Answering customer needs requires building a strong product at every step of the value chain

The path to success is littered with many failures. Creating a great product relies on building on the hits and learning from the misses.

Carl Christensen’s own work at Swiss Re’s in-house start-up iptiQ has taught him the importance of creating a test-and-learn culture in which you can iterate products to find the optimal solution quickly.

Here, he explains why this learning culture needs to be embedded throughout the value chain to amplify its effect.

Carl Christensen, CEO iptiQ EMEA L&H

What are the main things you have learned about running a start-up?

Many start-ups think they exist to create the one unique disruptive element – that’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. It’s very rarely a viable path to take. The key to being successful is actually being good or outstanding at every step of the value chain. And then the cumulative effect that comes from that in itself constitutes disruption.

The insurance and banking industries are actually quite late to the digital transformation game. In my view, disruption will occur in these sectors, but not by a great consumer journey, or novel marketing angle, or great underwriting, or competitive pricing. It will be by combining all of those together.

Focusing on excelling at any one of those elements alone, like some existing insuretech products do, makes it hard to truly change the consumer outcome and, more importantly, to achieve scale. Furthermore, a lot of partners spend a significant time defining their proposition only to find that when they go live it is turned on its head because it transpires their offering doesn’t fit with what consumers are looking for.

How does this apply to the insurance industry?

It’s important to remember there are lots of good insurance products already in the industry – so it’s not about reinventing the entire industry but a question of how a combination of these products can be brought to consumers in a more seamless and engaging way.

These challenges are much too big for one party to solve on their own. We use a test-and-learn structure that draws on our experience of working with several partners to create a product that benefits everyone. One company trying out one thing will have many failures along the way. Our learning ecosystem multiplies the effect of test and learn by accumulating the lessons from multiple failures and successes and feeding back.

This benefits all our business partners – if we fail in an area with one partner, we are unlikely to make the same mistake again. And equally our successes are shared – if we figure out what works for one partner then we have figured it out for many. And ultimately this will of course benefit our partners and, more importantly, their end consumers.

Can you give an example of where this iterative learning works in practice?

Conversion journeys are a prime example – we are continuing to learn from the challenges faced. Partners may have distinct ideas about how they would like to do a journey and we can show why it wouldn’t work and where the drop-off points will be. As a result, each year we are strongly increasing our online conversion rates as we refine the process.

At the moment, a lot of companies direct a lot of budget to marketing but not in a very sophisticated manner. We can show that many of the traditional methods don’t work as well as they might think – and how less money could be put to better use.

It’s about taking potential customers all the way down the funnel from initial interest to purchase. To complete that journey the right prompts need to be in place, as well as mechanisms that make it easy for people to pick up where they left off. It’s a simple way of showing how we can tweak the process to improve it.

How do data and analytics help?

From day one we have recognised the power of data in particular in areas like the customer journey.

We have embedded the use of analytics and conversion tools throughout. Some of these are standard market applications, and some are more specialised.

For example, we have adapted one product from the online education space to help better explain and guide the consumer at some of the more complex steps during the customer journey.

Ultimately, we can implement a multitude of different tools and make tweaks and then use analytics to measure the impact on the customer journey or conversion rate. Through constant optimisation, we can truly smooth out that customer journey.

What can the insurance industry learn from other sectors?

It can learn that the best way businesses can differentiate themselves is through technology. Traditionally the insurance and reinsurance industry – Swiss Re included – have leaned on other third parties to provide these capabilities but we at iptiQ are now very much in the space of ‘invest in it and control it ourselves’.  

Some will say we are quite bold building bespoke technology when there are other products out there already which meet some of our needs, but our view is that to truly drive e2e disruption you need to be able to control and drive the technology change yourselves noting the appropriate change speed you need to operate at.

That is a real change for us and owning and designing technology is certainly a direction I could see the insurance industry evolving into.

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