For Australia’s private health insurers, March and June present the biggest opportunities to engage with two key audiences: existing consumers and first-time buyers. Here, Google Australia & New Zealand’s Laura Parr breaks down new research that uncovers Aussies’ typical path to purchase and offers tips to tailor strategies for each group.
Australia’s private health insurance market has never been more competitive. Participation is at its lowest since 2011, and spiralling costs are discouraging more Aussies from buying cover; so much so that less than half of Australians — a little over 11 million — have hospital cover. As more consumers question the value of their cover and consider other options, the battle between health insurance providers fighting to attract new consumers and keep their existing ones will only get more intense.
Competition is especially intense in March, before premium changes for all health insurance customers take effect on April 1st, and June, when Aussies under the age of 31 race to secure cover by June 30 to avoid paying the additional 2% Lifetime Health Cover. During these two months, generic and branded searches surge as both renewers and first-time buyers go online to find helpful information, giving providers prime opportunities to reach and engage both audiences.
To better understand the research behaviour of Aussies in the market for private health insurance, we partnered with TNS Australia for a quantitative and qualitative study that explored the typical path to purchase for 495 consumers.1 Here, we’ll break down three takeaways for providers to consider in their strategies to stand out in one of Australia’s most competitive markets.
1. An overwhelming majority of research happens online
Even though the two audiences tend to conduct research at different times, on each occasion, digital is an essential part of the process. Aussies in our study used an average of five touchpoints on the path to purchase, with 48% saying they used a search engine at some point. And both renewers and first-time buyers typically looked to providers’ websites, comparison sites, and search engines to find the information they needed.
It’s important to note that consumers aren’t loyal to a particular provider while they’re comparing their options. More than half (58%) of Aussies in our study said they considered multiple providers at the beginning of their research, and just 18% were absolutely certain of their provider.
First things first: be online. Digital — and online search, especially — has become a crucial battleground for the health insurance industry. To grab consumers’ attention and earn consideration, providers need to ensure they’re showing up while Aussies are actively researching by investing in relevant generic and brand keywords. From there, providers’ websites should be easy to navigate and filled with the essential information that an existing customer, or a first-timer, would need to make a well-informed decision.
2. Existing customers want the best value
Aussies with existing cover tend to be older than first-time buyers, but they’re getting savvier about researching different options online — and they get an early start. Nearly half (47%) of renewers started researching weeks or months before making a purchase.
But just because they’re covered doesn’t mean they’re loyal to their current provider. In fact, among consumers looking to review their insurer in 2019, half are considering a different provider.2 What’s on top of renewers’ requirements? Plans that offer the best value for their money and cover and benefits that suit their needs.
When Aussies don’t feel like they’re getting the best value from their plans, they’re quick to switch — and they’re wide open to considering new brands. Among Aussies renewing their cover, 87% said they were undecided or considering multiple providers.
March is prime time for retaining existing consumers. Providers need to be present and relevant when renewers are researching and reviewing options online, because there’s a good chance the competition will be. Nearly half (48%) of renewals discovered a new provider while they were researching their current one, and 73% found their new provider online.
3. First-time buyers are looking for help
Signing up for health insurance can be stressful and complex, especially as the June 30 deadline approaches. In June, a lot of Aussies buying insurance for the first time need help navigating the complexities, which is clear from the top search queries across the category:
First-time buyers are less informed about the process, and they start their research late. More than half (61%) started researching just hours or minutes before making a purchase. They’re also less certain about which provider to choose — and therefore open to a variety of brands. Just 18% of Aussies who purchased in June were absolutely certain of their provider — the other 82% either considered multiple providers or were undecided.
Online video is an especially important research tool: of the 33% of first-time buyers who used online video during their path to purchase, 71% watched videos on YouTube, and the majority (80%) said that an online video introduced them to a provider they hadn’t previously considered.
Based on the most common types of videos they watch, it’s clear that first-timers enjoy seeing opinions from industry professionals and past customers to make the best decision.
With fewer Aussies choosing to sign up for health insurance, acquiring new customers is more challenging than ever. Having an impact comes down to being present, relevant, and accountable where Aussies — and millennials, especially — spend the most time. YouTube reaches 92% of Aussies under 39, and with tools like Director Mix and advanced audiences, insurers can engage first-time buyers with compelling, customised content.
Help Aussies cover their bases by being helpful and accountable online
As Australia’s private health insurance market gets tighter, competition between providers is only going to get more intense. Make sure you’re catering to existing customers and helping potential ones by tailoring your messages and creative to each audience based on when and where they’re researching. When Aussies go online to find the best deals and most helpful providers, be there at the right time with the right information, and you’re sure to earn their loyalty.
Google partnered with TNS Australia to conduct quantitative and qualitative research to explore the private health insurance path to purchase (where consumers look for information, where they purchase, their brand loyalty, etc.).
We spoke to 495 Australian consumers aged 18-60 years old who bought health insurance in the last six months prior to the survey.