Employee Benefits Mobile Enrollment App

Amazonian Benefits: Swipe, Click, Enroll

When you think about it, employee benefits are essentially products, right? Items to be purchased, one way or another. So why not treat them like you would any other product? What if benefits enrollment truly was like shopping for anything else?

The Modern Consumer

One of my favorite commercials on TV right now is one from Amazon. In it, a new baby is unreceptive to the old family golden retriever, instead favoring her smaller, less alive stuffed lion toy as she plays with her parents. The poor pooch looks on from a distance, with that quintessential, heart-melting sad dog face. The dad, noticing and sympathizing with his pal's plight, whips out his smartphone, clicks a "Buy Now" button in the Amazon mobile app, with a reassuring nod to the dejected pup. The next thing we see is the retriever come into the room sporting a lion's mane wig around his face (try not to smile at that image). And the baby, now seeing the dog as a bigger version of her favorite toy, decides he's alright after all.

In addition to just being a really good, touching commercial (especially to those of us with a soft spot for goldens), it also highlights how the modern consumer wants to work. Today, when we identify a need, we expect the solution to be no more than a few swipes and clicks of the thumb away. Online shopping is great. Mobile shopping is even better. And it's taking over.

It's been estimated that by 2020, mobile shopping will account for 45 percent of all e-commerce. $284 billion in sales. That's a lot of lion mane wigs!

Mobile Websites vs. Mobile Apps

Now when we say "mobile shopping," we're really talking about two possible scenarios.

In one, you would use your mobile device's web browser (Safari, Chrome, etc.) to navigate to a mobile version of a company's website. Most well-known companies do a great job at making these mobile sites "responsive," scaling the content to fit your device's screen. But there are also many out there that make users "pinch-zoom" through their mobile sites, which as you may know can be a very difficult and frustrating experience - especially when trying to enter payment details.

In the other scenario, you would download the company's mobile app, which shows up as one of those nifty icons on your device's home screen. Then, like the dad in the Amazon commercial, whenever you need to buy something, you would just tap on the icon and shop away. Much more convenient, right? Most people seem to think so. According to research from Compuware, a whopping 85 percent of smartphone users would rather use a mobile app instead of a mobile website for e-commerce.

And they're not just saying that. Consumer behavior is backing it up. At the end of last year, apps were responsible for 54 percent of mobile transactions by volume. That's why Amazon and many of its peers will prompt you to download their mobile app when you access their mobile web site.

Apps Win

So what's the big deal with apps?

For one thing, they're just faster than mobile websites. Not only do they take less time to access, since all you have to do is tap the icon and you're there, but they can also process information more quickly. This is because apps typically store their data on your device, as opposed to relying on the less consistent performance of a web browser. And, while apps can require internet connectivity to perform many of their tasks, they do have the ability to give you content and basic functionality in offline mode.

Mobile apps also provide additional functionality that's not available on mobile websites. The most significant of these is their compatibility with your device's hardware and features, such as push notifications, audio recording and camera. I don't know about you, but I think the ability to upload the image of a check directly into my bank's mobile app - and have the funds immediately available - is one of the greatest developments of the 21st century.

What It Means for Employee Benefits

All this to say that mobile apps are the future - if not the present - of consumerism. It's rapidly becoming commonplace for people to use apps to shop for cars, do their taxes and even apply for a mortgage. If your employees can use apps for those traditionally complex processes, wouldn't it only make sense for them to be able to use apps to enroll in their benefits?

Picture this. It's open enrollment. You send out a push notification to your employees telling them it's time for them to enroll in their benefits. They're prompted to open up an app, where they're guided through a personalized shopping experience for all of their eligible benefits. They can compare plans, view coverage details and get a clear idea of their total expected out-of-pocket costs. A few clicks later, and they're done.

That was the picture Benefitfocus had in mind when designing the latest enhancement to cloud-based enterprise benefits management technology. In our most recent quarterly software release, we rolled out the ability for users to complete the enrollment process directly within the BENEFITFOCUS® App, which is an extension of our benefits enrollment and administration platform.

The first of its kind, this development supports the accelerating growth in health care consumerism, providing a convenient, easy way for employees to enroll in not only medical coverage, but also a wide array of voluntary and ancillary benefits to drive comprehensive health and financial wellness.

"The great thing about mobile apps is that they allow for complex user interaction in a simplified setting," said Benefitfocus Director of Product Management Tom Dugan, who oversees our quarterly releases. "This latest development in our mobile app functionality gives employees the fluid, engaging experience they've come to expect in working with mobile devices for other aspects of their lives."

Conclusion

Benefits enrollment may not be as fun as finding cute costumes for a beloved pet, but that doesn't mean it can't be as easy or efficient.

Learn more about adapting your benefits strategy to meet the needs and expectations of the modern consumer. Get the free, on-demand webinar, "Benefits in the Digital Age: 5 Things You Can't Ignore."