Karen Wheeler, Vice President and Country Manager UK at Affinion
Travel insurance is often viewed by consumers as a necessary inconvenience, giving them peace of mind in case the worst happens while abroad.
However, it’s seemingly becoming more common for people to forgo such services altogether – ABTA research in the UK shows a shocking 40 per cent of 18-24 year olds travelling abroad without insurance. When you consider the cost of medical bills when overseas without cover, it’s clear that travel insurance providers have to make a change to ensure people aren’t putting themselves at risk.
This may prove more difficult than it sounds, however. With the rise of aggregators and price comparison sites used to purchase travel insurance, this can often remove engagement with the provider entirely. The nature of travel insurance works against providers too – if people only travel abroad once a year, auto-renewal is increasingly unlikely.
So how can travel insurers turn the corner and transform their offering to drive brand advocacy, rather than being seen as a business that consumers turn to just before jetting off on holiday?
The broad insurance industry has long been a digital laggard, falling behind its peers as banks and fintechs sprint into the lead in the race for digital transformation. Innovation amongst travel insurance providers has largely been limited to introducing the ability to purchase insurance online.
However, it seems the winds of change are upon us and travel money provider Revolut is leading the way. The business has produced an app that uses geolocation technology to remove the burden of filling out large quantities of forms before every holiday, using a “pay-per-day” approach to travel insurance. Instead, information would be input upon download and the user can simply tap the feature on or off as and when they begin travelling, with the geolocation capability automatically pulling through location data. This is especially pertinent given the amount of people that travel across multiple countries every year – whether that’s Interrailing across Europe or backpacking through Asia. Knowing the relevant insurance is at the swipe of a touchscreen gives the consumer complete peace of mind and inevitably results in increased loyalty.
Irish Bank AIB has taken a similar approach, looking to directly engage with frequent flyers by incorporating travel insurance into its mobile banking app. Although not going so far as to incorporate geolocation technology, users are now offered a one-stop-shop for all their financial needs – from managing their bank accounts and managing overdrafts, to taking out travel insurance. By removing some of the hoops many businesses still force customers to jump through, brand advocacy is increasingly likely.
Data has been key to the success of customer-facing businesses across all sectors for years now. It allows businesses to know so much more about their customers, from what makes them tick to when they are most likely to interact with the brand. Insurers have long been adept at collecting customer data – they need to know of any injuries or health issues before insurance is finalised for example. However, insurers are yet to fully take advantage of the vast amount of data available, although it appears this may be about to change. Research by Applied Systemsshows that half of insurers appreciate the importance of data and technology and plan to invest in technology to capture customer insight in the next three years.
Travel insurers should be at the forefront of this movement, looking at ways to embrace data-driven marketing to not only simplify the purchasing decision, but to also add to their overall holiday experience. For example, if data shows that a customer tends to always book a trip for the school holiday in May, the provider should get in touch at the start of the month with tailored marketing. If an insurer is at the front of mind when a family sits down to plan their next holiday, it’s much more likely they will turn to that brand when looking to insure their trip. Equally, engagement shouldn’t stop once the purchase has occurred. People tend to plan day trips in advance of their holiday, so insurers should share personalised offers for potential activities in the build-up to the trip. Doing so will not only add value to the customer’s holiday but also ensure they remain at the forefront of their mind when they next travel abroad.
Constantly add value
Engagement shouldn’t start and stop with in-app experiences and tailored marketing though – travel insurers should be the provider of peace of mind while abroad and unfortunately, so much more than theft or injuries can go wrong while abroad.
For example, although it may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of holidaying, there was a 12% rise in requests for UK help with cybercrime from foreign countries last year. When you consider that the likes of Greece and Spain – some of the more popular countries to visit in Europe – are officially the least prepared for cyber-attacks, tourists could be at risk when travelling with their vast array of tech devices. One way for travel insurers to add value to their customers would therefore be to offer ID theft protection within their insurance packages, going a step beyond the standard cover offered by traditional providers. This is the type of unique selling point that will likely draw customers towards the brand and position the business as key to planning any trips, rather than just another insurance provider.
