About this time last year I posted a release about the new retail sales branch opened by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Horizon was one of the first health insurance companies to take a “retail” approach to selling individual insurance policies under the then newly approved Affordable Care Act.
In May of 212, Forbes reported on the partnership between Aetna and Costco to offer the Costco Personal Health Insurance medical and dental program. Consumers who buy the Aetna coverage through Costco will get extra discounts when they buy prescriptions through Costco pharmacies. Costo had already developed banking partnerships to allow them to sell mortgages.
This year we are starting to see the life insurance industry, particularly products geared to lower and middle income consumers, pursue retail sales opportunities. MetLife, for example, has set up kiosks in hundreds of Walmart stores. Unlike the Horizon branch which has specially trained staff to answer questions, visitors to a MetLife kiosk pick up their “box of insurance” in the form of a prepaid card and take it to the checkout. They then have to call MetLife’s toll-free number to answer health questions posed by a life agent. If the customer qualifies for coverage, the policy is activated, otherwise the card can be returned for a full refund.
Two key things we can learn from this trend:
1. As more insurance companies start courting retail partners as distribution channels, or opening up direct branches, they will need a new “retail approach” to their communications as well. This opens up new opportunities for graphic arts services like signage, sell sheets, and packaging for direct branches. It should also increase potential for transaction printers to offer statement marketing to highlight approved retail partners. Design services are a potential “foot in the door” as so much new material will need to be developed for the retail audience.
2. Partnerships, particularly distribution partnerships, can be wonderful things. Printers and other business communications professionals may also find value in new distribution channels and regional partnerships. Insurers are able to reach a broader audience that will pay a premium for convenience through retail relationships. Perhaps there are similar opportunities out there for your business.
If retail and insurance are getting married, let’s crash the wedding or at least get some good dating advice.
Elizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes and speaks and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.