eMarketer: Consumers Demand Personalized Messaging Across All Verticals

Marketers turn to social media to meet their needs

Brands of all stripes are working toward delivering personalized messages to their target audiences. Despite their best efforts, however, consumers say certain industries are not meeting their needs. Service providers, such as cable and utility companies, and regulated companies, such as insurance and finance brands, appear to be behind the curve in terms of delivering personalized digital experiences.

A survey from communications firm Thunderhead conducted by YouGov showed that fewer than half of consumers were pleased with how their cable providers use digital channels. Moreover, only 39% of insurance customers said they think their providers cater to them in the digital channels they prefer.

US Internet Users Who Think Service Providers Use Digital Channels* the Way They Prefer, by Industry, Dec 2010 (% of respondents in each group)

This digital gap appears to be particularly prevalent among finance, utility and insurance companies. The YouGov survey dug deeper into the insurance category by looking at the ways US internet users would prefer their insurance provider communicated with them. Seventy percent of respondents said the email channel would be at least fairly useful. Roughly one-fifth of respondents listed the mobile channel (either through SMS of mobile apps) as a preferred communication channel, and 11% said they would find it useful if their insurance provider would get in touch via social networks.

US Internet Users Who Would Find It Useful it Their Insurance Provider Communicated* with Them via Select Digital Media Channels, Dec 2010 (% of respondents)

An Accenture health insurance study complements some of the YouGov findings that insurance companies are struggling to meet consumer digital demand. According to Accenture research, there�s a gap between what matters to the customer and the perceived performance of health insurance companies. Not only are insurance providers not meeting their customers� service needs, but they are also missing important ways to connect with consumers.

In fact, the Accenture study shows slim social media engagement among health insurance providers�a channel the consulting firm wagers could help brands better home in on consumer needs. Only 6% of Accenture survey respondents said that social media sites have increased their awareness of offerings from health insurance companies�and only 8% said that comments related to health insurance have affected their feelings about health insurance brands.

Attitudes of US Internet Users Toward Health Insurance Companies' Use of Social Media, Jan 2011 (% of respondents)

The lack of social media participation and digital outreach by industries such as health insurance demonstrates there�s a learning curve for personalized digital marketing strategies. Although often faced with regulations and fewer industry benchmarks, health insurance and other industry marketers can learn from more digitally inclined brands to develop comprehensive digital and social media marketing plans.

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