The banking and financial sector is one of the early adopters of the Internet in India, and one of the more successful sectors in digital. This success has been driven by a number of factors, such as the fact that these companies are selling services and not products, and the fact that their customers were among those most likely to be connected to the Internet first. Adding value through convenience and knowledge, the sector has grown rapidly, and according to a recent report by Vizisense, one out of four Internet users visit banking and financial websites.
For people like Kartik Jain, Head - Marketing and Direct, ICICI Lombard, this transition from an offline service, which relied heavily on agents visiting customers and filling up forms that would result in a policy being delivered days later (if the customer was lucky), to an online, instant fulfilment service, came with a challenge – how to get people to try out the new experience, when insurance conjured images of agents?
He said, “We realised early on that we would have to do whatever works. We’re a digital product, and so we ran banners and did search marketing, but people would not necessarily realise how fast it was to get their insurance online. So, we did a lot of fine tuning and then opted to run a TVC to showcase these traits.”
Today, ICICI Lombard spends 60 per cent of its budget on digital, with the rest going to television and a small amount on radio. But, as Jain maintained, the whole process began with an entirely online promotion, which was then fine tuned over time.
According to him, the biggest advantage of digital was that one could get feedback in real time. He added. “It’s an incremental medium and no one gets it right in the first go. But you keep a close eye on your trends and insights to better understand customer needs, and you listen to the customer’s feedback and tweak your plan in that way.”
He further said, “Search trends show useful insights. Something like Google can give you a lot of information on what people are actually looking for, to help you try and understand what the customers want, and you have to go where the customers are. That’s why after a point, when adding more money to digital did not yield more benefits, we went with a TVC, and it worked very well for us.”
Challenges & Advantages
For ICICI Lombard, the first challenge was in fine tuning the product offering itself. Jain remarked, “All your messaging needs to be aligned to the buying insight. We realised that the ideal product to start with was travel insurance, because most people didn’t get it till the last minute, when they would suddenly be running around. Around 30 per cent buy it on the last day, and so we set up a way for these people to get their insurance easily.”
Divulging further, he said that ICICI created multiple platforms of engagement. The website had a 24x7 chatline, so even people flying late night could get their insurance easily. “Then we added an outbound calls solution, where people could leave their number and we would call them back. Then we created toll free phone lines to connect with people as well. All this was done incrementally, not all at once, based on the feedback we had been generating online. That feedback process is the biggest advantage of online, you don’t need to worry about metrics, but rather use the two-way nature of the medium to fully understand the customer, which will lead to RoI,” he said.
Having identified the lead product for ICICI Lombard – travel insurance – the next step was to find the primary product for customers – in this case air tickets – and then to “ride the primary product”. As Jain put it, “We tied up with a lot of airways and managed to provide a convenient way for the users to get their insurance without having to take any extra steps.”
For ICICI Lombard, these steps have been highly successful. While Jain wouldn’t share any details on the sales figures, he did admit that there had been a significant uptick. More than that, he said, the real time interaction with customers had also provided them with fresh insights into what the market needed, and would help shape the future growth of products being offered online.