The Commerce Department announced last week that U.S. retail sales have surged 0.8% for the month of November, which was more than double the rate economists had predicted. As consumers flock to retailers like Amazon and Walmart this holiday season, here are 5 takeaways healthcare Payers can learn from them:

1. Be Social

Thanks in large part to the rise of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, today’s consumers are more connected than ever. Bad reviews and negative interactions on social media have the potential to do tremendous damage to corporate reputation. Today’s tech-savvy consumers have no hesitation venting their frustrations about a particular product, company, or service publicly. Aligning with this notion, customer service interactions over Twitter have increased 250% over the past two years, according to Conversocial.

Takeaway

The most important thing that Payers can do to limit negative social media interactions with their members is to ensure that they provide supportive resources before they have an issue. We’ve all heard it: for every bad experience, we tell ten people, for every good one we tell only a few. This means educating and training new members as soon as they are onboarded so that when they have an issue, they know where to go to resolve it.

2.  Get Personal

Household name brands like Facebook, Amazon, Pandora, and Netflix have been pulling customers in with personalization for years. In the process, they’ve been nurturing a growing expectation among consumers that their needs will be anticipated. According to Forrester Research, Inc., 77% of consumers have recommended or paid more for a brand that provides personalized experiences or chosen that company because of those services.

Takeaway

Payers must provide members with a user experience that is specific to their needs. For example, when a member logs into their online account to check their coverage, there should be different functionalities available based on whether they are the subscriber of a plan or a dependent.

3.  Mind the Gap

According to a recent report, 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to purchase on ecommerce sites rather than in store. Only 41% of Baby Boomers and 28% of seniors will click to purchase. Regardless of what type of product is being sold, the importance of knowing your customer cannot be overstated. Customers from different generations all have different shopping preferences. B2C retailers account for these differences by leveraging an omni-channel marketing strategy. This includes advertising through traditional channels like television and newspapers, as well as new mediums like social media.

Takeaway

Payers must adopt omni-channel marketing strategies that include advertisements across different mediums to ensure that the product that they are marketing is being distributed across the proper channels. It’s important that Payers know what platforms and mediums their target consumers are using. For example, it doesn’t make sense to market Medicare products over social media platforms like Snapchat as the users on this platform are predominantly young people.

4.  Will that be Cash, Credit, or Bitcoin?

Thanks to new technology like smartphones and LTE mobile internet, consumers are starting to pay for products in ways that are much different from traditional methods. According to a March 2017 study, credit cards still command 42% of the worldwide online shopping market; however, electronic payments like PayPal are not far behind, with 39% of the market. Other methods of payment like mobile applications and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin must be watched closely to see if more demand develops.

Takeaway

When it comes to adopting new technology, healthcare typically lags behind other industries. While this trend is likely to continue, Payers should always keep a close eye on the retail sector to see if any new forms of payment start to catch on.

5. Show Forward Progress

A recent report authored by Statista highlighted that over 70% of shopping “carts” that consumers virtually fill on sites like Amazon are abandoned. This occurs when consumers add products to their cart, but end up exiting the website without purchasing the items.

Takeaway

Payers experience a unique type of cart-abandonment when a consumer begins the process to apply for healthcare, but does not complete the process and finish enrollment. Payers can minimize this by providing a streamlined user experience that includes a progress bar in the enrollment process. Progress bars show users exactly how many steps that they have completed and how many more they have remaining. Visualizing progress can help to keep consumers engaged and committed to completing the enrollment process.

Disrupt or Be Disrupted

The health insurance industry is currently undergoing a seismic shift right. Existing players continue to consolidate and new entrants are eagerly trying to disrupt the status quo. While health insurance and consumer retail products may seem to be very different from one another, they are both marketed and purchased in very similar fashions and there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be. It’s time for Health Payers to disrupt their own businesses before someone else disrupts it for them.

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The views and opinions expressed by the authors on this blog website and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Softheon, Inc. Please direct any questions or comments to research@softheon.com.

Matt Cummings

Solutions Architect at Softheon
Matthew is a Solutions Architect at Softheon. He works closely with Product and Development teams to design products and solutions to help Health Plans and other entities to excel in the marketplace. He received his bachelor's degree in Applied Psychology and Business Management from Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York.