At a time when consumers can purchase a full holiday package, from flights and accommodation to travel insurance and car rental, insurers unsurprisingly struggle to create brand advocates. To buck the trend and move away from protection being viewed as just another add-on or something that is ignored entirely, travel insurers must change the way they engage with customers. Positioning themselves as a true added value provider that help at every turn in as flexible a way as possible will go a long way to transform the view of the industry and drive brand advocacy, rather than indifference.
U.S. inauguration turns poet Amanda Gorman into best seller
WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The president’s poet woke up a superstar on Thursday, after a powerful reading at the U.S. inauguration catapulted 22-year-old Amanda Gorman to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.
Hours after Gorman’s electric performance at the swearing-in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, her two books – neither out yet – topped Amazon.com’s sales list.
“I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY!” Gorman, a Los Angeles resident, wrote on Twitter.
Gorman’s debut poetry collection ‘The Hill We Climb’ won top spot in the online retail giant’s sale charts, closely followed by her upcoming ‘Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem’.
While poetry’s popularity is on the up, it remains a niche market and the overnight adulation clearly caught Gorman short.
“Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: ‘For words alone are certain good: Sing, then’.”
Gorman, the youngest poet in U.S. history to mark the transition of presidential power, offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided country in Wednesday’s rendition.
“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Gorman said on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob laid siege and following a year of global protests for racial justice.
“We will not march back to what was. We move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free.”
The performance stirred instant acclaim, with praise from across the country and political spectrum, from the Republican-backing Lincoln Project to former President Barack Obama.
“Wasn’t @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait,” tweeted former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
A graduate of Harvard University, Gorman says she overcame a speech impediment in her youth and became the first U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.
She has now joined the ranks of august inaugural poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
Her social media reach boomed, with her tens of thousands of followers ballooning into a Twitter fan base of a million-plus.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted TV host Oprah Winfrey.
Gorman’s books are both due out in September.
Third on Amazon’s best selling list was another picture book linked to politics and projecting hope: ‘Ambitious Girl’ by Vice-President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Why brands harnessing the power of digital are winning in this evolving business landscape
By Justin Pike, Founder and Chairman, MYPINPAD
Delivery of intuitive, secure, personalised, and frictionless user experiences has long been table stakes in digital commerce, well before the era of COVID-19. As businesses harness the revolutionary power of digital technologies, they have pursued large-scale change to adapt to evolving consumer preferences (some more successfully than others, but that’s a blog for another day). Digital transformation is a term we hear repeatedly, and it looks different for each organisation, but essentially, it’s about utilising technology and data to digitise, automate, innovate and improve processes and the customer experience across the entire business.
As I said, this was already well underway but then came 2020 and no industry escaped the disruption of the coronavirus outbreak, which has had an indelible impact on businesses performance, operations, and revenue. Regardless of whether the impact of COVID has been very positive or very challenging, it has forced organisations globally to re-evaluate and re-orient strategies to adapt.
As lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions continue to change daily life, this raises the question of how we can balance a dramatic shift to digital and the benefits it brings, while ensuring business continuity and innovation both during and post-COVID, and protecting everyone against fraud?
Digital is an essential survival tool, and even more so in a COVID world
No one could have predicted the dramatic digital pivot that has taken place over this year. Indeed, within weeks of the COVID outbreak cash usage in the UK dropped by around 50%. Digital solutions including delivery applications, contactless payments, mobile commerce, online and mobile banking have become essential components of a touchless customer experience in the era of social distancing. It’s no longer just about an enhanced and superior customer experience, it’s also about health, safety and survival.
