Time for Insurance Companies to Step Up UX for Second Screen Viewing

The insurance industry, arguably, spends more money on television advertising in the U.S. than any other vertical, over $4 billion per year on average. They also have the biggest opportunity in a return on this investment, by embracing the emerging behavior of customers actively engaged through second screen experiences.

The second screen experience is when a tablet or smart phone is used as a companion to a first screen event.  For example, I just watched an episode of “Under the Dome” with my TiVo, all the while looking up actors’ careers via my TiVo iPad app.  Another type of second screen experience, even wider in audience, is conversing with others while a show is airing, such as tweeting during #MadMen or #GameofThrones.   These second screen experiences--live chatter, trivia on stars (or players during a soccer match), background on production—offer richer and social engagement with content.

Television viewing is no longer the passive activity it once was, and your TV is not the only screen in your house.   In fact, if you live in the common home today you’re likely to have many; from your smart phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop. Some day it may even be the elusive smart refrigerator, reminding you to get milk because you’re almost out.  These screens are competing for your attention even as you have the television blasting auto insurance commercials as you run into the kitchen or check your Facebook timeline.  The numbers show that consumers are no longer seeing this ecosystem at odds with itself as the age of “second screen” experiences has arrived.

A report in April pointed to the growing trend of households, nearly a third of households, having a tablet device (Double Encore). Of those users on Twitter, sixty-four percent (64%) are tweeting about the show they are watching, and seventy-one percent (71%) of in-home tablet use is while watching TV (Nielsen).   Consider the insurance industry, which spend hundreds of millions of dollars in media to advertise to consumers every year, with Geico’s lead in spending with $1 billion in 2011.  All those advertisements during an hour or two of watching television are, an opportunity to leverage second screen experiences to drive engagement with your brand.

Among Nationwide, State Farm, Geico, and Progressive, only Progressive offers a truly responsive site.  The impact of not having a responsive site is that all the dollars spent on television advertising are only paying for half of the conversation with customers.  A responsive site means that the content will fluidly change and respond to fit any screen or device size.

Getting a quote is one of the most important messages an insurance ad is asking users to do and, with second screen experiences, television is evolving into an active medium. Therefore, these advertisers and other brands should look to following these steps in customer engagement through this television-led ecosystem:

1)                   Plan for tablet use – This goes beyond responsive design, which is paramount for successful engagement given the range of screens out in the marketplace from iPads, Galaxy Tabs, Surface, and all the minis in between.  Yes, the quote and account management callouts need to be prominent and quick to find in order to maintain attention of the multi-tasking consumer, but it is also key to make content tighter. Focus on concise and structured content rather than having the user sift through blobs of copy.  Planning for tablet use means that your product offering isn’t hidden and the value propositions are clearly labeled.

2)                   Leverage your character – Flo, Gecko, Nationwide guy with microphone, these characters become the necessary emotional attachment for customers to trust and remember.  We know that emotion and memory are chemically in the brain.  The brand experience doesn’t end at the home page.  Progressive does an excellent job of maintaining Flo throughout the experience and she is included in the upper left of the screen, allowing for her smile to be persistent through a fully responsive site.  However, this aesthetic is key through the quote process.  Could Flo be used to give positive reinforcement messaging through the quote process?  Absolutely. 

3)                   Design to brand throughout the quote process - In Designing for Emotion, Aarron Walter points out that brand contrast offers consumers a way to differentiate experiences.  If brands design for emotional connection, they build the ability to recall that experience, and the association necessary to revisit the site and complete the transaction.  So many sites look the same in the quote process; if a customer decides to comparison shop, it will be difficult to remember where each quote was obtained, even with follow up e-mails. If the price differential isn’t broad enough the recalled experience gets muddled.

4)                   Use Flat Design – Flat design is here to stay—Windows, iOS7, Google, Facebook, are leading the new wave in interaction design.  Flat design makes content more accessible by doing away with wasted space dedicated for shadows and gradients.  Typography shines through better in an HD world, making calls to action crisper for that target of 35-55 year olds.

5)                   Pair the social with the media plan – If you know when your ads are going to air and where, transact with your consumers where they are—Twitter and other second screen social interactions.  Numbers are negligible with Zeebox and Fox Sync, but so were Twitter’s five years ago, so advertising within those platforms may be affordable.  Regardless, you know highly rated shows are going to have a lot of chatter.  Plan for your community manager to be online and responding to events in real time, particularly with insurance, which focuses on life-changing events. Audiences watching an episode of “Say Yes To The Dress” may be thinking about marriage, getting a house, or getting an additional car.  Look to your media plan to guide customers to that second screen experience in getting a quote.

6)                   Plan for distraction – It might’ve been easier when consumers were at their desktop while the television was on, but time spent on traditional websites via desktop is steadily on the decline.  Recognize that on a tablet, users will get push notifications, motivated by other ads on TV, tweets, instant messages, Facebook chat, and real world events like the baby crying or laundry being done.  Cached data, follow-up notifications, extending sessions before timing out based on high-traffic times, or simple interfaces that don’t break with a clear persistent display of progress are just some ways you can build rapport with your consumer.

Taking these steps will create a handshake between brand and customer, particularly in an industry so driven on price and an ongoing need for trust—trust built around dynamic and relevant conversation with the implicit message of transparency and accessibility.

(Written for BBDO Digital Blog)