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The Digital Advantage: How to Attract the Right Health Insurance Members Through Digital Channels

With nearly 8 million Americans having enrolled in health insurance through the online exchange in 2014 and more expected in the coming years as penalties continue to rise, the new marketplace is rapidly changing how people approach and make their health insurance purchase decision. To stay relevant in this increasingly fragmented and competitive space, companies must get serious about long-term transformation by identifying and understanding the needs of prospects, developing a purposeful digital CRM strategy to acquire new members, and upgrading digital capabilities required to successfully execute their strategy.

A long purchase cycle, high visibility of the annual enrollment period, and increasing marketing efforts from health insurers have all led to a heightened awareness of options for enrolling and switching among health insurance carriers each year. 

As a health insurer, what can you do to position yourself for long-term success? Start by answering these questions:

1. Who are your prospects, and what drives their purchase decision?

The new marketplace is full of first-time shoppers who have never had health insurance or had to purchase an individual or family plan. The first step health insurance companies need to take is to understand this new arena by learning about their prospects and identifying their target market. Instead of assuming the answers, do this by gathering insight directly from your prospects to build distinct segments for the health insurance prospect marketplace. Understand their needs, attitudes, and motivations when making a purchase in this complex and rapidly evolving space. Some important questions to guide a relevant segmentation are:

  • What is important to prospective members when shopping for health insurance, and what drives them to actually purchase?
  • What are the biggest motivations and biggest barriers to enrolling?
  • What are their perspectives on the legislation? How do they believe it will impact them?
  • How do the changes introduced through healthcare reform influence behaviors and motivations (e.g. penalties, subsidies)?
  • What does the sales cycle look like, and where do prospects tend to fall out? Which sources do people look to and trust when shopping for health insurance?

2. Where and how are you going to effectively target these prospects?

In order to reach and influence your prospects effectively, it is not sufficient to just know who they are — you also need to know where they are. With the launch of HealthCare.gov, consumers of all ages are increasingly engaging with digital platforms to conduct research, interact with companies, and enroll in health insurance. There is big opportunity for insurers to connect directly with their prospective members using targeted and relevant content through these channels. Today, marketers can deliver targeted messages to consumers with specific attributes on search, display, social, and other platforms.   

Armed with primary consumer segmentation and digital insight, insurers can attract the best prospects at the right time in their consideration cycle to drive higher close rates. Furthermore, companies can combine online and offline CRM data and tactics, leading prospects back to tailored content on digital channels and creating a truly relevant and connected experience. 

3. How can you ensure you have the right capabilities to make this happen?

While health insurance companies may understand the power of embracing digital channels to better target the most valuable prospects, many still lack the capabilities and infrastructure to do so. If your organization falls within this category, begin by conducting an in-depth assessment to guide your digital CRM efforts. Below are some steps to get started.

  1. Identify the future state interaction by documenting key points of the prospect journey across channels — including paid and organic search, social media, web, and mobile — and identifying integration breakages from the prospective member experience lens.
  2. Assess your current capability maturity across the realms of process, organization, and technology. Merkle’s connected CRM framework defines six core domains that span these areas for a thorough understanding of your current state: Information, Insights, Interactions, Measurement, Optimization, and Agility.
  3. Evaluate the current digital marketing technology environment to define requirements. This includes media execution platforms, digital channel execution, data management platform (DMP), analytics, decision management, and identity management capabilities. 
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