Web Presence for Insurance Firms Is the Web Industry Leading You in the Wrong Direction? A Discussion with Solutions
As the sales and service representative for large insurance companies, insurance firms have to find differentiation in the context of competitors offering similar products. Thus, marketing and branding is critical, and since consumer research starts on the Internet, building a world class marketing infrastructure is critical.
The current trend in the world of website development is toward mass customization
through the use of content management toolkits such as Wordpress. What do we mean by “mass customization?” Every website is built with a different layout and functionality. This article argues that building websites using this model is very counterproductive for the vast majority of insurance firms. In fact, this approach actually impedes the generation of economic value. Why? There are three significant reasons.
- Maintenance Costs: When a small insurance firm builds a website, either directly or through web developers, it has implicitly committed to the lifetime costs of maintaining that website. There are a vast number of reasons for updating a website, including a redirection or new opportunity for the business, an update in technology (the introduction of the iPad, for example), or simply a desire to take advantage of new web technology (liked Linkedin). There are many examples of insurance firms that have built websites but do not have the resources or time to maintain them.
- Opportunity Costs: Most websites are built and maintained by a cottage industry of web developers. Many small insurance firms can’t obtain enough bandwidth from the web developer to update their websites in a timely manner. This hinders marketing innovation for the business, because all actions are gated by access to web resources. Further, as new Internet technologies are introduced into the marketplace, the current toolkit approach forces everyone individually to update and integrate the new technology. Viewed at a market level, this is a truly massive amount of work.
- Business-to-Business collaboration: With different companies building their own unique websites, businesses cannot easily integrate their respective marketing messages to create a material impact in the marketplace. Also, it is impossible for insurance firms to integrate synergistically with natural partners like banks and accounting professionals. Thus, customization actually leads to the loss of massive business opportunities for small businesses.
What about builder solutions from companies such asWeb.com, GoDaddy, Vistaprint, or Wix.com ?
Companies such as GoDaddy, Vistaprint, Wix.com andWeb.com increasingly have offered "web builder" tools. While these tools certainly aid in the ease-of-development of websites, they fundamentally do not change the paradigm of mass customization and have the same issues as toolkits such as Wordpress.
What is the solution?
In a word, the answer is platforms. Platforms differ from toolkits in that a single entity builds a core functionality that can be personalized by each business. Examples of successful platforms include Facebook, Linkedin, Amazon and Quickbooks. Today, insurance firms have access to platforms such as Ocoos for their marketing function. These platforms have the following characteristics:
- Standard web presence driven by personalization with data entry by customer.
- Standard methods for integration of content.
- Deep functionality including natively integrated ecommerce, customer relationship management, social network management, data mining, and analytics.
How do platforms compare to the toolkit approach?
- In a platform, the consumers of the website gain a standard look and feel. This contrasts favorably with the mass customization of the toolkit model, where customers have a potentially haphazard and unfamiliar experience.
- In a platform, insurance firms have access to deep functionality at a very affordable price. With a toolkit, most of the advanced functionality is not available to the insurance firms, and if it is available, the insurance firms have to integrate the technology themselves.
- In a platform, maintenance costs are minimized since they are shared over all users. For toolkits, the aggregate maintenance costs are massive and generally not supportable by most insurance firms.
- In a platform, opportunity costs are eliminated because new Internet technologies can be integrated in a very efficient manner, unlike toolkit approaches that require integration on an individualized basis.
- Finally, the platform approach allows for a standard base upon which business-to-business marketing integration can occur. The mass customization resultant from the toolkit approach disallows this possibility.
Do these platforms remove the need for digital marketers?
No. Actually, the opposite is true. With these platforms, digital marketers can focus on core marketing much more efficiently than they currently can. Additionally, they can operate with a platform that can scale efficiently over time.
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