Knowledge and understanding typically flows from older generations to younger ones. Today, however, the generations that grew up with digital technologies are the ones leading both knowledge and culture in the digital world.
Insurance carriers and agents often find themselves playing catch-up to younger “digital natives.” Here’s how to see the world through the eyes of a digital-first generation — and speak their language when it comes to insurance coverage.
Author of “Empowered: Re-framing 'Growing Up' for a New Age,” Marc Prensky coined the term “digital natives” in a 2001 article describing how students at the time “spent their entire lives surrounded by and using” various technologies. Prensky called this generation digital natives to differentiate them from older enthusiastic adopters of new technologies, whom he called “digital immigrants.”
Digital natives and digital immigrants differ in several ways. Brad Cunningham, an academic advisor at Kansas State University, notes that digital natives approach the world differently when it comes to:
These differences create a generation gap between digital natives and digital immigrants. As with other generation gaps, the potential for misunderstanding and frustration arises on both sides.
When Prensky identified digital natives in 2001, the first members of the cohort had just started college. Today, those college students are nearly 40 years old, and an entire second generation has grown up immersed in technology.
Insurance carriers and agents, meanwhile, are still dealing with tools developed by and for digital immigrants. Even when individual insurance professionals and agents are members of the digital native generation, they often contend with technologies that were not created by or for their way of thinking.
Digital natives need insurers who understand their approach to the world. Insurers and agents, too, need digital tools that adapt to both native and immigrant ways of handling technology.
Carriers and agents can build these bridges if they:
Finally, carriers and agents will benefit from an awareness that comfort with digital culture doesn’t create instant comfort with every topic available online. Digital natives still need help understanding their insurance options and choosing the right coverage for their situation.
Carriers and agents remain the experts in the room. Choosing the right tools and approach allows insurance professionals to communicate this expertise to digital native customers.
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