In the digital age, comparison shopping has become a staple of the consumer experience, making it easier to find the best deal. That’s why travel sites like Expedia and Orbitz resonate with the digital consumer. HealthCare.Gov, state-based marketplaces, and private exchanges create a comparable experience in health insurance. While marketplaces provide the broadest number choices to compare across brands and price, it also comes with limitations. Too many choices can be overwhelming for the consumer and make it difficult for a brand stand out. Cost becomes the primary search criterion instead of product or brand attributes. Hotels are relying less on booking sites and investing more in their own direct channel to differentiate their brand and build loyalty – health insurance companies should too.
Hotels are innovating in order for their room bookings to be done natively without the intermediary, and they have good reason: cutting aggregator sites saves them commissions, but more importantly develops direct connections with their consumers. Hotels have started offering benefits and rewards to those who book directly by developing their own user friendly experience: online and mobile check-in, free meals, making room floor plans available and allowing selection of a room. And consumers are responding. Hotels like Hyatt claim their digital bookings have grown dramatically since creating this user experience and customer loyalty has strengthened.
This is precisely what hotels have in common with health insurance. At a time when the retailization of health care is getting off the ground, health plans should seriously focus on their direct selling and engagement strategy. While there is great value for consumers in the multi-carrier exchanges, particularly in allowing for window shopping and quick premium comparisons, consumers are going to health plans’ websites to dig deeper and learn what they cannot find in an insurance marketplace – power searching your network, understanding the extra benefits you offer, your level of customer service, and more. Last year, over 40% of consumers shopped for plans off the exchange either directly through a carrier’s website, by phone, or with the help of an agent. Where it is challenging to stand out in a long listing of plans on an exchange, you have an opportunity to differentiate through your own shopping platform by developing features like recommendations, showcasing innovative product features and provider networks, online appointment booking, membership perks like wellness programs, and convenient customer service. Much like taking a virtual tour of your hotel room before booking, your consumers want to learn about the health plan in their shopping cart and in turn, confidently enroll.
As it gets harder to sign up new consumers, more focus needs to be placed on retaining existing consumers. Over half of the HealthCare.Gov shoppers switched their plan in 2015. Building loyalty can be best accomplished through an engaging direct channel.
Wellthie is your direct selling partner, providing a personalized and engaging health insurance shopping experience. Our cloud-based software is built into an insurer’s website showcasing their plans while seamlessly helping to educate, enroll, and retain consumers. To request a demo, contact Wellthie here.