Optional life insurance CUI experiment

Experimentation with a conversational interface, helping clients purchase life insurance with our virtual agent, Ella.



Earlier in the year, I experimented with using a conversational UI to place Ella, our digital coach, at the front of a user's interaction. The original use case was walking new parents through a basic financial plan, however, we were asked to apply the same patterns and components to an optional life insurance journey.

Solution: Overcoming Knowledge Gaps

In our design, the user first lands on a page that describes optional benefits and explains why they are important in simple language. This helped overcome initial knowledge gaps and established the need for purchase. The user could then choose to start the assessment or learn more (this took the user to a longer module that featured a set of common questions — chosen and prioritized by real clients — and a video to explain optional life insurance). Lack of knowledge lead to drop-off so we found it important to include an avenue for users who were still unsure of the product.

Solution: Structural Wins

At the start of the interaction, Ella tells the user how much life insurance they currently have. Clients thought of optional life insurance as an "add-on" rather than an entirely new product. Providing the client with this number helped them contextualize how much more coverage they might want. On top of that, our design added an embedded calculator to assess how much overall coverage a user needs. This removed the potential for users to leave our site to Google a tool but never come back.

Solution: Behavioural Economics

We discovered that there was a lot of value in Ella talking to the user in a conversational, first-person manner. This tested well and delighted Sun Life clients who had only experienced Ella in modals and banners. This choice greatly increased the engagement we saw on the page when compared to the older version. Our design was also influenced by how users thought about their optional benefits. With retail products, the customer is often driven by the coverage. With optional benefits, the customer is mainly focused on cost. Because of this, we showed three tiers of coverage — No Medical, On-a-Budget, and Maximalist — rather than one, singular option. This prioritized the cost and gave the user a feeling of choice.


At the end of the day, our team was able to do a quick build that completely re-imagined the experience of purchasing optional life insurance. User interviews and regular testing enabled us to create a journey that matched client mental models and solved potential pain points. The solution explained the concept, gave the user the choice to learn more, streamlined a disjointed flow, and made great leaps forward in terms of structure, interaction, and behavioural economics.

Dan Brenneman, 2022