April 27th, 2018

How Aetna Cracked the Code on Data-Driven, Customer-Centric Marketing

Healthcare continued to rapidly change and grab headlines throughout 2017. Delivery and payment companies like CVS and Aetna, Humana and Kindred, and Optum and DaVita merged, new players showed up; and tech powerhouses like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google have entered the field, promising lowered costs and improved outcomes.

But while the healthcare field is expanding, a huge pain point for marketers has been in improving consumers’ digital experiences. Most brands agree on priorities, but there is a big gap for most in their ability to execute against it, according to a 2016 Econsultancy poll. It is striking that while 84% of marketers in the poll indicated ‘Associating conversion events with marketing’ was a priority, only 10% responded as having the capability to do so. The results are similar when asked about tailored messaging, understanding customer behavior, and matching customers across multiple devices.

Aetna, however, is one healthcare brand that has seen notable success improving customer experiences as part of their goal to move forward in “…improving health outcomes for all Americans” highlighted by Aetna CMO, David Edelman. Aetna has also succeeded in connecting the dots to prove that doing so benefits their bottom line.

I had the good fortune to share the stage at the AHIP Customer Experience & Digital Forum with Christina Freeman, Director of Enterprise Media for Aetna, to share some of their story. We talked about how their adoption of an analytics-driven marketing approach had generated valuable insights for Aetna about customer acquisition and improved experience.

Freeman spoke about how Aetna is aligning around a consumer-centric mission from every aspect of the business, citing the “You don’t join us, we join you” brand campaign as evidence of their commitment. And Aetna is seeing the measurable benefits of better understanding and connecting with (future and current) members, which has resulted in a more personalized, consistent journey across channels and devices. During the discussion, we highlighted two case studies where Aetna and Neustar partnered to deliver measurable results.

Use Case #1: Gaining Visibility Into the Cross-Channel Customer Journey

The first use case involved the common challenge health insurers faced with the vast majority of ACA enrollments taking place on Healthcare.gov. Relying on the government’s third-party enrollment data months after-the-fact created a real measurement gap, especially for companies used to the full customer journey visible through first-party data on their owned channels. Significant effort was made to understand the new ACA market and tailor relevant messaging to those eligible. Aetna and Neustar were able to close the loop by connecting those exposed online to Aetna’s ACA marketing on owned sales channels with those who enrolled on the Healthcare.gov site. The results were striking. First, having visibility into their customers’ journey across all enrollment channels helped Aetna truly understand their customers’ member experience, which led to better, smarter messaging. They also learned was that those exposed to Aetna’s ACA digital marketing efforts were 76% more likely to enroll. 

Use Case #2: Establishing Campaign Impact

The second use case was to evaluate the relative success of Aetna’s “You don’t join us, we join you” campaign, which intended to highlight the brand’s commitment to a more personalized customer experience. The results were striking. While traditional metrics were in place to measure brand and favorability impact of the campaign, Aetna and Neustar partnered to take it a step further to prove impact on enrollments across all lines of business. The attribution analysis revealed that those exposed to both brand and product-related digital marketing were significantly more likely to enroll than those who only saw the product-related marketing. What this says is that customers place at least as high a value in the healthcare company they work with as the products they’re selling.

The Process for Putting Identity, Personalization, and Measurement Into Practice

A process emerged from our discussion in which Freeman highlighted key steps that have proven successful for Aetna. It requires marketers to prioritize identity, personalization, and measurement:

  1. Develop and communicate a customer identity management strategy aligned to your mission.
  2. Audit every step of the customer journey to determine what is needed to achieve goals.
  3. Measure the bottom-line impact of every initiative designed to improve customer experience to understand what is working and what is not.
  4. Go all in with the right team and seek the best external partner(s) for your use cases when needed.
  5. Ask “What would we do with the perfect insight?” to determine organizational appetite for data-driven course adjustments from planned strategy to optimize and capitalize on new opportunities.

There is a huge opportunity for health insurance – and more broadly healthcare brands – to measurably grow bottom line while improving customer experience. This starts by gathering the data to develop a clear understanding of your customers and prospects, measuring their journey across all channels and devices and connecting the dots to deliver more impactful, personalized experiences with measurable returns.

Editor’s Note: Post was originally published January 8, 2018 and updated to add more detail about this case study.

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