Mobile: Trends in Insurance

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In a post back in January, I asked you for your thoughts on what would be the Key Technology trends that would have an impact on the insurance industry in 2011. I was headed to the Agents Council for Technology (ACT) meeting in Tampa and wanted your input. Many of your comments centered on the impact mobile technology and computing would have on our industry. Not surprisingly, mobile technology was also the most discussed trend in the strategic future issues break-out sessions held during the ACT meeting. Mobile computing as distinguished from desktop Internet is much more significant than just phones. It also includes tablets (iPad), readers (Kindle), MP3 players (iPod), Car electronics (GPS), home entertainment (Wii) and wireless home appliances (Internet TV).

We have been talking about mobile for a couple of years. Yet, in 2011 for the first time, sales of smartphones will surpass the combined sales of PC desktops and laptops. It is important to note that it is estimated that almost 60% of time spent on mobile phones is spent on activity other than call, texting and mail. It impact of mobile becomes even more significant when you consider the success of the iPad.

Mobile users will demand better browsing experiences from brand sites. They are going to expect platform neutral and real time access to information and services at anytime from anywhere.  Ok… so, we all agree that mobile is going to be transformative. Yet, what does that really mean for insurance agents & brokers and how are they going to rise to the challenge to meet the expectations of the mobile consumer?

At a very basic level, most websites need to be optimized for mobile devices. The future is about much more than building a iPhone App that links back to an agency website and offers claim advice. As good as that is, it is not enough. We need to begin to think about how to offer mobile transaction capability. Stuff like providing policy delivery to tablets and creative ways to process insurance payments and other forms of self-service. For example, allowing customer’s to use smartphones to snap a “scan” of a vin number of a new car purchase and launch notification to the agent or broker and start of the endorsement process. Creating mobile Apps that make it possible to access and process certificates of insurance or request auto id cards. Clearly, there are major challenges around validation, security and privacy. Yet, we have no choice but to find solutions to these concerns if we are to succeed.

What is your take? How do you see the industry being effected by mobile trends and what action must it take to meet this challenge?

4 Comments

  1. Aaron Wallrich March 5, 2011 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Right now mobile is in it’s infancy. At the agency level: make sure your site has a mobile detection script with a site that will format for mobile device. Then think about what one would look an insurance agent site up on thir phone for and place that content on the mobile site. Carriers and Vendors should ponder the same
    thing. I would think a mobile auto ID card would be a good place to start :)

  2. Marty Agather March 7, 2011 at 9:06 am - Reply

    Great post and good topic.

    I like Aaron's comment on a mobile auto ID. When I think of what apps would be useful, it is those items items which consumers do frequently. Based on Progressive data from 2009 – early 2010 which Alvito Vas presented, most transactions at their website (70% if memory serves) were payment focused. However, as we have discussed, this is more difficult for an agency to support.

    I also saw a recent blurb that comprehension negatively effected on small screens as compared to desktop monitors. So that is an issue as well. Finally, some applications such as getting a quote are probably not the best candidates for small screen mobile.

    One thing to avoid is a 'me-too' app that doesn't serve the customers needs.

  3. Duke Williams March 7, 2011 at 10:12 am - Reply

    You are on the right track in stating that mobile needs to be more than a link to claims help on your website.

    I know you remember the early days of websites. And how brochureware sites really didn't offer much benefit to the agency or the insured.

    The time line for the website to become more than a brochure or a direct sales pages was about 10 years.

    1995 was the web browser with Netscape.

    1999 was the big move to html websites

    2005 was the point where most people had high speed connectivity. That enabled Web 2.0 and social.

    The mobile environment has only been around since the Apple App Store opened in the summer of 2008. But smart phone technology is being adopted at 8 times the rate of internet adoption. The reason, of course, is that the building blocks – especially high speed connectivity – are already in place.

    Most industry experts expect over 50% of American mobile phone users will have a smart phone by the end of this year. Since the percentage with smart phones grew from 26% in Dec 2010 to 34% in 2011, that estimate may be very low.

    Mobile apps that leverage an agency's existing website while offering native app functions and security for customer service on the smart phone is going to be available much faster than anyone imagines.

    Keep up the good work of making folks think about it.

  4. PatAlexander March 7, 2011 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Having your website function properly on a mobile device is good but not the optimum tool. What do people need in an emergency? Access to information that will help them with that emergency. I believe that agencies should have one or more apps that address the needs of their customers. What to do in an auto accident. How to pay my bill. Get an auto ID card on screen. Issue certificates of insurance for commercial accounts. We need to be catching up on fast forward.

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