The Age Of The Customer Will Drive Four Actions That Insurers Need To Take In 2016

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!

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Loyal Agents Have Big Impact On Insurance Carrier Business

Understanding agent attitudes toward their insurance carrier partners is crucial in earning independent agent loyalty—and driving sales.  Why?  Because despite predictions that direct-to-consumer insurance sales would doom the insurance agent, nearly 20 years after the advent of online insurance selling, millions of consumers and small businesses continue to rely on their local insurance agencies. Consider that when it comes to their agents, US consumers:

  • Buy from.  Even after all that money direct insurers spend on TV ads, consumers are still buying from insurance agencies. In a survey of 10,000 online Americans, we found that 84% of home insurance buyers stated that they bought from an agent; 82% did the same for their car insurance, while 57% of life insurance buyers said that they did.
  • Trust in.  When we asked in the same survey about attitudes toward financial services providers, more than 70% of life insurance buyers and about two-thirds of non-life insurance buyers we surveyed agreed with the statement “I completely trust my agent”.  And that trust runs deep for some customers, especially for 25-34 year olds we surveyed.
  • Stick with.   And after buying from an agent, consumers tend to stick with their them We asked US online adults how long they had been buying certain coverage from their agents. The average relationships with their auto, home, and life agencies were 12.9, 12.5, and 16.3 years Consumer steadfastness with an agent is often longer than that loyalty to a spouse:  the average American marriage that ends in divorce lasts eight years.  And no surprise, the tenure with direct insurers is much shorter than that with agent-centric insurers.   
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Small Business Insurers: Are Your Digital Sites Open For Business?


Small business is booming in the US.  The US Small Business Administration declared this week as “National Small Business Week” to promote the role that small business plays in the US economy.  Why should insurance companies pay close attention to the needs of small business? For starters, small businesses mean:

  • Big economic impact. Small business spells substantial opportunity. These small businesses comprise about 49% of private sector employment, and about 43% of private sector payrolls.[i] And as small business grow, that growth translates into the need for more insurance to cover employees, vehicles, and other liabilities.
  • New revenue streams.  With self-driving vehicles tests planned in 30 cities by 2017, there’s trouble ahead for the industry’s cash cow, private passenger auto insurance.[ii] Small business insurance is one revenue stream that insurers can increase to counterbalance premium declines.
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Disrupt Or Be Disrupted: The Challenge For Insurers In 2015

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.
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The Future Of Insurance Is More Mobile Than Ever

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:

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Your 2015 Mobile Insurance Resolution? Align Your Mobile Insurance Strategic Plan With Changing Market Realities

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:

  1. Identify mobile moments and context.
  2. Design the mobile engagement.
  3. Engineer processes, platforms, and people for mobile.
  4. Analyze results to monitor performance and optimize outcomes.
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Is Google Buying CoverHound? The Curious Case Of The California Insurance License

It’s one of the worst-kept—and surely most disruptive—secrets in the US insurance market.  Soon, Google could be piloting its Google Compare auto insurance comparison shopping site in the US, following the lead of  its 2012 Google Compare UK site roll out. 

But the launch of Google Compare in the US apparently hasn’t been easy.  Even though insurers have been mentioning Google overtures to participate on the comparison site to me for more than two years now, the Google Compare US site launch keeps getting pushed back.  As late as last month the site was expected to launch in California, to be followed in Q1 2015 with likely launches in  Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Last I heard was that California pilot wouldn't begin until sometime in Q1.

And one thing’s for sure:  Google Compare is going to have big implications for US insurers.  While doing the research for a report on what Google Compare is going to mean for insurer strategies in 2015, I took a look at a bunch of state insurance commission filings to see just what was up with the entity now officially doing business as Google Compare Auto Insurance Services Inc.  What did I learn?

  • They’re licensed to business in more than half the states.  Along with California, the entity is licensed to do business in at least Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, New Jersey, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. There may be more in process.
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If Santa Left You A Mobile Insurance App/Site Budget, Do You Know Where And How To Spend It?

With the holidays—and a whole lot of 2015 strategic planning activities—behind us, you’re probably have a few gifts you’d like to return and hopefully, a few gift cards you’d like to make use of. If you were really good last year,Santa left you the budget needed to develop or enhance that mobile insurance app or site you’ve wanted.  

But how do you spend that budget so that the app or site that results doesn’t disappoint like those sea monkeys or x-ray glasses that you also once wanted?

It’s not hard to uncover this kind of disappointment in the mobile insurance marketplace:  Mobile services that are little more than insurer bill boards, require too much data entry from users, and lack features that users have come to expect from banks, retailers, and airlines.  To play catch- up with competitors and quell internal political concerns, many insurance eBusiness and technology management teams were put on the spot, rolling out mobile functionality without considering if it solved a problem for customers. While this approach addressed the business urgency, these hastily -built mobile insurance apps often fell short.

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Mobile Measurement Isn’t Keeping Up With Mobile’s Importance To Insurance Business Performance

The wild west of mobile in insurance is getting tamed.  Mobile is no longer just a fun experiment—it’s now a crucial element in the customer and agent experience. We first published our mobile insurance metrics report in August of 2013.  At the time, we were struck by how dependent insurers were on a single metric to prove their mobile success:  Application downloads. 

With 15 more months of mobile development chops under their belts, in November, we decided to take a look at how much more sophisticated mobile insurance strategists had become in their mobile performance measurement strategies.  The answer?  Unlike other industries where mobile metrics have grown up, insurers remain stuck in mobile adolescence.  How do we know? Because topping the mobile insurance metrics list in 2014 are web traffic and app downloads.  Fewer insurers are tracking metrics that measure real business outcomes like conversions and mobile revenue transactions.

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Insurers Will Pour Capital Into New Digital Innovation Ventures In 2015

Think that insurance is a sleepy industry? Think again.  In 2014, global insurance companies raced to out-innovate each other. They turned to new digital innovations to fend off threats from insurance start-ups like MetroMile and PolicyGenius and sorted out new ways to remain relevant as a host of well-known brands like Google and AT&T crept into realms historically owned by insurance firms.   We noted this innovation urgency among European and North American insurance firms earlier this year.

In casting an eye forward, we predicted seven events that would change the insurance landscape in 2015. A major force informing all seven predictions is the fact that smart insurers are recognizing that in the need to generate more good ideas faster, they have to radically change how they develop and execute new thinking. That means that insurers need to short cut the industry’s traditional “we’ll build and control” culture and instead go into the market, spot a hot business technology start-up that brings a lot of what’s needed to create a minimum viable product, and partner with them. And the smartest of the smart insurers are employing two unique industry forces—a very regular flow of premiums and the dynamics of equity markets— to get even closer to the source of new ideas:  By investing in them. In 2015, we’ll see more insurance venture capital startups form in the wake of similar VC business launches from insurers like American Family, AXA, MassMutual, and Transamerica.

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