end users to search, filter, and understand products.
  3. Product range management processes become more efficient. Descriptions and product information are no longer scattered throughout various folders, web catalogues, Word files, e-mails, or fliers. Launching new products is faster and more easily repeated.
  4. The product information exchange can be automated. Offer data is automatically sent to internal marketing and sales systems and to partners’ external system. Plus, automatic integration mechanisms boost the speed and reliability of new product placements.
  5. Last but not least, it drives sales of insurance products. In digital channels (particularly in direct insurance) conversion rates climb when customers have better product knowledge. This is also a convenient tool for intermediaries, as it can educate them about products and offers, making them more salable.