Americans are slowly shifting toward buying insurance direct rather than meeting with an insurance professional face-to-face. More than one in four adults prefer to purchase life insurance online, over the phone or through the mail, according to a New LIFE and LIMRA study released Wednesday. While 64% of consumers still prefer to purchase plans from a professional that number is down from 1996, when 80% preferred to buy from an agent.

 “Recognizing the growing consumer interest to use the Internet to conduct research and buy life insurance, life insurance companies and agents have developed and implemented innovative strategies to engage and serve consumers through their websites and social media platforms that are more convenient for the customer,” says Marvin H. Feldman, president and CEO of the LIFE Foundation.

Of those surveyed for The 2011 Insurance Barometer Study, 59% say they would use the Internet to conduct research but ultimately buy from an insurance agent, while 21% say they would research and complete the purchase online.

Although the percentage of consumers who purchase direct is still relatively small, the Internet plays a role in eight out of 10 life insurance purchases. Among the younger consumers, age 25-44, 31% say they would prefer to buy insurance direct, with three out of four using the Internet when purchasing.

The survey shows that 86% of consumers agree that most people need life insurance, 70% feel they need life insurance personally, while 63% say they actually own insurance.

“Life insurance has never been as easy or inexpensive to buy, yet millions of Americans continue to put off making a purchase that they, by their own admission, say is an important one,” says Feldman.

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