Insurance firm Endsleigh recently launched a completely new website, aiming to attract and service more customers online. This is part of a wider decision which involved the closure of its branches. 

I’ve been talking to Jennifer Day, Online Sales Performance Manager at Endsleigh, about the company’s online strategy, keeping insurance applications usable, and its approach to multichannel marketing… 

What was the reason for the redesign of the Endsleigh website? What are the major changes you have made?

Following a strategic review of the business it was clear that Endsleigh’s customers were opting for electronic engagement over offline or the telephone. As a consequence Endsleigh made the decision to close our entire branch structure and realign our resources and energy towards creating an exceptional experience for customers online.

Endsleigh recognised the value of customer centricity, not only in delivering to customer need but also in achieving our long term aspirations as a business. Endsleigh’s website is our primary interface with customers now; it is our new shop window and as result it needed to become our ‘point of difference’.

The new website needed to demonstrate our commitment to our customers and our expertise as a niche insurance provider. We wanted the ability to use our knowledge of a customer to help shape their experience online and we recognised the value of personalisation and relevance in enhancing our engagement with customers.

Applying for insurance products online can require some potentially lengthy and complex form-filling – how do you keep this usable for customers?

We use customers to help shape the online solution. We regularly usability test the site and we use their observations and feedback to drive change.

As a niche insurance provider, the more information we can gather about a customer the more tailored our proposition can become, this sometimes means we have to ask more questions. As a consequence, we need to strike a profitable balance between information gathering and ‘drop-out’ rates, we do this by giving our customers insight into how answering a question can benefit them.

We have also made aggressive steps to streamlining the online quote processes; ensuring customers are subject to only a couple of screens before they can purchase a policy. The new website and unique recognition system now gives us the ability to ensure we only display what’s relevant to the customer and never ask them for information we already know.

Did you do much user testing?

We do a lot of user testing. This can, of course, be very expensive if you use third party agencies, but we have established a unique way of managing usability testing in more cost-effective manner. We invite volunteers to help design our solutions from the concept stage. We then use panels of ‘normal people’ (i.e. not working in insurance) to test our solutions. The process is ‘iterative’, allowing from multiple enhancements before we fully roll-out.

The new website enables us to take this even further, by providing a platform on which we can multi-variant test. We can assess the value of different marketing campaigns and analyse the most effective user journeys.  We can now use the system to realise our ambition to deliver the right product to customers, at the right time and reward them for loyalty along the way!

How is the redesigned site performing so far?

Very well, the scale of this project was significant and yet despite this, the launch went particularly smoothly with the commitment and support of our agency Salmon.

We have achieved some positive movement in our SERP’s and the improved functionality of the site means that more and more of our customers are now logging in to their online accounts. This is important for Endsleigh as we are keen to service all of our customers’ needs electronically.

What proportion of customers apply online? Do you need to provide much support offline?

A significant percentage of our business transacts online with little or no human intervention. For some of our products, as much as 80% of our business buys online, for more complex products we provide telephone support and we also outbound on quotes where customers have failed to complete online.

Has the financial sector been slow to adapt online? Why do you think this is? 

It has, and this has tended to be a result of two things. Firstly, many insurance providers are heavily restricted by legacy systems; this means that despite their good intentions to service clients online, their systems prevent them from moving quickly into a space which is forever evolving.

In addition to this, historically there have been reservations about the quality of enquiry generated on the internet. In the past it has had a stigma attached to it – ‘it’s easier to commit fraud online and/or we can’t ask clients questions in the same way we would offline’ – these perceptions have changed over the years – they’ve had to, this is the way customers are choosing to do business with us.

In general, how do you market the site online?

We have a dedicated e-marketing unit tasked with driving enquiry via search. We dabble in the world of PPC, but this tends to be a very targeted, niche strategy due to the competitiveness of this space.

We have been working with our affiliates for many years and were one of the first insurers to adopt affiliate marketing. This of course has changed in more recent years with the introduction of price comparison site that now generate a significant volume of quotes.

How you join up online and offline marketing strategies? How do you measure multichannel campaigns?

Well this is where the new platform really comes into its own. The bespoke content management system and recognition tool means that the site supports rapid change; in a matter of minutes its appearance can be re-engineered to reflect the creative approach and strategy of any marketing campaign.

The website is an integral part of our marketing strategy, offline campaign material is geared at driving customers to the web and when they arrive the messaging and experience is not only reflective of what the customer has already seen, but re-enforces the key messages and drives results.

The system supports search term and IP recognition so Endsleigh can quickly tailor messages to ensure they are relevant and compelling for customers. As the student insurer, our offline work on university campuses is enhanced by the coherent approach online.

Now to the big question -‘How do we measure multichannel campaigns?’, I’m not sure anyone’s’ really found a cost effective, or accurate, way of doing this yet without either putting your customer under more scrutiny online, by asking them more questions and/or getting lost in a pile of M.I. which you can’t really conclude on anyway!

For us the most effective measure we have is campaign tracking so customers introduced to us via an email, for example, are tracked throughout their entire journey. A key function of the new site it that, regardless of how the client navigates through the site, what journey they take or whether they buy online or over the telephone, we can trace them back to their original introduction.

Measuring the value of a purely offline campaign, for example a newspaper article, presents a different set of challenges, where it’s possible to do so, without impacting ‘drop out’, we ask a customer who introduced them to us, if this is not available to us we fall back on the measurement of relative movements in traffic linked to campaign focuses.  

Do you have any social media involvement? Facebook pages, Twitter accounts?

Absolutely – this is where our customers spend most of their time! As the student insurer, the world of electronic social engagement is important to us, sites such as facebook are not just communication tools for our customers, and they are an integral part of life. Here comes the challenge – we sell insurance. Not only is it difficult to link a true commercial value to social sites but it’s even more difficult when the product you are selling is not particularly at the forefront of your market’s minds (insurance is not exciting or sexy!)

So the real value in these sites, for us, is about engagement. It’s about being able to communicate in the preferred style of our audience.

Twitter, in particular, has proved to be a great resource for us; we have our own Twitter page and we are finding that customers enjoy the ease of this platform to notify us of a problem or positive event. Twitter has given us real insight into how our products should be developed to perform in the way our customers expect.

We actually Tweet the contact details of some of our most experienced customer care staff so that customers can get straight in touch.  

How do you measure social media engagement? 

It depends what you mean by measure. Engaging with our customers via social media has been difficult and at times, a painful process. Ultimately, as a financial institution we must maintain a compliant and trustworthy approach, we’ve used social media, such as viral games and social site competitions, to generate ‘buzz’, but at all times we have to demonstrate our commitment to our customers.

For example, posting a free pizza voucher to drive traffic may create a small lift in exposure in the short term, but doesn’t re-enforce our message as an insurance provider they can trust.

We are really using social sites as an alternative communication method, customers don’t have to phone or email – they can tweet! So I guess, at the moment it’s less about measuring engagement and more about gearing up to engage in that way.

Where does social media ‘sit’ within your organisation? Is it the job of the marketing team? Customer services?

Both. Our Customer Care Division is actually part of the marketing department, so both the Customer Care team and the e-Marketing team can take a collaborative approach to social.

The fact that our Customer Care team sit within marketing is testament to our commitment to shape our strategies around the customer, they can manage the experience, while our marketers manage the language and ‘tone of voice’ of social.