Talk about interesting times in the business of insurance. The year 2015 saw the attention-getting launch of Google Compare and its hibernation about 12 months later. Traditional insurers like Mass Mutual and Shelter Mutual got busy and launched their own direct-to-consumer digital quoting and sales businesses. State Farm was busy filing patents for by-the-trip car insurance and the means to measure just how stressed drivers were behind the wheel and rate their insurance accordingly. Prudential recognized that previously scary diseases were now chronic conditions that could be medically managed, launching life insurance coverage for HIV positive customers. AOL saw an opportunity and is now selling insurance to its members. And we at Forrester have been busy keeping track of over 700 disrupters across FinTech that have been capturing market attention and venture capital. Some of these firms like Lemonade are returning to the social roots of insurance. Lemonade's founders also appreciate that consumers are irrational economic animals and decided to hire a behavioral scientist to help them anticipate the crazy actions of homo sapiens. And yet some people out there still call insurance a boring industry!
American and Canadian insurers are facing some big challenges in 2015. Customer experience expectations, their willingness to consider a growing array of new options to buy insurance, and new competitors creeping into the business of insurance are pushing traditional insurers into new digital strategies. It’s no longer a question of digital channels or “other” when it comes to the customer journey; they’re now intertwined. Digital-dependent customers are eyeing new and more digitally savvy market entrants, while demanding more control over the experience and how their personal information is used. This year, digital insurance teams are crafting agendas that satisfy their firm’s hunger for increase market share and revenue balanced with changing demographics, adaptations in response to extreme weather, and regulation that has lagged the changing realities of digital. One thing’s for sure: Insurance eBusiness teams can’t afford to wait around, but they also can’t afford to make the wrong digital decisions.
Just what are the factors propelling North American insurer agendas this year? For starters, it’s about:
Uneven economic growth in North America. The 2008 financial crisis? It’s a distant memory in much of the US, but not for all. By most measures, the US economy is thriving, driven by rising consumer demand for homes, cars, and consumer goods, and, by extension, insurance. And in oil-producing Canada the decline in gasoline prices isn’t good news: Canada is threatened with recession.
When I started in the tech industry in the late 80’s, I used to think that we lived in dog years: The pace in “high-tech” (a term that sounds so quaint now, doesn’t it?) was that we packed seven years’ worth of work, development, business, play, pressure—you name it—into a single year.
Fast forward to today, and the pace of digital change—and pressure—has accelerated to pack even more change into smaller units of time. Technologies like QR codes, Near Field Communications (NFC), photo-image capture, and now voice control are maturing. What was a mobile novelty two years ago now feels dated.
And consider that we are addicted to mobile. As consumers, we have enthusiastically embraced mobile devices, thanks to a regular stream of flashy new interfaces and capabilities. For many people, a mobile device is the last thing they touch before going to sleep and the first thing they grab for when they wake up. The behavioral changes that these feature-dense devices have encouraged is transforming how customers engage with their insurance companies and with the extended insurance ecosystem—all while pressuring digital insurance and business technology teams, processes, and budgets. Consider just two of the impacts that the ubiquity and proximity of mobile devices has resulted in:
Like most of us, you probably made a few resolutions you’re hoping to keep in 2015—eating better, exercising regularly, and reading more. Why not add one more resolution that will help you, your company and more importantly, your customers and agents? Keep your mobile insurance strategy current with new technology; customer, employee, and partner expectations; and pressures that are coming from competitors and more importantly, non-insurance competitors. Because one thing’s for sure—the pace of change in mobile and insurance is crazy, as evidenced by all the new examples of mobile insurance innovation that we uncovered while writing our soon-to-be published update of our 2012 report, “The Future Of Insurance Is Mobile”.
Need some help in updating your mobile strategic plan? Earlier this week, we published a major update to the Strategic Plan chapter in Forrester’s Mobile Insurance Playbook. The report, “Get Mobile Insurance Strategy Right By Designing For Customers' Mobile Moments”, answers two essential questions: How do we build a strategic plan, and what should be in that strategy? It also provides a framework for the plan that encompasses four processes:
Identify mobile moments and context.
Design the mobile engagement.
Engineer processes, platforms, and people for mobile.
Analyze results to monitor performance and optimize outcomes.
Have you ever had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Maxwell the Pig? Maxwell is a likeable if slightly assuming animated pig. At times he can be a bit dismissive of those who aren’t as digitally savvy as he is.
Even if you don’t know Maxwell, perhaps you know other such celebrities? I thought not. That’s because there aren’t many companies that are willing to advertise their mobile insurance services as proudly as Geico is doing. For my new report, I surveyed the mobile offerings of more than 30 insurance companies in developed economies. The results clearly show that plenty remains to be done, both in terms of customer adoption and what’s on offer.
The big US insurers such as Geico and Progressive are leading the pack, offering a growing range of mobile functionality that lets customers get quotes, file and track claims, locate a repair shop, pay bills, and save documents simply by taking pictures with their smartphones. Offering functionality that makes it easy for customers to achieve their insurance-related aims seems like the basics, but a lot of companies still haven’t got it right.
Insurance carriers are pulling out the stops when it comes to their mobile strategies. It’s now rarer to find an insurer that doesn’t offer at least one app plus a mobile site. But just how effective are all these mobile insurance apps and sites at meeting the needs of auto insurance customers? At the end of the summer, we decided to check out the mobile sales and service functionality that leading US auto insurers – Allstate, Farmers, Geico, Liberty Mutual, Progressive, and State Farm – were offering to their customers. We reported what we learned in our just-published 2013 US Mobile Auto Insurance Functionality Rankings report.
Our approach followed these steps:
Define a user scenario. We defined a target persona: Ryan and his wife Nicole live in Chicago and are in the market for a new car and will need to change the vehicle on their policy. Their mobile goals are to research and apply for insurance, pay their bill, see how easy it is to file and manage claims, get help on the road, and see what other help they can get through their insurer on a mobile phone.
Score mobile functionality based on user criteria. Forrester’s mobile functionality benchmark methodology examines 26 individual criteria that measure how well an auto insurance app helps customers achieve their goals. Each criterion has a potential score ranging from -2 to +2.