Millennials and baby boomers have something in common. Insurance marketing is ignoring both of them.

The main motivators for buying insurance haven't changed over the last several years — protecting property, possessions and, ultimately, life. They're still solid reasons for buying insurance. Unfortunately for the industry, when it comes to millennials and boomers, the way we're marketing insurance products hasn't changed much either. We believe the first step, in bringing our marketing efforts into the contemporary world, is for insurance companies to take a serious look at the generational divide and what it means to any strategic marketing effort.

Let's start with the bottom line. There's good reason to consider these audiences and their resulting potential sooner rather than later. Right now, millennials represent a fourth of the population. That's an audience of about 86 million, and they wield annual buying power of approximately $200 billion. Boomers are right behind them — about 77 million people spending $165 billion. If we take a good look at the similarities and differences of these two groups, and then bake the results into our marketing efforts, we can cultivate valuable prospects and turn those prospects into long-term customers.

Millennials: The problem is engagement

First, some basic facts: Millennials and boomers both share a high demand for car insurance — about 80% for both groups. And some differences: Millennials are much less likely to have renter's or homeowner's insurance or even life insurance. Boomers are still in the market for all those products.

Millennials naturally want to be online. They'd be comfortable researching, comparing and buying from a reliable insurance site and may never feel the need sit down with a real live agent. That means, for them, the online customer experience has to be easy, informative and immediately rewarding. About a third of millennials are already making the majority of their purchases online.1 (Overall, Pew Research tell us that 79% of American consumers are buying items on their computers.2) And millennials will use their phones as their device of choice. That means any new effort to target this audience has to be optimized for mobile phones, and that goes for the overall marketing effort. Because right now, for insurance prospects, self-service isn't a simple option: Websites aren't as friendly as they should be and mobile is still a work in progress.

To put all this in perspective, of the $100 billion in U.S. homeowner's insurance, right now only about 6% is sold online.3 We think there's a ton of opportunity waiting.

Baby Boomers: Don't write them off

First of all, boomers are still in the market as active purchasers. One of the key differences is that they still prefer human contact. It's an undeniable fact that for most of their lives, business was done face-to-face. Transactions, especially important transactions, were based on a business relationship and buying insurance definitely falls into that category. As marketers, we need to recognize these preferences and build them into our planning.

All that said, boomers are online. Research tells us that they are the fastest growing online community. And if you'd like a specific example — Facebook. Boomers are one the most active groups, meaning they're the mostly likely to share content.4

There's another boomer consideration. More and more, they're playing a key role as influencers or advisers. This is the audience with experience. So, it's only natural that they counsel a younger audience, not only on what product to buy and what to spend, but what insurance company they should engage with and…stay with.

The marketing commonality

Both millennials and baby boomers want a smarter, more functional, more rewarding online/mobile experience. For boomers, it's all about taking the best of a face-to-face relationship and building it into online service. For millennials, it's about getting all the information together in one place and making it available anywhere, any time and on any device they choose. These audiences are looking for a sense of empathy and transparency, together with an assurance that they aren't going to be taken for granted.

Bottom line

It's all about building relationships and engagement. Both groups are looking to get more out of insurance marketers. And it's worth paying attention to what they're saying. It's a near-term investment that's guaranteed to pay long-term benefits.