The UK health insurance sector is lagging behind other financial services in its ability to implement effective digital marketing campaigns, despite growing online interest from consumers.
That is according to a new report from digital marketing company CACI, which gives the sector an average score of 742 points out of 1,370 - significantly below many other industries.
However, Google Trends data reveals that online searches for health insurance increased by over 12% in the last two years, suggesting an opportunity for insurers to gain a greater slice of a market worth around £4.83bn.
"More and more of us are searching for health insurance online than ever before," CACI director of digital consulting, Suzanna Jiggens-Johnson, said.
"There is a real shift under way in the UK health insurance market and insurers are dragging their heals in making the most of their digital offering."
The research involved assessing the 19 largest health insurance providers for their strategy and implementation of digital marketing channels, including search engine optimisation, display advertising and mobile.
A clear divide was found between the top three providers and other companies, with Vitality, Saga and AVIVA posting the best average performances across all channels.
Most businesses were found to be performing well for search engine optimisation, though the average score is still well below the maximum, with all websites showing areas for improvement.
While smaller providers struggle to compete with their larger rivals, they still came among the top performers in a number of categories, with Freedom topping the table for affiliate marketing.
This involves using affiliated businesses as marketing platforms - an area that CACI said presents a significant opportunity for gains after finding the majority of insurers fail to implement this into their digital strategies.
The firm agues that success is not dictated by size, but by strategy and execution, with brands large and small having an opportunity to grab market share.
"We expect smaller providers will gain an advantage on their larger peers and exploit poor performance in digital marketing across the board by being nimble enough to add new capabilities quickly and efficiently," Jiggens-Johnson added.