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InsurTech Ohio Spotlight with Karen Imbrogno

Karen Imbrogno is an Insurance Industry Strategist and Senior Director at Acxiom, a SaaS-based company providing enterprise data analytics to fuel data-driven results. Karen was interviewed by Andrew Daniels, Founder and Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio.

Karen, what are people most worried about and how has their shift in spending habits during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted data sets?

“People today are primarily concerned about making ends meet, putting food on their table and paying their bills. Therefore, they are looking for ways to save money – coupons, discounts, cutting things out of their budgets, especially those dealing with job losses.

Insurers are struggling with retention, and their customers are grappling with increasing rates. But insurers can help people today by being more transparent in ways they can help reduce rates (increase deductibles, decrease liability, remove coverages), which is sometimes a challenge for our industry. Transparency can impact retention. On the auto/home side, most carriers are experiencing rate increases due to the high cost of parts, the increasing number of claims, inflation, etc. As people get hit with these rate increases, they shop for better insurance premiums and coverage. This could be both good and bad for carriers. Not only are your competitor's customers shopping but your customers are shopping as well. However, it could also be promising for insurtech companies as consumers realized throughout COVID-19 that they are not driving as much as they used to, and there is no longer a need for a traditional type of policy. We see younger people, in particular, making this evaluation.

Regarding data sets, carriers should be mindful of who they are attracting. Carriers want to attract their competitors’ business but knowing the right prospective customers to engage at the right time, right place and right channel will be critical. Data elements like life events, propensities, preferred channels, Internet of Things (IoT) data and claims data will be key. The point to remember though is that everything you do should be underpinned by analytics. Looking at segmented groups and even people within the same household will also be key. Similar holds true with life and health insurers. Health data is important for life and health Insurers, as are life events. Insurers and payers are also working with smaller marketing budgets today, which means they need to make sure they are spending their dollars in the right way, in the right place and on the right person. This remains true for both acquiring and retaining high-value customers. There has never been a better time for insurers to really know their customers and prospects.”

What does marketing look like for insurance brands today?

“It depends on the type of insurance and sophistication of the carrier and, more importantly, their budget. Property and casualty insurers still heavily focus on direct mail and broadcast TV. However, some are beginning to pivot to email marketing. Many have also made huge investments during COVID-19 to beef up their digital capabilities. Overall, we are seeing more of a spending shift from direct mail to digital, including email, video and social.

Life insurers continue to use direct mail and are tying it to life events. Let’s face it, as I mentioned previously, we need to make marketing budgets work harder and smarter, and the only way to do that is through data and analytics. Life carriers have found ways to continue conversations beyond the point of sale. John Hancock is a prime example. Traditionally, people only heard from their insurers during renewal time or when a claim was filed. However, that dynamic has changed. Brands are creating opportunities for conversations with customers throughout the lifecycle. It’s so important for an insurance brand to keep its name front and center for all customers.

We are also seeing increased attention on data clean rooms, where multiple parties can collaborate and share confidential data with strict prearranged privacy controls in place.”

Where do you see insurers struggling the most?

“There are a couple of different categories where they’re struggling. The biggest struggle is not truly understanding their customers. Today, a lot of brands struggle with the fact that they don't have a 360 view of their customer. What I mean by that is, it's more than just the first-party data that you've obtained from your customers. It's bringing in all the additional third-party data such as life events, their likes and their propensities to take particular actions. The other, more significant part of that is, in many organizations, the data is very siloed. We see this not only with insurtech but with mid-tier and some top-tier Insurance providers. Data often exists in multiple locations and the struggle is to bring all of that data together and have that single source of truth about who a person is.

The next category brands struggle with is that many purchase expensive technologies and don't always know what they're purchasing. A vendor can come in and tell them that this product does X, Y and Z, and it actually only does X. So how do they make sure that they are getting the true value out of this technology and these investments? We did a study a couple of years back where we looked at the value of MarTech investments that brands were making. In that study, companies were only achieving about 50% of the functionality that these tools promised. Much of it is a matter of not stitching the investments together in the proper way and not having a solid data foundation in place. Some of it is merely not understanding what they have purchased.

There are two other key areas around understanding customer lifetime value. Not all customers are created equal. We hear that quite often in the industry. We need to understand who the customer is, what they represent to our brand and where we see opportunities to take the relationship to a different level.

Lastly, where we see insurers struggling is not having the right talent. When you think about data, carriers have an abundance of that, but many brands struggle with not having the manpower and the right talent to analyze that data in a way that supports organizational objectives. That's where we're seeing the biggest areas of opportunity.”

Where do insurtechs have an opportunity to make a difference?

“Speaking primarily from the auto side of insurance, during Covid, people realized that they weren’t driving as much as they used to. Some consumers realized that a traditional policy is not necessarily what they need and they could get away with more of a pay-per-mile type policy. I see that as a huge opportunity, particularly in the younger generation. A lot of consumers don't realize the value of a brand in insurance until they've had a claim that doesn't get solved the way that they thought it would. At that point, brand makes a difference. Younger generations are less about big brand names and are more about price. Putting the right value proposition in front of them will be extremely important, especially as their life starts to change and they need additional insurance products. Insurtech has huge opportunities regarding product pricing and speed to market. What I love about insurtechs is that they are very nimble and they're dealing with many new and innovative technologies. Things seem to happen at a much faster pace than a traditional carrier.

There are also many new products that insurtechs can come out with. They've found holes in product sets throughout COVID. People are looking for new products that meet their new needs. Whether it's something as simple as protecting the camera I have in my backseat while I'm in a not-so-desirable area, to just having a product that meets my needs financially and meets my need for protecting anything that I need and love. But there are also big challenges with marketing budgets. Insurtechs don't necessarily have the bigger budgets that these larger carriers have, so they need to be more selective in the paths they pursue.”

What is the most interesting data set you have seen that is not being utilized as much as it should be?

“There are essentially four sets of data, but I’ll zero in on one. The first is anything around IoT. Insurance companies used to operate in more of a reactive mode, but now it's all about prevention. They focus on preventing a claim from happening, whether it's on the auto side by giving people driving tips or looking at their driving behaviors. From a home insurance standpoint, it would be about the sensors, the water heater and any type of information that's being collected and shared, perhaps across companies such as ADT. Partnerships form between technology companies and traditional carriers in the name of prevention.

Another interesting type of data is a tool that Acxiom has, called Personicx Prime. We used to look at consumers as part of a household, but it made more sense to drill down to individuals within the house. An individual may be the main purchaser of your insurance policy, but there could be somebody else in the house that should also be considered for an insurance policy. Understanding what household makeups look like is important, particularly as we're seeing multi-generations within a household. Anything having to do with the propensity for someone to take an action will help carriers be preventative.

From a health and life perspective, looking at the (SDOH) social determinants of health is getting quite a bit of traction at Acxiom. It’s about creating tethered experiences across the value chain, for life carriers and health payers. The data sets apply to an aggregation of communities and people, not just specific individuals. How can we use that consumer data to ensure they’re adhering to medicine guidelines, making it to appointments, or perhaps having geographical or other constraints? A lot of the payers and life insurance companies are latching onto new data sets which is a smart thing to do. New data is being introduced continuously into the market.”

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