Chances are the last time you shopped for health insurance, you did your research over the phone or online. But now, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield (Pittsburgh) is bringing that experience to the local shopping center in two Pennsylvania cities where consumers and small business owners can buy health insurance or get information at a Highmark Direct store.
“We know that the responsibility for purchasing and understanding health insurance is falling more to individual consumers, especially in these difficult economic times,” says Dr. Kenneth R. Melani, president and ceo of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.
To spearhead the Highmark Direct initiative, the insurer hired Steve Nelson, formerly vp, marketing at GNC, the nutritional supplement retailer. And to design the actual retail spaces, located in Pittsburgh and Mechanicsburg, Nelson turned to Big Red Rooster, a Columbus, Ohio, branding and design firm that he had worked with to update GNC’s stores.
“The design intent of the Highmark space is to create a warm and welcoming environment that projects a feeling of trust, familiarity and credibility,” says Marcie Merriman, Big Red Rooster’s executive vp, strategy and insights. To help accomplish that goal, the entrance foyer serves as a “decompression zone” where visitors can visually take in the space and orient themselves to the offerings.
“The first human point of contact with the brand is the service ambassador at a concierge desk,” Merriman explains. “Here, potential customers can chat with an associate who can help them navigate the insurance buying process.”
Most of the 2500-square-foot store is devoted to self-service kiosks, where customers can shop for health insurance plans or research additional information. A set of private and semi-private consultation areas have partitions that can be removed to create a more open space for seminars and special events.
Large-format banners framed in a fine art technique define the various product and service offerings. The pieces lean against a blue wall, which ties in the messaging with Highmark’s signature brand color, notes Diane Rambo, Big Red Rooster’s chief creative officer.
Highmark officials say the initial response from consumers has been positive and that the company is monitoring the stores’ performance over the next several months before deciding whether to open additional locations.