You and your marketing team spend a tremendous amount of time and energy getting people to visit your company’s website. You run ads. Publish content. Attend community events and hand out pens. Lots and lots of pens.

And it works.

People come to your website, driven by the need to find a plan for themselves and their families. They want to learn about the plans you offer, Medicare, and what coverage is provided. But too often, that's where the customer engagement ends.

Unfortunately, it’s been our experience that on too many health insurance websites, the plan discovery and signup process is difficult, confusing, broken, or all three.

That’s a tragedy. Because your site isn’t Amazon.com—where customers can buy a $5 item to be shipped to their house for free. Buying insurance is an emotionally difficult decision, one that’s complicated and fraught with uncertainty as people try to choose the right coverage. Health insurance is also expensive, as much as a car or housing payment for most people.

What does that mean for you?

As we’ll demonstrate in this article, if a website visitor comes to your site, shows signs she’s thinking of buying, and then abandons your site never to return, you’ve just lost between $6,000 and $18,000 per customer, on average.

The average revenue of each health insurance customer

According to research by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the average revenue collected by health insurance companies for plans in 2016 was:

  • Self-coverage: $536 per month or $6,435 per year
  • Family coverage: $1,512 per month or $18,142 per year

When we talk about creating an effective website for purchasing health insurance, it’s not an academic conversation about opinions or preferences.

Real dollars are at stake on your website every day. And the numbers are big. Just 50-100 website visitors could account for $1 million in revenue either won or lost for your company.

The job of your website

Just like a shopper speaking with a salesperson, website visitors exhibit cues that tell you when they’re getting ready to buy.

Business executive and sales trainer Walter Rodgers says this about looking for buying cues when working with prospects:

“Effective sales representatives actively listen and watch for customer cues that indicate interest or emotion. A ‘cue’ is a behavior, behavioral pattern, or shift in behavior that reveals a reaction or motivating feeling.”

A health insurance website’s first job is to educate, reassure, and engage the customer before signup even begins.

Website visitors come to your site with questions. Your site’s job is to demystify plan options and coverage for your visitors, giving them confidence that they have the information they need to make a good decision.

Do my kids need braces?

Will anyone need surgery?

Are my doctors in this company’s network?

We all face these questions when making a decision about our health insurance. If the resources on your site meet a customer’s needs and supports them through the decision-making process, they’re more likely to feel good about their decision—and their relationship with your company when they sign up for a plan.

This is good for the customer, and for you too.

Customers who feel good about their decision are less likely to feel buyer’s remorse, and they’re more likely to become a repeat customer or even a brand advocate.

The #1 buying signal on insurance websites

When a prospect starts comparing plans, they’re telling you they’re getting close to making a purchase decision.

What’s the #1 signal your customer is about to buy?

It’s the signup process.

A visitor who begins the signup process has given you the strongest cue she can that she’s made a decision and is ready to buy. At that point, it’s your website’s job to “close” the customer — guiding her through the signup to complete the purchase.

If prospects don’t finish the application, it’s because your signup process is broken, confusing, or difficult to navigate.

User Experience (UX) and Service Design (SD)

If you’ve never heard the term “user experience” (UX) before, here’s a definition from two of the most well-known names in the UX field, Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen:

“The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next, comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.”


Remember that $5 purchase? Companies like Apple and Amazon invest millions of dollars studying user experience, optimizing their products and platforms to improve both their performance and their profitability.

“Service Design” goes hand-in-hand with UX.

Service Design is the act of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication methods, and materials of a service for the purpose of improving its quality — and the interaction between the service provider and its customers.

The effectiveness of your Service Design will directly affect the quality of your customer’s experience on your website.

It’s more than just a digital touchpoint. It’s making sure the entire process—from research to signup—is one seamless experience across all channels.

Two symptoms of a poor a user experience

When looking at your website’s plan discovery and signup area, there are two specific problems to look for to see if you have a UX problem:

1) Abandonment

When users abandon a website, it’s usually because they became confused or couldn’t move past a page in the signup process. Choosing a plan is the hard part, the signup should not make it any harder.

Customers come to your site with questions. If they can't find answers to those questions—or don't feel confident in your ability to answer them—they're going to leave.

Asking for too much information, information at the wrong time, or unnecessary information can also have a significant negative impact on enrollment completion. You need to be building trust every step of the way to help keep things moving.

Bottom line? If someone is in the process of signing up for a plan, you don’t want to lose them. But, if your UX doesn’t reassure customers your plans fit their needs, or if your site makes the process feel difficult or overwhelming, you will lose them.

