Learning about and buying insurance has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades, but with a little work, agents can stay relevant amid the move to customer independence and self-service.

Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of people shopping for insurance go online to research options and obtain quotes, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study. And while half still close the deal directly with an agent, 25 percent purchase their policy online, the study found.

For agents, the competition is tough — you're vying not just against other people in your field, but also with insurer websites and aggregators that send customers straight to a transaction page. You can meet your customers online, but getting the upper hand involves doing something these websites often can't: delivering a personal touch.

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