Sixty-one percent of consumers who researched individual insurance or annuity products looked online, a significant increase over the 38 percent of consumers who looked online in 2006.
"With two-thirds of Americans conducting searches online, it is not surprising that the number of people seeking information about life insurance and annuity products online has increased more than 60 percent over the past six years," said Mary Art, research director, LIMRA technology research.
"However, despite the popularity of online sources, more consumers (69 percent) sought information from agents, brokers and advisors, who are often viewed as the most valuable and influential information sources."
The top three reasons consumers sought information online are:
*Research companies and product offerings
*Seek general product information
This is true across all age-groups and income levels.
The study found that more consumers value information gathered online in 2012 than did in 2006, although it still lags behind insurance professionals.
In 2006, only 18 percent of recent researchers considered Internet sources to be their most valuable sources, significantly less than the 25 percent found in 2012. In contrast, 37 percent of consumers rate insurance professionals as most valuable in 2012, eight percentage points lower than those who did in 2006. It is also important to note that one in six (16 percent) consumers cite workplace sources as most valuable.
"Companies need to understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to educating consumers about products and services," noted Art. "Using a multi-channel approach will reach a broader audience in the ways they want to collect information and will most likely lead to more sales."
Who is looking online?
The majority of consumers of every generation use insurance professionals and online sources for information on individual products. Only 14 percent of consumers who recently researched individual products used neither the Internet nor insurance professionals. This is true across generations (see Information Sources by Generation chart).
The study also revealed that men and younger, higher-income, better-educated consumers look online more often than do other demographic groups. Sixty-five percent of men used the Internet for research, compared with just 58 percent of women. Interestingly, consumers without children were far more likely to seek information online (67 percent) compared with those who had children (58 percent).
As expected, more Gen Y consumers (73 percent) seek information online than Gen X and Baby Boomer consumers (61 percent and 56 percent, respectively). The Internet is the most frequently used information source for Gen Y consumers and they are more likely to rate online sources as their single most valuable information source, to seek online recommendations for companies, and to use agent locators relative to older consumers. LIMRA found Gen Y consumers use more information sources than older consumers, more often connect with companies online, and are likely to continue to do so as they (and their product needs) mature.
LIMRA recommends that companies ensure their websites are easy to navigate with the desired information readily available. Ensure that your site appeals to Gen Y consumers and offers them the information they want, including information on your products and your financial strength.
What Triggers Consumers to Research?
Consumers are most often triggered to seek information about product needs by offline sources, such as insurance professionals, people they know, life events and employers. Online sources prompted only five percent of consumers to seek additional information. In contrast, 25 percent of consumers who recently considered individual products were first led to consider the product by insurance professionals. LIMRA found more people were triggered employers (23 percent vs. 18 percent), life events (21 percent vs. 17 percent) in 2012 than in 2006.
"Companies should understand that the Internet's influence is likely to grow stronger over time yet the need for personal interaction with an insurance professional will always be important," said Art. "It is critical that companies take steps to create a robust, easy-to-use site that offers the information consumers most want online and then make sure consumers can talk with an agent, advisor or someone at your company to answer questions."