Trend watch: Buying life insurance at retail

Your trip to the store may soon include buying life insurance along with your gas and groceries if insurance companies embrace the new trend of using retail outlets to reach potential customers and boost stagnant sales.

Nearly one in five consumers (17 percent) would be willing to buy life insurance from a store, according to findings from the 2013 Insurance Barometer Study. It was conducted by the LIFE Foundation, a non-profit public education group funded by insurers, and LIMRA, a global research and consulting firm that tracks the life insurance industry.

Here is the breakdown by retail type, according to the percentage of consumers who said they'd buy life coverage in a store:
  • Warehouse club stores - 11 percent
  • Superstore - 7 percent
  • Drug stores - 5 percent
  • Supermarkets - 3 percent
  • Convenience stores - 1 percent

Those consumers who were willing to purchase at a superstore cited perceptions such as "reasonable cost" (63 percent), "simple process" (44 percent), "convenient" (43 percent) and "no pressure to buy" (42) as reasons for their interest.

"Although the percentage of consumers is not large, it may not need to be so in order to be a viable niche market for companies to pursue," says the report. "The growth of distribution-related strategic alliances between insurance companies and nontraditional industry participants will be a growing trend."

Insurers already sell health plans at warehouse club stores such as Costco, and pilots are in place for life insurance sales at select Wal-Mart stores.

Life insurance sales remain flat

Despite the burgeoning retail trend, purchasing life insurance in-person from a financial professional is still the most preferred way to buy for over half of consumers (53 percent), according to the report. The problem is that most people are not buying life insurance at all -- in-person or at stores -- even though they are aware of the need for it.