MarketingData-Driven MarketingChina’s Ping An Leverages Social Data to Personalize Travel Insurance

China's Ping An Leverages Social Data to Personalize Travel Insurance

Chinese insurer Ping An is using data-driven technology from British startup Bought By Many to develop niche product offerings in the travel insurance market.

Ping An Insurance Company of China has partnered with British financial tech start-up Bought By Many to develop and market new travel policy offerings gleaned from data across Chinese social media platforms.

Bought By Many uses anonymized data from search engines, social media and online forums to analyze and identify consumer needs that aren’t being addressed by traditional insurance policies.

Looking at qualitative and quantitative research from both social interactions and search insight, Bought By Many has developed seven insurance packages for Ping An that are specific to the needs of domestic Chinese travellers. Those policies include altitude sickness benefits for hikers and food poisoning coverage for adventurous eaters.

Simon Squibb, the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Nest in Hong Kong, is not surprised by Ping An’s move to partner with a foreign startup, and says the collaboration will help insulate the company from technology players such as Alibaba, which are continuously looking at ways to disrupt established industries such as the financial services and insurance sectors.

“These big insurance companies need to look to the future, and a big part of it is they have to team up with startups and team up with people who are doing innovative things, moving and shaking potentially what the industry will look like five to 10 years from now,” he says.

In addition to assisting the insurance giant with consumer insight for developing the new policies, Bought By Many is also using its cookie-based technology to help Ping An target the policies to niche audiences on WeChat, a chat application which boasts more than 500 million users.

The promotions are being marketed under the Ping An brand name.

“In the UK, the ability to reach highly targeted audiences through Facebook and Twitter has been key to our success,” says Steven Mendel, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Bought By Many. “We are now pioneering the use of platforms like WeChat to distribute financial services [in China],” he says.

Mendel says the ads are different from traditional banner ads in that they don’t appear in sponsored content feeds and are more specific in their targeting.

In the UK for example, where targeted banner ads on Facebook appear in the sponsored content column running down the right hand side of the user’s page, promotions for Bought By Many’s British insurance policies appear as content within the timeline.

Targeting is also more detailed to reach very niche consumer groups, so a pet policy ad targeted at owners of a Dalmatian, for instance, would never be viewed by the owners of a Labrador, says Mendel.

“We create a social thumbprint for each individual and we bring to them pieces or offerings that are relevant to them. It’s very targeted and this feels much more relevant to consumers than random generic adverts,” says Mendel.

A similar strategy is being employed in China. The policies are delivered to relevant consumers on WeChat as targeted banners running along the bottom of the mobile phone screen when news and other informative pages are viewed by the consumer – not as sponsored content in the user’s timeline, which WeChat introduced to a select number of brands earlier this year.

Here’s a mobile banner add for a Ping An hiking policy on WeChat:

pingan-bby-image001-500
And another for its food poisoning cover:

pingan-bby-image003-500
By clicking on a banner, users are taken to a Ping An page within the WeChat platform where they can customize the policy according to the number of people and the number of days they wish to be covered and then click a ‘buy now’ button (in the orange box) to validate it.

ping-an-hiking-quote

A report by Morgan Stanley and the Boston Consulting Group into disruption in the insurance sector found the emergence of digital ecosystems – networks of companies, individual contributors, institutions and consumers interacting to create combined services and mutual value – “could threaten insurers all along the value chain.” It also found digital ecosystems would likely become pivotal to ‘future’ insurance.

“It’s very smart for brands like Ping An to be looking at buying in innovation and investing in models that can bring innovation to their doorstep,” says Squibb.

“These Asian companies, where half the population lives, are looking all over the world for companies to invest in and it doesn’t matter where they are based, so long as they can have a direct impact and have a direct relevance to their plans,” he says.

Mendel has been surprised at the speed with which the Ping An partnership has developed since Bought By Many was approached by the Chinese insurer in late 2014.

“The fintech opportunity in China is huge,” says Mendel. “Many start-ups are put off by language, regulatory, and cultural barriers to entry. But we were convinced our social- and mobile-first approach would translate to China, and [the] launch with Ping An bears that out.”

To learn more about how brands are working with startups in the APAC region, join us at ClickZ Live Hong Kong on August 4 to 6.

*Image via Shutterstock

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