INSURERS need to digitize quicker as more consumers in the so-called “discovery generation” who prefer shopping online are seen to increase to over 310 million in the next five years, a product consultant said.

Leigh Reyes, chief product consultant of marketing firm MullenLowe Philippines, said insurers can use mobile-based web links to show their digital product catalogues and connect consumers to financial advisors.

“You have your customers in your mobile chat tool WhatsApp and you send them the digital catalogue. When they want to order, you give them the URL and when they click, the agent gets a commission,” she said in a recent webinar organized by the Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association.

Ms. Reyes said this new kind of direct selling originated from global cosmetics firm Avon which sustained its sales despite the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey by Facebook and research firm Bain & Co. showed people shopping online could expand to over 310 million in Southeast Asia by 2025 or more than threefold from the 2018 level.

However, Ms. Reyes said this number will be bigger soon as the pandemic has forced people to learn and adopt technologies in a year from the usual capability shifting period of five years.

The survey published last year shows a minimum growth of 64% in online shopping in the Philippines, with 72% of Filipinos surveyed willing to try new or multiple brands. However, Ms. Reyes said insurance firms must race to innovate to get brand loyalty.

“If you want to try something, it will cost you less to try it now than later because then you’re not an innovator but a third, fourth, or fifth player. Brain-wise, people only can keep two names in their head. People are binary,” she said.

Innovation in the insurance industry can also include tools for customer reviews which Ms. Reyes said can help narrow down consumer choices and make a certain brand more memorable.

“Advertising is the price you pay for a poor product. A discovery generation is also a review-hungry generation. They’re not going to trust the brand first, they’re going to trust other people first. Somebody can come up with a rating system with customers actually putting ratings for each product,” she said.

The survey also showed 86% of Southeast Asians tend to compare products both offline and online before buying them. Ms. Reyes added it takes four positive reviews to bury a negative review of a product.

Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association Executive Director Michael F. Rellosa agreed that insurers need to innovate faster as he said many insurers are still “in shock” due to the pandemic.

“I think our industry is stuck. We’re still in the pre-change stage and so there’s a lot of catching up to do,” he said.

“The thing is there are many ways to innovate because it’s not only the product but the service. This is a warning to insurers because we do have new companies that are innovating,” Insurance Institute for Asia and the Pacific Executive Director Francisco D. Papa, Jr. added. — KKTJ