How Amazon can provide lessons for benefits tech

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With close to $9 million invested in new healthcare technology companies in the past few years, “bad ideas are getting funded,” said Chris Chan, innovation imaginer at Mercer LABS at Employee Benefit Adviser’s Dig-Benefits conference in Austin, Texas.

So how can the good products be sorted from the noise? The key factors to successful products are design, user experience and benefit analytics, Chan said.

These tools need to be thought of in an employee mindset first, because if it is too hard, an employee won’t pay attention to it. “It does not matter how good [the technology] is because no one uses it,” Chan said. “If no one likes it, no one uses it and the first step is the last step.”

As an example of successful tech projects, Chan compared recent developments in the benefits space to online powerhouse Amazon as an idea of where the market will go.

Private exchanges: Amazon had a misstep with the Amazon Fire phone, which was discontinued. Similar to initial private benefit exchanges, the Fire phone was Amazon’s platform to provide exclusive access to products and services. But Amazon’s new version is the Underground app that offers access to apps that can be downloaded for free — but would cost money on an iPhone or Google Play. “Will we see differentiation through a private exchange to drive value?,” Chan asked. “That is what will have them take off to be more successful.”

Benefits administration: Today’s companies are using portals and products in one place to navigate employee benefits. In the future, Chan says look how many companies Amazon owns, including Zapppos, videos and books. “That is part of the magic, you don’t realize Amazon is behind them,” he said. The future of benefit administration is therefore not just one storefront but many types of products to different users.

Communication/engagement: in the future, it will be a more consumer-centric world. Amazon has video shorts and live streaming. In benefits, there may be an opportunity for live streaming of a health fair, Chan said. It will be about user-generated content on a real-time, quicker basis.

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HR Technology Technology Private benefit exchanges Employee engagement Dig|Benefits