Left to our own devices…

We generally think of phones as mini computers, but are they? Sure, your phone lets you watch videos, read emails, and even edit documents , but let’s face it, although we can now do almost anything on our phones, most of us prefer to use them for the “small stuff”. A lot of the important stuff in life is intuitively thought of as “big computer stuff”. Would you order a pizza on your phone? Probably. Would you write your will on your phone? Probably not. What about life insurance?

This got us thinking: if we use our phones for fundamentally different reasons to our PCs, why is it that most companies’ mobile websites are simply a shrunken-down version of the PC site? Shouldn’t the user experience reflect the device?

To shed more light on this, we ran a pulse-check survey with around 200 German adults aged 25-55. We wanted to discover exactly what people want to use their phones for, and what they would rather do on their PC. We realise many people now have tablets too – but not everyone, and here our focus was on what people prefer to do on small screens vs. big screens. In particular, we were interested in device preferences during the various stages of purchasing life insurance.

Would you rather…

First, we asked people whether they would prefer to use their phone or their computer for different tasks – hiding life insurance in the mix as just one of the scenarios. It turns out that while 75% would prefer to use their phone to order a takeout, for a life insurance purchase it’s the other way around: 8 out of 10 would rather use their PC.

So what do we want to do on our phones?

Are we saying, then, that life insurers should scrap the mobile experience altogether and focus purely on PCs? Certainly not! After all, the customer journey is more than just the purchase.

By breaking down the life insurance journey into stages, we gained a clearer picture. We learned that, for the initial steps in the journey (finding out about life insurance, getting a quick quote, or comparing options), it’s roughly a 50/50 split between mobile and PC preference. It’s only at the final step, making a full application, that the preference for PC grows – chosen by three quarters of respondents. This matches up with our own user data, generally we see more visitors from mobile, but higher sales conversion rates on PC.

Clearly, there’s an argument to be made here for optimising mobile sites for learning, quick quotes and comparisons. Ultimately, life insurers should keep both mobiles and PCs in mind when designing user journeys, each has a role to play.

Applying via mobile

Right now, it’s only a minority of users who want to go the whole way on their phones, although it’s likely this segment will increase as users grow more confident making big decisions on their mobiles. But again, it’s worth asking whether the full application journey for life insurance should be the same on mobile as it is on PC.

We tend to use our phones sporadically: on buses, between meetings, on the loo. During those sessions our attention is finite – we want to explore and play around on the websites we visit. It’s likely that many mobile users start applying for life insurance absent-mindedly, but realise they’ve bitten off more than they can chew part-way.

Indeed, for those who said they would prefer to use their phone to buy life insurance, almost half said they would want to do so over multiple sessions, and almost 40% said that if they couldn’t finish their application on their phone, they would prefer to start up again on their PC.

For life insurers, it’s certainly worth making the mobile route to purchase available. But designers should also recognise that mobile users behave differently to those on PC. In particular, mobile users should be able to save their progress, and have the option of continuing their application on their computer.

And how should it all look?

Phone screens are small, and our attentions are short. On PCs we’re prepared to digest information slowly, but on our phones we want things fast and focussed.

We wanted to find out whether people would prefer to see questions one at a time, a few at a time, or all at once when applying for life insurance. We split our participants into two groups and asked half about applying by phone and the other half about PC. The results reveal that phone applicants had a stronger preference for seeing questions one-by-one (chosen by two thirds) compared to PC applicants (Less than half).

Some digital companies already know this. By asking users to complete questions one at a time, they’ve made their sign-up process visually simple. In behavioural science terms, there’s less danger of cognitive overload. So, rather than designing for PC and scaling down for mobile, let’s design mobile experiences with mobile users in mind.

Wrap up

Perhaps it’s time we stopped thinking of phones as mini computers and started to recognise the uniqueness of the mobile experience. In 2021, some tasks remain ‘big computer’ jobs but phones have an important role to play in situations like simple research, quick quotes and making comparisons.

For those who do want to buy life insurance on their phones, designers should make it easy for applicants to save progress or switch over to PC. It’s also worth remembering that mobile screens are small, and so perhaps displaying application questions one-by-one will help to avoid cognitive overload.

Here at iptiQ, our behavioural science and digital marketing teams regularly join forces to reimagine the customer journey – including optimising the user experience for the device. Get in touch if you would like to find out more.


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