Insurance has an image issue: it’s seen as a low-touch industry where customer contact tends to be rare.

Unsurprisingly, a recent Bain & Company study showed that more than half of the people interviewed interacted with their insurers on average less than once a year. In light of the current transformation taking place across industries—which focuses on customer empowerment, ongoing digitalization, the development of consumer behavior, and the growing popularity of ecosystems—these findings are worrying for the insurance industry, as it means that it could be left out in the cold. Why should these evolutions stop at the insurance industry’s doorstep?

Insurers that only support low-touch customer relationships open the door to external disruptors, whether it’s InsurTechs that boldly disrupt the insurer’s value creation chain or suppliers from outside the industry that maintain an active customer interface. The latter includes the web giants Google and Amazon. While Google failed in its first attempt to enter the car insurance market with Google Compare, Amazon recently ramped up its efforts with Amazon Protect, which integrates seamlessly into the online checkout process.

With such encroachment under way, traditional insurers risk being downgraded to pure product suppliers. Once in this role, they’re likely to enter a downward spiral on profits, all because they’ve fallen too far behind their competition.

What’s the way forward?

Digitalizing processes and data enables insurers to become more flexible and prepared to compete in an economy of online platforms and ecosystems. Insurers should also add more customer touchpoints to build up regular customer interaction. As Bain & Company found, regular interactions translate into greater customer loyalty if insurers manage to provide their customers with positive experiences.

To make sure the experiences are positive, they need to be carefully planned and executed. Imagine your customer gets into a car accident at three in the morning in a foreign country. Does she know what to do? How can she get in touch with her insurer, and how can she submit a claim from her mobile device? Later, she’ll want to check the claim’s status. An insurance agent will contact her in case of any issues, or to let her know about the closing of the case and its effect on her existing policy. Once she’s back home, she’ll want to track the complete claims handling from the comfort of her sofa.

Each of these interactions can take place in different ways—through a call, an app, an online portal, a chatbot, a personal meeting—resulting in countless possible customer journeys. For each of these, the insurer needs to guarantee that all touchpoints are well integrated so that customers have consistent experiences.

Obviously, this places high demands on an insurer’s IT infrastructure, where most applications serve a defined purpose and don’t support a specific customer journey. Only when these systems are fully interlinked with all customer interfaces in real time, can the insurer start involving its customers, create valuable interactions, and avoid the commodity trap by standing out from the crowd.

Today, most insurers still have different paths available to them to build their digital future, but what they don’t have is a lot of time. The rise of digital ecosystems and platforms from both outside and within the industry means that the pace of change is accelerating. It’s the right time for insurers to create a stable digital foundation that’s also sustainable for the future.

Watch our recorded webinar with Forrester, Digital Insurance: Leveraging Customer Journeys for Better Business Results.