Simple Products: The virtues of simplicity


Are we simply opposed to simple products? Nick Jones investigates the simplicity minefield.

We should set out our stall out right from the start; we like simple.

Simple is good. We like simple when we are buying a car or a smart- phone; many like simple food. But how easy is it to be simple? Surely it’s the easiest thing in the world, right?

Wrong. In fact, developing simple products seems to be one of the hardest challenges for companies all around us every day.

Let’s take mobile phones for example, early mobiles did very little but we’re invariably way more complex to use than the versions we have today, which seem to be able to run almost every facet of our lives.

It has taken the Blackberry’s and the HTC’s of the world years to learn what consumers want, to develop features and to refine the overall experience – it doesn’t happen overnight.

Simplicity and protection, have an uneasy relationship. Simple is something that we in the protection industry have spoken about for a long time.

We exist in a difficult world; a world where our products are under-sold (and under-bought), we have recognised that insurance isn’t particularly interesting to all outside it and if we are to encourage more consumers to be even slightly interested in what we do, we need to be simple.

We need to sell simple products that can be accessed and purchased easily; products that offer good value for money, but products that do deliver when customers need them.

However, over the months and years, have we achieved the simplicity that we so dearly crave?

The answer is a resounding “no” and this is a view that is shared by the government, which felt compelled to produce the consultation paper “Simple financial products – a consultation” about just two markets; and ours is one of them.

We can be sure that most product, marketing and technical departments have digested the consultation paper and each come up with their own conclusions, what it means for them, what it means for their business, what it means for the industry.

This paper leads to some conclusions, some of which readers may agree with and some of which readers may not, but debate and conversation is how we will make the most of what is a fantastic opportunity to develop.

What Are The Main Findings?

As with any consultation by an outside body, much of what is covered should not be too much of a surprise; we are closer to our customers than the government could ever be, we should have a deeper understanding of what drives them, their likes and dislikes.

But, there are some interesting findings and opinions in the paper it would be wrong to ignore.

One of the less contentious points made was that too much choice and diversity can be a bad thing; it can lead to confusion and eventually inactivity.

It is hard to disagree, there is nothing more confusing than walking into a shop and trying to pick the laptop you want to buy from a range that is so close to identical that it is impossible to tell the difference or what will suit you best;

it’s especially difficult when we have limited understanding of what we are buying in the first place, if it’s complicated.

However, whilst the above is true, standardisation would not be the right approach for our industry.

Consumers do all have different needs, while insurers all have differing approaches to product development and should be free to innovate and push products forward, provided of course that they all have consumer interests at heart - they deliver what they should.

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