“We are turning damage to a car into a virtual experience in the metaverse”
Smile is a direct insurer, so it has to keep its digital finger on the pulse and be able to respond quickly to changing needs among customers and on the market. The insurance company responds by looking at disruptive technologies on an ongoing basis.
Ms. Chamoulaud, what are the key components in your digital strategy?
We don’t have a digital strategy, because that would mean we are pursuing digitalization separately and independently of our business strategy. What we actually have is a corporate strategy that’s based on customer needs and their behaviors and is therefore very much geared toward our digital world today. So digitalization is embedded in our business model in a consistent way. In specific terms, this means we’re currently placing a clear focus on a best-in-class mobile experience. But technology is never the driving factor behind our strategy. Technology merely gives us the capability to meet our customers’ needs today and in the future.
What role does the metaverse play in your considerations? And how much potential would you say it has in the insurance sector in general?
The potential offered by virtual and interactive worlds is definitely real and opens up new opportunities. As a digital insurance company, it’s important to get on top of innovative and potentially disruptive technologies. And we need to do this early on so we’re ready as soon as customers starting expressing needs in this direction. The key question is and will always be: Which customer experiences can be simplified and improved using the new technologies? We experimented by holding an initial meta consulting discussion in summer 2022. We’ve now enhanced our first VR room and turned it into a large virtual Smile meta experience that is now directly accessible to anyone as well via our website.
That brings us to a new touch point: What specific added value can a virtual branch offer customers?
It’s especially exciting to be able to merge the digital and physical worlds with each other. We can use this to make our personal consulting, our services, and our offers something customers can feel and experience in a more tangible way. I think areas such as confidence building and competence also present a huge opportunity. Smile is working on this by turning damage to a car into a virtual experience in the metaverse for the first time, for example, which creates clarity.
Besides taking its first steps in the metaverse, Smile also has ongoing NFT projects. What are these all about?
Together with our charity partner Viva con Agua, we were the first Swiss insurance company to spearhead an NFT auction on the OpenSea marketplace. One objective was to get to know the technology and test out potential solutions for future risks in the digital space, as well as wanting to work with our charity partner Viva con Agua in an innovative way to equip the community to do good things and support an ongoing drinking water project in Africa.
How do things look as far as using smart contracts? Are they the next big thing in the insurance world?
Fully digital contracts based on blockchain could accelerate and improve the processes, both for customers and insurers. But we’re also in a discovery phase here. At our NFT auction we stipulated, for example, that five percent of the purchase price of every repurchase of a Smile NFT would be automatically donated to Viva con Agua thanks to Smart Contracts.
Smile, the no-frills insurer, is a successful online insurance company in Switzerland and Austria with over 180,000 customers. Smile sets itself apart from traditional insurance companies thanks to a complementary business model that offers its users and customers the best digital insurance experience via the Smile app, with fair premiums, the best service, and everything completely online.
“The metaverse offers a new dimension in consumption”
In addition to a presentation at its showroom on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, Jelmoli also created a virtual exhibit for the items of clothing in its “The Power of Craft” collection in summer 2022. Was this the first step in a metaverse strategy?
Why did Jelmoli make its first venture into virtual reality this summer?
Jelmoli is a 190-year-old company with a strong tradition that has always stood out for its pioneering spirit. So it was obvious to us that we didn’t just want to sit back and watch a trend and a development like the metaverse, which we have all been watching and fascinated by for some time – we wanted to gain our own experiences with it right from the start. When a collaboration with STF, the Swiss Textile College, opened up the right opportunity for us to take our first steps into the metaverse, we jumped at the chance.
How did the project do?
How many NFTs did you sell?
A total of one NFT was sold. Besides this quantitative outcome, the qualitative results proved valuable and informative for Jelmoli in particular. The main focus for us was gathering experiences. The various partners primarily saw the project as a practice platform that let us gather knowledge about what this trend means for a retailer like Jelmoli and what shopping might look like in the future. This gave us a fascinating insight into this new world and let us draw conclusions for potential future projects. The project was received very positively by our customers. An extremely large number of people visited Jelmoli’s hybrid POS, and they really appreciated this opportunity to take their own first steps into the metaverse without any pressure or complexities.
The way the process went was that the customer started by purchasing the NFT, and the actual corresponding item of clothing was then sent to them at home. Will people eventually be able to buy completely virtual clothing at Jelmoli as well so they can give their avatar a new look?
We aren’t planning to do this for the moment. Right now, we can’t say yet where exactly our journey will take us in the future. This year, we’re working with Metabloqs to design and build a Jelmoli department store in the metaverse. We’re especially excited to be able to include our younger GenZ target groups in the process and use their ideas and visions to create the department store of the future.
How much potential do you think the metaverse offers for Swiss retailers?
We definitely think it offers future potential and exciting possibilities in terms of an extended customer journey and new opportunities and dimensions in consumption. As of now, nobody can fully understand where the journey is taking us – and the same applies to the retail sector. But from hybrid POS through to the related payment methods, Jelmoli is now equipped as a retailer should other projects come up in this area or if other partners come to us with ideas.
As the largest omnichannel premium department store in Switzerland, Jelmoli wants to make a lasting impression on people and serve as a platform for exchanges and encounters. In doing so, the company has made sustainability a key factor and a value to live by. Sustainability is at the heart of all its activities, partnerships, and its vision to reinvent department stores and actively promote and play a role in shaping conscious consumption in the future. Jelmoli’s long-established store on Bahnhofstrasse as well as the branches at Zurich airport in the Airside Center and the Circle inspire guests with a carefully curated range comprising 1,000 brands from all around the world, topped off by an impressive program of services and events. Around 650 qualified employees provide a feel-good atmosphere, the best advice, and a unique shopping experience – including in the online store at jelmoli.ch. Jelmoli AG has been part of Swiss Prime Site since 2009.