In store, businesses have benefited from contactless payments enabling faster throughput and reduced need for consumers to touch payment terminals (therefore requiring greater cleaning, which degrades the hardware much faster). Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payments – including tap-to-pay and mobile pay – during the first quarter of the year as the global pandemic worsened. Digital has also become an essential sales channel for many B2C brands. Where brick and mortar stores have been required to close, digital commerce enables continuity of customer relationships and revenue. This channel also provides brands with rich customer data, which can be used to enhance and personalise the customer experience and typically results in greater levels of engagement and uplifts in revenue.
Industry forecasts estimate that worldwide spending on the technologies and services enabling digital transformation will reach GBP 1.8 trillion in 2023 – a clear indication that the process represents a long-term investment and a global commitment to digital-first strategy. The key point here is that digital brings significant benefits, and regardless of COVID, is here to stay.
The challenges that rapid digital transformation brings to businesses
Regardless of whether businesses are operating in developed or less-developed economies, these times of crisis have levelled the playing field in the sense that all businesses are facing similar issues. Access to products and supplies, maintaining customer relationships, accelerating sales for some and declining sales for others, health and hygiene are just a few of the unique challenges brought about by COVID.
Many businesses in physical environments have had to swiftly implement changes to significantly reduce safety risks for staff and customers, such as contactless payments, mobile ordering and delivery options. But with these changes come a host of other benefits of digitisation, such as faster transactions, and reduced human error at the point-of-sale.
The reliance on technology, however, can also expose organisations and consumers to certain vulnerabilities. In particular, the risks of fraud and cybercrime have dramatically increased since the onset of the pandemic as scammers have taken advantage of digital technologies to target both businesses and individuals.
As a McKinsey report illustrates, new levels of sophistication in the activities of fraudsters have placed more pressure on companies that have been previously slow to go digital, bringing “into sharp relief how vulnerable companies really are”, and damaging the financial health of small and large businesses. In fact, the Bottomline 2020 Business Payments Barometer reveals that only one in 10 small businesses across the UK report recovering more than 50% of losses due to fraud.
But take these stats with a grain of salt. While it is important to be aware of the risks and challenges this new business landscape brings, it’s equally as important to have a lens firmly across your own business, industry and audience, and to identify the changes you can make internally to mitigate risk as well as improve your customer experience. Where can you make some quick wins? Do you have the right skillsets internally to achieve what you need to achieve? What technology is out there that will enable your business goals? There are tech companies like MYPINPAD that are making huge strides in software development, which will transform businesses globally.
A digital world post-COVID
Almost a year in, the line between business success and failure remains fragile. However, an ongoing transition towards greater digitisation will be the difference between survival and the alternative.
There is a wide range of initiatives businesses can implement to weather this storm. If we look at the space MYPINPAD operates within, secure digital consumer authentication is crucial to the ongoing success and security of not only financial products but also identification and verification across a range of different industry verticals. Shifting the authentication of consumers securely onto mobile devices enables businesses to completely reshape their customer experiences. By bringing together a more seamless, frictionless customer experience, accessibility, privacy, security and access to consumer data, businesses are able to drive digital transformation across day-to-day activities.
Against this backdrop, software with stronger security standards continue to play an ever more vital role in supporting society, protecting consumers and businesses from the increase in risks that rapid digitisation brings. Already, merchants can deploy PIN on Mobile technology from companies like MYPINPAD, onto their smart devices to speed up the digitisation process many are now tackling.
Essentially, opening up universal payments and authentication methods that feel familiar, for both online and face-to-face transactions, will be key to opening up a world of possibilities when it comes to redefining how businesses engage with consumers.
Brexit responsible for food supply problems in Northern Ireland, Ireland says
LONDON (Reuters) – Food supply problems in Northern Ireland are due to Brexit because there are now a certain amount of checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.
British ministers have sought to play down the disruption of Brexit in recent days.
“The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that’s clearly a Brexit issue,” Coveney told ITV.
The Northern Irish protocol means there are “a certain amount of checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland and that involves some disruption,” he said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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