eMarketer reports on Shopping for Insurance

One of the latest eMarketer reports looks at shopping for insurance online. Key points:

The insurance industry remains solidly rooted in networking, relationships and trust. Insurance customers prefer to do business with stable, well-known accessible providers. This is true regardless of the insurance type or whether they purchase insurance offline or online, direct or through an agent, or for business or personal purposes. Though some companies have found success selling and servicing simple policies absent of personal contact, this is not the norm. As a result, established companies with networks of agents who are extending their relationships online are gaining a leg up in the marketplace.

Consumers use a mix of offline and online resources to learn about insurance, and often make use of multiple channels during the purchase process. Though in-person, phone and mail transactions still drive the majority of insurance purchases, the online channel for research, quoting and servicing is of increasing importance. Insurers and agents that upgrade their technology, operations and marketing channels to sync offline and online functionality are realizing cost savings and meeting customer demands for more convenience.

Online interactions with insurers vary by insurance type. Insurers in the highly competitive auto insurance market have been most successful in migrating their marketing and sales efforts to the web and mobile channels. Marketing for other types of insurance, including home and life, is further behind the curve, but can look to auto as a model for how to coordinate online offerings, create brand goodwill and market and service products online.

Consumer behavior varies by demographic. As with most types of ecommerce, younger and affluent consumers are more apt to buy and manage their policies via the internet. However, as more web-based and mobile tools become available, consumers of all ages and income levels are becoming comfortable with researching, buying and servicing their insurance products online.

Insurance policies don’t easily lend themselves to positive “buzz.” Unlike many retail categories that generate significant word-of-mouth from passionate consumers, discussion, rating and review of insurance products is not a natural fit for social media. Companies that find creative ways to encourage positive commentary and can credibly manage negative feedback are seeing the most success in participatory media.

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