Why is the Belgian online insurance market facing low adoption? Insights from our Online Insurance Barometer report

Only 5% of Belgian consumers underwrite their insurance online according to our Online Insurance Barometer. We have conducted further interviews with consumers to understand the drivers behind this lack of adoption. The goal of these interviews was to answer two main questions:

1) Why would (or wouldn’t) Belgian consumers want to underwrite their insurances online?
2) What do consumers think about the existing insurance propositions available online?

Read our findings below:

Last year EY VODW launched the Online Insurance Barometer for the first time. The Online Insurance Barometer shows a snapshot of the readiness of Belgian consumers to go digital over the entire customer journey for non-life insurance (information search, quote request, underwriting and claims management).

We surveyed over 1500 Belgian consumers that are in charge of insurance in their household on how they currently handle their insurance matters and how they would like to do so in the future.

What we noticed in this study is that there is a huge divergence between the current situation and the ideal situation. When asked, close to consumers 50% state that they would like to underwrite their non-life insurance online, while currently less than 5% (is able to) do so. Read our Online Insurance Barometer report for additional findings and valuable insights.

To get a deeper understanding of the underlying reasons behind these results we organised qualitative interviews. The goal of these interviews was to answer two main questions:

  1. Why would (or wouldn’t) Belgian consumers want to underwrite their insurances online?
  2. What do consumers think about the existing insurance propositions available online?

1) Why would/wouldn’t they want to underwrite insurance online?

I don’t know enough about insurance, I wouldn’t feel at ease

I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake and will be over- or under-insured

I have no idea what I’m doing, it feels like I’m gambling


During these interviews, we heard many different reasons why people don’t want to handle their insurances online. The reason we heard most often is the perceived complexity of the products, which leads to an insecure feeling with consumers who try to fill out the forms correctly.  People believe their knowledge is too limited to correctly underwrite an insurance policy on their own. They are afraid that they’ll miss important parts of the ‘fine print’.

The lack of simple, elegant, and user-friendly online insurance products, actually benefits traditional brick & mortar insurance brokers and agents. These intermediaries translate the offerings to make them understandable for consumers, something that most of today’s Belgian online insurance products fail to do for customers.

However, if insurance providers manage to create this feeling of trust and security in an online model, a lot of the people who are currently on the fence about going online would be persuaded to at least consider the possibility to do so.

A lot of the hesitation arises out of the oddity of the online insurance provider. People are afraid to try something new if they don’t know anyone who has tried it already with success. Once online insurance becomes commonplace in Belgium these doubts and hesitations will most likely disappear rapidly.

If we map the current situation in Belgium on the adoption curve we are currently in the beginning of the early adopters’ stage of the curve with close to 5% of the population with online non-life insurance. People are starting to make the transition and we are getting closer and closer to the tipping point to reaching the early majority. Once we get to this stage the adoption rate will increase rapidly.

2) What do consumers think about the current online insurance propositions?

We also presented our audience with some existing propositions. Most Belgian insurers already offer the option to calculate your quote on their website. This quote is not binding in most cases, and if you would want to underwrite the policy you would still need to schedule a meeting with your broker or agent to actually start your insurance contract.

So, after all the information they asked me, I still need to make an appointment with a broker?

I appreciate that they offer a broker to help me with further questions, but I would prefer if the website was clear enough so this wouldn’t be necessary

At the end of the online process, some insurers guide you to your nearest broker or agent, who will, most likely, take them through the entire process again. This is rather disheartening for a lot of customers. They feel like the work they just put in was pointless because they just got a price quote and not an offer like they expected.

Forcing your customers to change channels in the middle of the customer journey creates discomfort and bad user experience.

The customers we interviewed were clear about their desire to choose their own channel. They might prefer to do everything through a broker, but when they choose to arrange their insurance online they want to be able to do so from the beginning until signing the contract. Consumers don’t like it if their channel of preference isn’t available, and they like it even less if their chosen channel becomes unavailable in the middle of the buyer journey.

These insurers try to create an effortless multi-channel experience, which can be extremely successful as long as you give the consumer the option to choose which channel he wants to use. This forced transition between channels is an important source of irritation that consumers have with existing online propositions.

If we look at the overall feedback we received during the qualitative interviews we see that most reluctance arises from a lack of trust. This lack of trust has two main reasons:

  1. Consumers don’t trust that they have all the necessary knowledge
  2. Consumers don’t trust that their insurer has their best interest at heart

These perceptions should be changed to boost adoption. Last but not least adoption would also be aided if the existing propositions would improve their customer experience, and if insurance companies reassured the customers by using easy to understand language and putting them in the driver’s seat.

Make sure to hit me up on my email, get in touch and share some thoughts on the subject. I’m always open to new insights and opinions.