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Opionion: Some transactions need a real store - just look at Obamacare to prove the point

When an organisation wants to touch as many people as possible, the modern inclination is to reach out online. But it is telling that, sometimes, that just isn’t enough. We all crave human contact and interaction, especially for transactions that are important to us.

‘Obamacare’, more officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, has been a political hot potato in the US for years now. It is the result of continuing arguments over how to provide affordable health insurance for a vast proportion of the US population.

The plan does now allow those on low incomes to benefit from cheaper insurance plans, but millions of eligible people have not yet signed up. They are thought to be unaware of a looming deadline: with a few exceptions those that want an Obamacare deal have until the end of this month to sign up for it.

So some of the organisations tasked with delivering insurance packages to the people are putting very traditional sales methods to an innovative use. Obamacare is being sold in shops.

Access Health CT, the provider of Obamacare in Connecticut, has opened a shop in downtown New Haven where, according to local media reports, there are queues forming before opening time.

The customers, some with health problems, some facing language difficulties, many not understanding the complicated nature of the product, want to find out more face-to-face.  Just two stores have opened in the state, and 10,000 people have walked into them. Half of those have enrolled in a scheme.

If you have purchased an insurance product recently, the chances are you did so online or perhaps by phone. But it takes confidence to make a commitment to a long term plan that may affect the healthcare available to your whole family.

In an ideal example of omnichannel commerce in action, the physical branch remains an essential part of the offer. Just because consumers can order anything they want online does not mean they will. Some retailers can lose sight of that, but they would be wise not to.