When this happens, the prospective customer will most likely go elsewhere, looking for similar insurance in your area, hoping the other company’s process is easier. Or, worse, the customer simply won’t sign up for health insurance at all.

2) Website visitor buys the wrong plan

Sometimes customers get confused and purchase a plan that isn’t right for them. When this happens, people with a poor plan for their needs usually don’t stay with the company that sold them the initial plan.

Instead, at their first opportunity, they may go looking for a totally different insurance company from which to buy.

Why website visitors abandon your site

Why would a website visitor abandon your site after they’ve spent 45 minutes researching plans — and maybe even started the signup process?

It could be for any number of reasons. Here are some common examples:

  • They became confused
  • They didn’t find answers to their questions about your plans
  • The weren’t confident they could pick a good plan on your site
  • They were asked to provide information they didn’t have on hand
  • They were asked to enter too much information early on, which felt overwhelming
  • The process took longer than they had anticipated
  • The customer didn’t feel safe entering their private information on your site

Any of these can be a reason for a customer to abandon the signup process. None of them are good for your company’s bottom line.

Five UX mistakes you might be making (without even knowing about it)

Here are just a few of the common UX problems that can contribute to abandonment or confusion on your website.

1) It’s difficult to get answers

The first reason people might leave your site is simply because they couldn't find answers to their questions. Your UX is the tool customers will use to answer these questions.

As you design your site, there are two parts of this:

  • Gathering information from the customer
  • Providing plan details back to the customer in a way that helps them understand their options

This might be the biggest UX challenge for any health insurance website.

It’s more than simply listing the terms of your plans. People need to understand certain concepts. For example, they might be wondering:

  • What is coinsurance?
  • What does it mean to be “in network?”
  • Will the government help me pay for my plan?

From your site, you have to gather information in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming for the website visitor.

If you ask for too much personal data up front, expect to lose a big percentage of your visitors.

2) Confusing navigation

Navigation includes all the buttons you have on your pages and the path users follow as part of your signup process. Most commonly, there are buttons to save an application or move forward or backward through different pages.

Customers might be wondering:

  • “Do I save my answers before advancing to the next page?”
  • “If I click the back button on my browser, what happens?”
  • “How do I get back to a section I’ve already completed?”

If the answers aren’t intuitive or easily discovered, customers can get lost in the different pages of your site.

3) Confusing instructions

Instructions help people enter information in the style and format you need. Your users will be asking questions such as:

  • Where am in in the process?
  • In what format should a phone number be entered?
  • Do I have to fill in every field? Can some be left blank?
  • What if I don’t have the information to fill in a field? Can I keep moving forward?
  • Can I save my application and come back later?

One of the most frustrating problems with signup forms is when the form rejects an entry for a reason the user can’t understand.

If the user can’t figure out what you want them to enter in a field to advance to the next page, don’t be surprised when they abandon the process completely.

4) Not optimized for mobile

Why do you need a mobile optimized signup site? Because more than half of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices.

More and more people do all their web activities exclusively from a smartphone or tablet now.

Sites designed for desktop are difficult to navigate from most smartphones. Signup sites designed for desktop with a variety of fields can be almost impossible to use on a phone

If your site isn’t mobile optimized, you’re leaving revenue on the table.

5) Forgetting Speed and Performance

For general websites, 57% of consumers will abandon a website if the page does not load within 3 seconds. 80% of them won’t return to the site.

People signing up for health insurance will probably stick around longer than three seconds, but the point remains the same.

If your website is slow or doesn’t load all the elements properly every time, people will eventually abandon it for sites with better UX design.

Looking to the future: Big expectations from millennials (and others too)

The millennial generation — all 75.4 million of them—just overtook the Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation.

This generation of digital natives brings drastically different expectations for design and UX. As Jake Wobbrock wrote in an article on Wired:

“What does the millennial generation mean for technology makers? In a nutshell, it means that interactive technologies, from smartphones to websites to mobile apps to SaaS apps, need to provide the most usable, self-guided, hiccup-free, efficient user experiences in history. Contrary to the belief that millennials can make anything work, their expectations for slick user experiences are the highest ever. Although millennials can often figure out how to use an app or site that is a clunker, they probably won’t take the time to do so. They are experts at finding alternatives and they simply won’t put up with bad user experiences that get in the way of accomplishing their tasks NOW.”

What does this mean for health insurers?


It means now is the time to focus on the user experience of your website, because user experience is only going to become more critical from this point forward.

Millennials aren’t just making their own demands, they’re influencing the expectations of everyone who buys anything online — no matter their age.

Their demand? A plan discovery and buying experience that’s simple, easy, and seamless. If they don’t get it, they’ll go somewhere else.