New research by Cheryl Retzloff, senior research director of LIMRA Markets, has identified a market that is largely untapped by life insurers—the single-household. According to LIMRA’s “2011 Life Insurance Buyer/Non-buyer” study that found only 39% of U.S. households recall having an opportunity to buy life insurance in the past two years, only 26% of single people recall having an opportunity to buy life insurance. This is compared to the 74% of married people.

“We also found that those singles who did recall having an opportunity to buy life insurance are almost as likely to buy life insurance as married households (51% versus 58%),” Retzloff said. “Companies could grow their life business by more aggressively pursuing this untapped market.”

Other recent LIMRA research indicates that half of America’s households (about 58 million) claim to be underinsured when it comes to life insurance and another opportunity for life insurers is the single mother. One third of single mothers who are the primary wage earners in their families had no life insurance coverage at all. And even single mothers with life insurance coverage are underinsured: Two thirds felt that their families could not cover everyday living expenses for much more than a few months should they die, according to LIMRA.

The organization’s most recent study—based on a survey of 6,666 households that seriously shopped for life insurance (3,581 bought and 3,085 did not buy after shopping)—found that twice as many households shopped for life insurance in 2011 as in 2003 (22% versus 11%), but fewer households that shopped bought in 2011 than bought in 2003 (54% versus 70%). LIMRA says the increase in shopping but not buying may be attributed to the influx of information consumers can obtain online, which may also be why they aren’t buying.

“Shoppers who shopped only online were considerably less likely to buy (36% bought) than were shoppers meeting face to face with sales reps (74%), or even those dealing directly with insurance companies or sales reps without meeting face to face (67%),” LIMRA says.

According to the research, those most likely to shop and buy include households with children. Almost half of buyers have children younger than 18 years old in the household, compared with 38 percent of nonbuyers. Seventy-three percent of households that shopped for life insurance because of births or adoptions actually bought policies.

“There are clearly opportunities for insurers to reach out to underserved segments of the population, like single people, who are in need of life insurance,” Retzloff said. “In addition, insurers and producers need to be cognizant that some life insurance shoppers—especially those under age 46 who have dependent children in the household—may be slow to make a decision and may need someone to help them make the final decision to move forward and buy.”

Following up with prospects who had investigated or inquired about life insurance— whether it was face to face, on the telephone, through the mail, or online—is extremely important, according to the research, because one of the consistent reasons for not buying was because they were still shopping.

Carrie Burns writes for Insurance Networking News.