Ryan Hanley recently posted a provocative blog post about millennials and the risks of ignoring them. Based on some fascinating research from Facebook IQ, he made the argument that millennials represent a rich opportunity for independent agents who are paying attention.

I’ve written quite a bit myself about this generation and the opportunity they present for independent agents, so I decided to read the white paper.

I learned a lot.

Generation Y is growing up. The eldest among them are now turning 35. They’re making major life decisions—getting married, buying homes, starting families. According to the Facebook IQ Report,

“These moments increase their openness to new sources of guidance and increasingly those sources come from outside the traditional sector.”

A recent research study we did here at Safeco Insurance shows that 31% of millennials place themselves in a segment that values independent advice, choice among insurance companies, an expert advocate and ease of understanding their insurance options.

Surprisingly, this proportion is higher than that found among Generation X (24%), Baby Boomers (23%) and seniors (18%). In other words, and contrary to popular assumptions, millennials are less likely than their elders to take a do-it-yourself approach to insurance.

So if they’re looking for “new sources of guidance” outside of traditional channels, where are they looking?

To their friends and peers, of course.

The more salient question is, how are they looking? And the answer, almost unfailingly, is digital.

Millennials are highly influenced by online recommendations, perhaps because these “digital natives” have grown up with Amazon reviews and Yelp ratings.

Yes, they expect the best that current, digital technology has to offer — online access to quotes, policy management tools, claims and service — but not as a replacement for human contact.

Rather, they expect it to facilitate human contact and meaningful dialogue.

If we fail to satisfy those evolving consumer needs, we’ll start losing customers.

We might lose an entire generation.

Generation Y is the largest segment of the U.S. adult population, and the only segment that’s growing. In fact, they will remain the largest segment until 2042.

That means their preferences will drive the market for the next 26 years… the rest of my career, and most likely yours, too.

In short, millennials are big — not just in terms of their numbers, but in terms of where they are in their life’s journey.

And they want what only you can give them — the combination of ease, choice and advice they can trust.

MattNickersonBy embracing the new rules and tools of engagement, you can put yourself in a position to be discovered by millennials who are searching for guidance.

And because you offer a unique combination of ease, choice and advice, you’re in the best position to give them what research shows they want.

Matt Nickerson is the President of Safeco Insurance and a passionate advocate for the Independent Insurance Agency channel.

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